I started my blog a little over three years ago using free hosting. Writing was the easy part. Promoting it via Facebook and guest posts, tweeting, making money from ads, or ramping up the page design, all seemed like good ideas, but the minute I started to read about how to do it my eyes glazed over and my brain shut down. It was all too overwhelming and anyway, I was a writer, wasn’t I, not some kind of computer technician? Nevertheless I did read a lot of top ten tips kind of articles on monetarizing my site. Over a long time my understanding grew and although I didn’t act on everything I read, it made me focus on what I wanted out of my site. Did I want to actively chase advertising, or was I more comfortable with the idea of clients coming to me in response to the quality of my writing?
The more I read the less I felt I knew, not only about blogging but also about what type of articles I wanted to write. Confused but undeterred, I kept on writing and used my energy to put together a book of essays which I self-published about a year later. By sheer luck my feature about political events in Turkey got published on a national website. This garnered me print and radio interviews, and an invitation to do a regular radio spot. Without stopping to see how far I’d come, I put out another collection of essays. By that stage I knew enough to get reviews which resulted in sales. When I came to release my third book, a travel narrative, last year, I had contacts lined up and a marketing strategy (albeit basic) in place.
Judging from the response I received, my writing hit the spot. Yet I was still on free hosting and avoided using all but the simplest of tools on my website. Painstakingly I had learnt how to create widgets, links, banners and backgrounds but now I wanted to do more. My site had to do more than express my personality. It needed to show that I looked at writing as a career. After all, how could I expect anyone to take me and my work seriously if I didn’t do the same? I researched paid hosting sites, pestered everyone I knew for advice, asked thousands of questions, hesitated for two weeks about making a decision, and finally took the plunge. New hosting meant new guidelines and instructions so I waded through myriad forums and hosting communities, grappling with the language of web design before putting what I’d learnt into practice.
In the upgrade from free to self-hosted, I lost most of the changes I’d originally made because I couldn’t really understand a lot of the explanations. More reading ensued, and in the process of re-entering my links, I realized just how much press I’ve received, and how many articles I’ve had published outside my blog. Not a huge amount but enough to make a potentially negative experience into a positive one, by bringing home to me how far I’ve come in a relatively short time. In addition, in admitting to myself how proud I felt about my longer features and essays, I knew I wanted to focus on writing creative long form non-fiction rather than more traditional short travel assignments. And, to add the icing to the cake, after a rocky start involving lots of frustration, epic internet chats with support staff and endless attempts at devising new features on my website, I’ve just designed and implemented my first pop up.
Even though I’m still not making a living from my writing, taking stock of what I’ve achieved so far has given me the conviction to carry on. My persistence was rewarded when the long essay I’d pitched to more than twenty media outlets, on a subject I’m really passionate about, was accepted without a single change and went live the day I submitted it. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t stop jumping up and down with happiness, even after I had a glass of champagne.
I’ve come to see that taking the time to look back on my achievements is just as important as looking for new ideas. In being immersed in writing, reading about topics to help my writing, and designing and tweaking my site, I’d forgotten a lot of my successes. All that hard work had been worthwhile after all. Revisiting them gave me the motivation I needed to continue to improve my writing skills and to develop my marketing talents. Remembering to occasionally bask in the glory works for me, but what about you?
Does looking back at your past accomplishments help you keep plugging away at your writing, even when is seems success eludes you?