Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...

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Defining Success

Three years ago, I knew exactly what I wanted: to be a writer. It was an achievable goal. I went to grad school and learned the craft of writing. The work was challenging but comfortably predictable. Write a draft, edit the draft, finish the piece, and find it a home in a literary journal. Repeat. On any given day, I knew what was expected of me. I saw my goal—an MFA—clearly. The path to success stretched out before me in a straight, simple line.

But when I graduated, things changed. I found myself sans a syllabus or guidance. No longer a student, I was now “just a mom” again, without a job or a definable goal. No gilded trophy hovered on the horizon. What kind of success was I seeking?

I studied my fellow MFA grads hoping they would show me what success looked like. Just as they did, I polished the work I’d created in school. Dutifully, I turned my thesis into a book manuscript. I subscribed to Duotrope and started to accumulate rejections and acceptances from journals.

But I felt no joy. The publication highs wore off after a few hours, leaving me to wonder where to go next. To another journal I’d never heard of? Back to my office to work on a book I wasn’t sure I liked? Though my writer friends seemed busy and creative, my interest in publishing waned. Was this really success?

Then one day as I slumped in front of an essay, I realized that writing had become a burden. So what if I was pretty good at it? It sucked. The harder I had tried to be like my fellow MFA grads, to publish in literary magazines for readers who could never see my face or hear my voice, the more I hated it.

It’s easy for writers to compare ourselves to others, but a successful writing career isn’t defined by the number of publications we accrue. It’s subjective; it’s personal. We must define success for ourselves, even if it feels vastly different. I didn’t come to this realization quickly, but when I finally did, I put down the book manuscript and shelved the unpolished essays. I forbade myself to work on them. To my surprise, new writing opportunities began to pop up. In addition to my Literary Mama editing duties, I landed freelance work in my home town, and a local news and culture blog gave me a regular nature column. At first, working local felt like a step backward from the literary life. I still envied writers finding their success on a larger scale. But I also found joy in writing again.

The people who read my work here in town are my friends and neighbors. I’m helping local organizations reach out to the community. I’m writing about nature and the environment in the place where it will have the most direct impact on my family. Nobody beyond the city limits sees my byline, but I’m making little ripples around me. Ripples move outward in all directions; the waves gain height and mass as they travel.

How could I be more successful?

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Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects. Read more about our submission guidelines here.

 

 

 

 

 


Laura Jackson Roberts is a freelance writer living with her husband and their young sons in West Virginia. She holds an MFA from Chatham University and writes nonfiction and humor. Her work has recently appeared on Matador Network, in Brain, Child MagazineVandaleer, Animal: A Beast of  Literary Magazine, Defenestration, and The Higgs Weldon. She also writes a regular nature column, Valley Views & Varmints.


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