• Advice

Define success on YOUR terms

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

When you say you are a writer, people have certain expectations.

They want you to say something special. It’s as if there is some fancy dictionary only writers know about to effortlessly add sophisticated words into sentences. It doesn’t matter if you are writing a novel or your grocery list--plain words are never enough.

Clever words and fantastic analogies are expected of writers, regardless of the subject matter. I must sit around in coffee shops, own a collection of antique typewriters or cardigans and have a special soundtrack to accompany my thinking and writing.

But the reality is, I usually just sit on the couch in my living room while typing my first draft, which is then edited for hours or even days. I don’t own a typewriter, but scribble random thoughts in my notebook with a pencil like a middle schooler. I don’t use extraordinary words or require my readers to have an extensive vocabulary to understand me. I believe the best writing is the simplest.

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There is always a certain glamour to life in our minds. Whether movies or ignorant comments established such a scene, we sometimes feel the need to meet the standards of what “life as a…[fill in the blank]” looks like. That expectation then decides what success looks like.

It’s in that exact moment that we back down and feel inadequate. Because our reality does not look like the expectation, we start to feel overwhelmed and incapable. Then guess what? We give up. We walk away. We say it’s too hard or that it’s never going to happen.

Real success happens when we redefine our expectations and then meet or exceed them. Instead of subscribing to conventional ideas, construct your own measurement for success. Create attainable goals and describe what that looks like daily–starting now.

You will never be able to live up to the hype or expectation of someone else. That doesn’t have to sound hopeless though. You have the freedom to look at your life and say, “This is what I want it to look like, and that is what I am working towards.”

You might still feel overwhelmed or like you are chasing a pipe dream. You might even try and fail.

Don’t give in to the lies, distractions or comparisons; just focus on what you can do and press forward. If you really want to pursue that redefined success mark, do so wholeheartedly.

Not only are your dreams more achievable, but you then get to celebrate and claim the small victories along the way.

Samantha Gratton is a writer and project manager living in Raleigh, NC. She blogs at, writes and plays music with her husband and eats something chocolate every day.