Work, Success and Failure, and Dear Lucky Agent

They say if you do what you love, you’ll never work again. I’m sure nobody included housework in that count. Yet I still smile when Mom said I was going to work when I mentioned a blog post I needed to write in a timely fashion.

You can tell it’s a new year because I’m ramping up all the things I want to do and actually getting on a schedule. By March it will be a habit, and October will throw so many things my way (like getting ready for NaNoWriMo in November) that it will start to slide. I usually prefer to reassert the regular schedule of things in December, and I learned last year that taking time off from writing didn’t do me any good.

So I’m also challenging myself to send an entry to the Dear Lucky Agent contest from Writer’s Digest. The deadline is looming, but I think I have time. Mom’s here to help me out, and it’s so nice to actually get a little extra sleep – or time to write a blog post before bed.

For a long time I considered myself a writer: one who writes. I love to write and pour over the words on the pages and it celebrates my lifelong love of books. Lately I’m considering that I might simply be a novelist. I write novels. Even my short stories seem like they just want to turn into novels – or worse, series of novels.

That kind of commitment to a project isn’t the hard part. I have found ways to get the kids to sleep long enough to turn out one more page, one more chapter. It’s one way to push myself to learn to type wicked fast. I read this article that said you should learn to at least type 1000 words per hour, and I know I can do better than 3 times that fast (when making it up off the top of my head, not transcribing) when I focus. If I wrote longhand, which I tend not to if there is a computer within reach, I know I can type 100 wpm or better.

It’s the editing I need to work on. Unfortunately I don’t have 40 hours a week to put toward the writing and editing to get to the master status, but I do as much as I can with what I have.

I have a part-time job at the YMCA and I read one of the little quotes on the wall for the first time that said something about how you can’t achieve anything if you don’t first expect yourself to do something better. I think I’ll have to write it down next week. It’s absolutely true. If I never expected myself to do anything, it wouldn’t get done. However, I juggle the housework and two kids and a couple part-time jobs along with the writing. My best friend told me that I get an amazing amount of things done. I’m pretty sure it’s because I don’t give myself the choice to accomplish less.

I did write down this quote: “Failing is a part of success. To make goals effective, you have to fail at them 50 percent of the time, or they didn’t stretch you far enough.” Chip Wilson, courtesy of an article by Ella Lawrence called Set Your Course from Yoga Journal.

According to that idea, I do not challenge myself enough since I do not fail 50 percent of the time. There is a limit to how many challenges one can take on, and the line between “failing” and “overwhelmed” can be subtle to many of us. Maybe it isn’t about taking on more things, but taking on enough to do as much as you can. Instead of doing one task to a 100% level, you try two at the 90% level. When you get two to the 95% level, you take on a third and all three drop to 80%. Is 80% failing? That might depend on where someone sets the curve. I wonder if the word fail – failing – failure is what bothers us most. To admit we failed is to be defeated. It isn’t something that we allow to change us into something more. Every choice we make defines us in life, and every day reflects upon what has come before and ripples into what will be. A failure today might mean success at something else in the future, but if we don’t allow failure in any form we will never learn anything. Or maybe that’s the whole point. We are afraid to fail (as a society) so maybe that means we’re really afraid to learn.

What have you challenged yourself to do lately?

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Measuring Success

A book blogger friend of mine posted this over the weekend: The Honest to Goodness Truth about Comments. While I wanted to comment right away, it got lost in my iPad with its refusal to link through my Open ID. Blah. By now I’ve all but forgotten the encouraging comment I had (one of the drawbacks of a newborn keeping me up all night), but my question remains on my mind.

How do you measure success?

Success ought to be achieving goals that you set out for yourself, but it isn’t that simple. While we place goals in front of ourselves, the pieces that determine whether or not we are successful are often out of our hands. Do you set straightforward goals with singular paths to achieve them?

Sometimes it isn’t about giving up or staying the course. Sometimes it is about how success is defined. Another friend of mine, Michelle Tuesday, runs a music school. A guy came in one day to sell her the option of a better page rank. Michelle knows her page rank, her analytics, and how to reach her customers. A page rank may or may not lead to more students in her school. She defines success as keeping her students happy and building her studio. These are measurable goals and she can track how she’s doing.

I sometimes have issues with this. While I am not counting the comments in my success, I love to get them. I can see how when so much time is spent crafting posts to put in the blog that it can be easy to see that lack as a failure whether it is or not. How many other things are easier to count as failures rather than how success ought to be measured? Is this just another way we give ourselves permission to give up on our pursuits?

I remember when I sold lia sophia jewelry I had a manager who defined success as getting out there. She encouraged us to get ‘no’ answers, because we were trying. I wrote the word NO on a piece of paper 50 times trying to hear that from my customers. While I think I did manage to get yes as an answer, I did also hear the word No a lot. The trick was not to let it shut you down. Getting out there meant becoming a success.

In some ways I treat my creative pursuits the same way. I get out there. I send stories for publication. I share them with friends. I blog and keep up with Facebook and converse on Twitter. Has that sold a million copies of my book? Not even close. Here and there my book does get shared, and every now and then I get feedback from someone who read it. That is what I love. I know I’m out there. I’m sharing with people. It won’t make me rich, but it does make me happy.

Next time you set a goal for yourself, try to make sure that the path to success is within your ability to achieve. What other ways do you define success?