The night I got a reply email from Emma Mustich, the former parenting editor at The Huffington Post, I didn’t sleep well. “I’d like to run this piece,” she wrote with frustrating brevity. My blog and writing career would take off! This was the big break I’d been waiting for! Goal accomplished!
I cautiously spread the news among my dearest who perpetuated my fantasy. (None of them are in the writing game.) My book deal was within reach.
My piece was posted and promoted by the Huffington Post on social media.
The first 48 hours were exciting. I’d never had that many eyes on anything I had written and I hadn’t even gone viral! (I may have obsessively checked the Huffington Post app on my phone and taken a screen shot of the title I did not write.)
And then time continued ticking. My life did not change. There was no significant increase in my blog traffic, my story had been buried under the flow of new and never-ending lovely articles.
'My story had been buried under the flow of new and never-ending lovely articles' @Kathleensiddell Click To Tweet
In retrospect, I’m not exactly sure what I thought would happen. Did I really think some big editor or agent would read it and immediately start talking about book deals? The difficult and narcissistic truth is, yes.
A year ago, I spent months thinking of new and catchier blog names. I looked at other bloggers who wrote about the same topics and became inspired by what they were doing and disillusioned about how far I was from them. I created a Pinterest account. I set up a Facebook page. I ignored them both. What if I only got a handful of likes?
I’ve never been much of a stats counter but I tried spending more time learning what they meant and how to increase them. I think the stress of watching them limp along outweighed any reassurance I felt from them.
I’m never going to have a highly successful, highly read, and monetarily profitable personal blog. Not because I don’t believe it to be possible, but more because the skills it would take to get me there are some of my weakest. But I can still be a successful writer, can’t I?
I changed my goals. I’d find my audience instead of trying to get the audience to find me. I’d write for free because the exposure would eventually pay off (literally and figuratively).
I’ve found wonderfully supportive and woefully critical and utterly baffling masses who comment without reading, misread and comment or just plain ignore. I’ve earned a few extra dollars to spend on groceries.
Depending on the day I might tell you’ve I’ve been lucky as a writer and list for you some of the places I’ve been published. Alternatively, I’d tell you I haven’t been very lucky and list all of my rejections, the acceptances that turned out to be duds and the stories I just can write right.
When I reach a writing goal, it’s followed by a few days of excitement and inspiration. Anything is possible.
And then it’s time to write another story, research more places to write, research other writers’ sites, read, try to engage in social media and the cycle starts again. Each time I get that “we like it and want to publish it” from one of these sources, I’m proud of myself and keep looking for new goals but I don’t feel like I’m moving forward. Ultimately, I don’t get the sense that I’m any closer to my pie-in-the-sky goal of a book deal. I’m not even really sure that’s what I want anymore.
Maybe I’m just whining because trying to build a writing career is a lot of work. Maybe I’m whining because I don’t see how all this writing will actually pay off. I feel like a hamster on a wheel.'I don't see how all this writing will actually pay off. I feel like a hamster on a wheel' @Kathleensiddell Click To Tweet
We all know we don’t write for the money, but somewhere buried in all this babbling is the underlying false truth I have that getting paid to write equals success. (I know, I know, all you great literary writers will now immediately dismiss me.)
I recently started writing for an expat magazine here in Singapore. I have a business card that reads, Kathleen Siddell “Digital Writer.” I compile lots and lots of lists of “things to do, see, and eat in Singapore.” I get a paycheck and get to hone my skills. I’m learning a lot about SEO and Meta Data and how to manage social media. But…I really, really miss writing, submitting, waiting — the hamster wheel.'I really, really miss writing, submitting, waiting -- the hamster wheel' @Kathleensiddell Click To Tweet
Maybe I don’t really know what a writing career looks like. Is this it?
So I’ll keep writing. I’ll set, and reset, goals. I’ll keep looking up and around. I’ll take comfort knowing that the best views come after long and winding journeys. And, I’ll hope I never reach the end.