The Measure of Your Dreams

How do you measure success? It’s not an easy thing to do. Plus it looks different for everyone. Yet when you’re working really hard at something, like writing and illustrating, it’s really important to know what you’re striving for. Would big book deals and flashy literary parties really make you happy? Would fancy-pants awards and fame make you feel valid? I can’t really say I’d say no to any of this, but it’s important to define what success really means to you.

I was reminded of this recently at a Pogues concert in Sydney, when swaying away to their awesome Celtic punk ballads. While that may sound like the tangent of the century, I wont make you try to follow my mind and will make the link for you: one of their songs, ‘A Rainy Night in Soho’, has the lyric the measure of my dreams

It took me back a few years, to a time when I’d been throwing everything I had into writing and illustrating, yet didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Or at least that’s how it felt. I was incredibly unhappy. This beautiful creative thing that used to make me feel so free was falling flat. I was even starting to begrudge it a little. Embarrassingly enough, it took stumbling across one of those naff kind of sayings (you know the ones that circle facebook) to wake me up. It was typed up on a little cue card and stuck to a friend’s cork board:

It’s not about the destination, but the journey

At the time I’d never seen this saying and for some reason, at that particular moment, it cut through something in me. I realised I had my focus all wrong. I was so focussed on things mostly out of my control – namely getting published – and it was making me miserable. I suddenly realised that if I didn’t enjoy the actual writing (the journey), then nothing that happened from there was going to make me happy. So then I had to redefine what success would actually look like for me. I had to really think about what I was aiming for and what might make me happy.

I came up with the following, which are kind of goals and (for me) a more healthy focus:

  1. Work on the projects I’m called to: I don’t ever want to focus too much on what I think the ‘market’ might want from me. Instead I hope to make the art that calls to me, so I keep enjoying my writing and illustrating and make more honest art (I hope)
  2. Be respected by my peers: I realised I don’t actually need to have my name recognised by the general public, or even book lovers. But having my work respected by other writers / illustrators (especially in my field) does mean something to me
  3. Get to work with those who enjoy me / my work: be they other artists or publishing professionals
  4. Be able to do this as some sort of career: not necessarily live off it (as nice as that would be), but have it as my main focus

These are all things I have more control over, and they’re still true for me today. I’ve had each of them happen for me in different ways, some small and others more obvious. And after shifting my focus I started to find joy in my art once more.

If you’re honest with yourself, what would success look like for you?

10 Responses to “The Measure of Your Dreams”

  1. 1 JJ Cooper May 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Big book deals, flashy literary parties, fancy-pants awards, fame and a movie deal for me :)

    • 2 Katherine Battersby May 1, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      Ha! Well, you’re well on your way then JJ :)

      Was thinking of you the other day, wondering what you’re up to. It has been a while, sir. Hope you’re well and the words are flowing x

    • 3 JJ Cooper May 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      Thanks, Katherine!

      Back in BrisVegas and back into writing :)

      Success really is for me someone simply saying ‘thanks’.

      Congrats on your success and I hope to catch up soon!

      Cheers, JJ

  2. 4 holyghostboy May 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    yes, More pogues. Less parties. More dancing. less politics. More words. Less talking. x

  3. 6 Dimity Powell May 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    What a supremely honest and illuminating post Katherine. Thank you so very much for this one. Forces one to look deep within and fess up to oneself. Cheers.

    • 7 Katherine Battersby May 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      Thanks Dim. It can be hard to face things in life – especially the realisation that something we’re striving for in reality wont make us happy. I remember starting to see this when I would have some kind of success (eg. placing in a writing comp) and I’d feel good for a day or two but then I’d quickly drop back down to my usual state. It made certain things I was striving for suddenly seem a little hollow. It took a while to name what would actually make me happy in a day to day way, which is ultimately what’s important (to me). A hard but important realisation.

      Glad this post spoke to you x

    • 8 Dimity Powell May 1, 2012 at 8:14 pm

      In volumes Katherine.

  4. 9 Sybdix May 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Success for me is enjoying all the parts of my life, as much as I can, most of the time (and sleeping at least 8 consecutive hours at night). Recognizing that there are payoffs to be made and that there is time for everything, just not right now- so be present in what you are doing- not what you’re not doing.

    Beautiful post Kath
    Xx Syb xx

    • 10 Katherine Battersby May 5, 2012 at 10:42 am

      Thanks for the reply, Sybil. I can so relate to your approach to life. Reflecting on all of this was a lot about getting a better work / life balance, and realising how important family and friends are. It became very apparent that it was only having wonderful people around me that allowed me to really enjoy any work successes I might have along the way.

      Being present is so important. Thanks lovely xx

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:


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