I work in the business world in my day job. Advertising to be exact. As a senior marketing communications manager I create advertising concepts, write ads and develop the creative communications to sell our products. Success in any business is measured by ROI (return on investment). Profits must exceed your investment or you cut your losses and move on.
This got me thinking about how we measure our success as writers. Is publication the only worthy return on investment? Is making a buck all there is?
Several years ago, I spent a year writing my first novel and two more trying to land an agent. There was bad news. I never landed an agent but I came incredibly close on my first effort. And there was good news. While I experienced plenty of rejection, several agents took the time to comment on the strength of my book, recommend changes, and encourage me to keep writing.
Yet, despite their encouragement, at the end of the day, my novel never saw the light of day and found a home on just one bookshelf—mine. After investing three years of my life on this project I concluded it was not exactly a good return on investment.
It took a good friend to add clarity. “You write your first book to learn how to write a book,” Dave said. “You write your second and third books for publication.” Still, I lamented my three years of “lost time.” His response altered my attitude forever. “Jim, you didn’t waste your time. In fact, did you ever consider that if you had invested those three years doing anything else that would’ve been a waste of time?” He was right. This investment changed me and prepared me for my next project.
When I write, I get in a zone. I get lost in a project and develop a sense of peace that tells me I’m where I’m supposed to be. New York Times Bestselling Christian author, Max Lucado, in his book Cure for the Common Life, refers to this as finding your “sweet spot.” He says your sweet spot is “a zone, a region, a life precinct in which you were made to dwell. And life makes sweet sense when you find it.”
Another writer put it this way, “Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing anything else.”
This is how I feel about my writing now. No matter how much time I invest in it, and regardless of my return on investment (published or not), I don’t feel I should have invested my time doing something else.
When you write, do you feel you are doing precisely what you were meant to do? Do you feel that if you were doing anything else you just might be wasting your time? If so, then you’ve just redefined your writing ROI. Because when you do what you love doing, success ultimately follows.