Sometimes I don't give myself enough credit. This morning, as I was lying half-awake in bed, I did what I always do. And after that, I started thinking about where I stand as a bonafide, officially sanctioned, "hey, I get paid for this!" writer. It occurred to me that I usually tell people, "I want to write for a living, but I'm still working on the 'living' part." As it turns out, "success" has kind of snuck up on me.

Sure, when I say "writer," what I usually mean is "novelist." And I've always measured myself with that particular ruler. I've written a couple of novels, but none have ever been published. So in my eyes, I haven't yet met my goal. I haven't yet started to "make my living as a writer."

But this morning, lying packed under the covers as the AC blew cool air into the room (in the middle of freaking November -- damn these Texas winters!), I started thinking about all the ways in which I generate an income. And I suddenly realized that I actually DO make a living as a writer. The documentary work I do is really just an extension of my writing -- I write scripts, proposals, and all the web and print publication material. And heck, I'm even planning ahead by keeping a journal of everything that happens in the production so I can try to get a book in print later.

And beyond that, I also make a few bucks here and there by writing reviews. I recently penned a review for Consumer Digest about universal remote controls. It ain't Hemingway, but my words reached millions of readers and even influenced their decisions (on some level, anyway). So, by any stretch of the definition, I have achieved "success." Unless that definition includes "made millions of dollars and has now retired." Gee... now I'm bummed again.

But the roller coaster doesn't stop there! I own my own magazine! ViewOnline (www.viewonline.com) is a consumer review magazine that I founded in 1998. I write and edit for it, and even though the revenue is pretty thin most of the time, it DOES bring in something of a profit. And the site plays host to my weekly syndicated column, ViewPoint (the archives for my column are at www.viewonline.com/viewpoint if you'd like to see past musings). So as far as that goes, I've achieved what only a handful of people on earth have done. I not only put my words online for the world to scrutinize, I actually produce something that has some INFLUENCE. Hey, meets MY definition of success, anyway.

A sister publication for ViewOnline is GolfRave (www.golfrave.com). My friend David A. Dodson is the owner of that one. He and I are partners on both publications, and we've enjoyed a great deal of benefit and success with them. I designed and built both web sites (they're meant to resemble each other), and we use them to inform the Public at Large (TM) of what products we think are cool, and what we think is worth shelling out the bucks for. Since both magazines bring in a lot of e-mail, I have to assume we're making some sort of difference out there! And the nifty thing about both ViewOnline and GolfRave is that many of the reviews we write get quoted on product packaging! I know, I know... big deal. Hey, if YOU were being quoted on a product, I'D be thrilled for ya!

Of course, writing isn't the only way I make my living. There's the web design, graphic arts, video production, photography... whew! I'm tired just thinking about it all. But writing, that's my first and true love. And I'm starting to realize that even without a dime coming in, I'd still be "successful." Heck, writing is the only "job" I've ever done for free! I spent YEARS writing things for publication that never earned me a dime!

Now that my stuff gets printed in newspapers and online, I feel like I've moved into a sort of pseudo-super stardom. I may not get TONS of fan mail or anything, but I get my share. And it's incredible to see how many people actually feel like I'm voicing their own opinions. My column, ViewPoint (www.viewonline.com/viewpoint), gets picked up all the time by people who are just looking for a voice to say something in their defense.

Some of the favorites that people write me about are my columns on "Zero Tolerance Policies" and "Corporal Punishment." As a former teacher, I guess I have a unique perspective on these things. I can see why so many parents get ticked off about these blatant violations of their child's rights. And when you're mad, you look for any way to express that anger that doesn't land you in County. Frequently, I get e-mails from upset parents who just want to share with me their experiences. I can't tell you how many e-mails I've gotten from parents who have kids that were caught up in Zero Tolerance policies. I was even invited to join a group that was organized to stamp out these policies in public schools.

So... that's success, right? I've accomplished something by my words alone. I've inspired and motivated people. I've influenced opinions and persuaded individuals to think of things with a new perspective. And along the way, I actually pocketed a couple of bucks. No retirement money, as yet, but enough to keep the Raman noodles coming.

So by my definition, I'm successful. I'm finally "writing for a living." Cool.


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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