Hi folks! Today I’m once again participating in the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, a blog hop for writers who want to learn from each other and build a community. In the past few months I’ve focused mostly on the community-building aspect of the writing life, discussing things like Twitter chats and beta readers. Last month I switched gears to focus on the internal side of writing with an article about evening pages. Today I’m going to focus in on one of the most important aspects of a writer’s mental health: our personal definitions of success.
This article is an updated version of a post I wrote in 2012, near the beginning of my blogging journey. You can still read the original article!
Fall is here and if you’re anything like me that means you’re already looking back on the year to see where you’ve failed (I mean be successful… Totally optimistic today). But without your own personalized definition of success it’s impossible to be certain how well you’ve done in 2017. So today I’d like to walk you through the process of creating that definition.
What I mean by YOUR personalized definition of success
Your personalized definition of success is exactly what it sounds like: a definition of success tailored to YOUR needs and desires. It can be a single broad sentence or a full page with many details. What matters is that it’s 100% yours. It’s not rooted in what anyone else wants, or what society says you SHOULD want.
Why is your personalized definition of success so important?
We’ve all heard cautionary tales about the misery that can be found by aiming at someone else’s definition of success, whether you’re trying to please your parents, your lovers, or society in general. We all know people who stick with day jobs they hate purely for financial security.
The worst part is that these people aren’t happy, but they rarely know how to fix it. They have no personalized definition of success, no direction. And they don’t take the time to create that direction. This ensures their continued misery.
Chasing somebody else’s definition of success doesn’t make them happy, and it won’t make you happy either. You need to define success for yourself. Once you’ve created that definition, you need to go after it with everything you have–and not let anyone derail you from your goals.
Your definition of success is the key to long term happiness. Without one you’ll likely wake up at the end of your life and wonder where it all went. And when you’re on your deathbed you want to be thinking about your adventures, not your failures, right?
How to create your personalized definition of success
If you’re here you probably already have some idea of what success looks for you. You want to make a living from your words (or other creative endeavors).
But there are hundreds of ways to make a living writing. There’s freelance writing, ghostwriting, novel writing, TV writing, games writing–and those are just the options that immediately came to mind. Within each of those types of writing there are dozens of subcategories. Freelance writing, for example, can mean copywriting for businesses or writing articles for magazines or even academic papers (although there are some ethical issues with that last one). Games writing can refer to tabletop RPGs and board games (like this one I’m being featured in), indie computer games, or massive console games.
There are as many different routes to success as there are writers seeking it. Each one has different goal posts along the way. The only way to know what goal posts to hit is to have a specific, personalized definition of success.
Today I’m going to share three writing exercises you can use to create that definition. Ideally these should be done at least one day apart.
Exercise One: Set a timer for 10 minutes and free write until the timer goes off, answering the question “What does success look like for me”.
Exercise Two: Set a timer for 10 minutes. Free write, answering the question “What does my ideal work day look like”, until the timer goes off.
Exercise Three: Go through your answers from the previous two exercises. Make a list of anything that got into both answers. These are the things that truly matter to you–that’s why they stick in your head across multiple days.
Once you’re sure that everything truly important is on the list, turn that list into a sentence, beginning with “Success for me is…”. Now you have your own personalized definition of success!
Now that you’ve got a personalized definition of success, the next step is to evaluate how close you are to that definition and how you can get there. I’ll be walking you through this process over the next few weeks, so when 2018 rolls around you’ll know exactly what needs to go on your New Years’ goal list.
Do you have a personalized definition of success? Did you create one using these exercises? Let me know all about it in the comments section below!