A Measure of Success
It started with the first free Kindle promo on Born of Water. Watching the free downloads tick ever so higher – excited as I was by that! – the competitor in me realized I needed to know where the finish line was. I needed to define success.
In my day job, I’m a planner (truly, it is the slang term for my position!). Business plans, milestones, problem solving and the steps to get there are what pays the bills. I had never run a Kindle promo before (obviously as I didn’t even promote it!), but I believe in gut instinct. Five hundred free downloads seemed attainable, as well as a lofty goal. So I went with that.
It was a great feeling to reach that marker, as I wrote about in the post: Free Promo on Kindle Results. I took the time to have a little celebration, acknowledging that by setting a goal I had given myself permission to step back and be happy that I had my first book on Amazon and more than 500 people were willing to read it. That felt like success!
It got me thinking. How did I define success as a writer? What were my goals?
I think a lot of us go through lives with the image of success being an amazing career where we reach the pinnacle of our respective jobs, have enough money for expensive houses, cars, travel and such. But is that really how I personally define success? It feels like a Hollywood package that may not only be unattainable, but might very well be a hollow box with glitzy packaging!
I’m a quiet person. I LOVE being a quiet person. It was living in the yurt and thinking about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do that I realized I love quiet and solitude as much as travel. And really, a lot of travel just makes you feel like an outsider moving through other people’s lives too. If I’m not traveling, my idea of rest is a stream, woods, a small garden, a roof. I realized I could define my dream by saying I wanted to be a hermit!
The only problem is that I’m married . . . to someone who also would like to be a hermit oddly enough. What do you call a pair of hermits, I wonder? Can you have a pair?? Sounds like a paradox to work out later. 🙂
The point is, I don’t want to be famous with expensive cars and a fabulous lifestyle. Okay, maybe a really nice car or a sailboat . . . or a plane. But on a day to day realistic level, I don’t need that to make me happy. And that is when I realized my definition of life success is being happy (hopefully this means my husband is happy . . . hopefully!).
I’ve been moving toward finding more happiness in my life and circumstances for years – mostly be realizing how unhappy I was. I still remember seeing a picture of myself on Saba with the biggest smile . . . and then realizing I hadn’t seen myself that blissfully happy in a long time. That hurt.
Oddly, my journey to happiness has involved getting rid of a LOT of stuff. Like my house, which had become a chore and dreaded duty to own and maintain. And about 90% of my worldly possessions, which made me sort out what was important and why. Instead of being owned by things and the memories or responsibility associated with them, I now have just a handful of treasured reminders that make me smile when I use/hold them. Not a bad deal really.
It also made me acknowledge how much I enjoy writing (see, I got back to writing before the end of the post!). Honestly, I’m a bit addicted. When I get going on a story, I need my daily “fix” of writing time or I get a bit crabby. The creativity must release endorphins, because I will be on a silver lined cloud all day if I can write (hence the current 5:30 am wake up time to write before work!). It isn’t that I hate my day job, but I do hate the time requirements, limited vacation, limited creativity and opportunities to grow in ways that are meaningful to me and the world. If I could do this job in three days a week or half a day, I think I’d take that. Oh, plus much longer vacations randomly chosen at odd times of the year and scheduled at the drop of a hat, of course! (not asking for much, I know!)
Realizing that writing made me happier than my day job, I started taking this ‘hobby’ seriously and putting some serious time into learning about it and my options to be an author. Classes, serious editing, a writer’s group, query letters, paying an editor, all of it eventually led to putting Born of Water on Amazon for Kindle readers. I know it is my first book. I’ve worked really hard on it and I think it is great, but I also know it is my learning curve. So, I accept my start might be shaky and it will take time to figure out what works for sales and promos. But I do have that day job still, so it isn’t like my husband and I are going hungry!
I do have a goal as an author. As most writer’ will tell you, I want to be able to support myself comfortably on just my writing. In other words, I want to be able to travel – or not – without realizing I have the time to go and no finances! Of course, I’d love to be hiking the AT, so trips don’t have to be expensive. 🙂
The biggest thing to me is having a plan and not taking every stumble along the way too seriously. This is supposed to be fun! I feel no pressure to have instant success with Born of Water. The odds of that happening are less than 1% and I know that. But the odds of supporting my financially modest dreams improve with each book.
My goal right now is to keep writing and writing well! Meanwhile, I need to figure out this marketing thing, which I think will also improve with more books available in my name. I’d like to see some steady sales and look forward to that moment where I hit 100 sales/month. After that, it will be looking for the milestone of spreading sales across several books: $200/month each, $400/month each . . . . At some point, it will reach my goal that writing will be my full time job.
Until then, I can’t say that I define writing success by being able to support myself. I have a book on Amazon and over 3000 people have downloaded it to read. With that, I already feel successful!