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How do you measure success in a year?
For a freelance writer like me, output offers one way.
For instance, in 2022, I published 13 articles in eight digital publications: Elemental, Everyday Health, Health, Parents, Pregnancy After Loss Support, Reviewed, Verywell Family, and Verywell Mind (some are new this month, more on that later). I wrote even more — look out for those in 2023.
I also was accepted to a second professional organization, the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), as a professional member.
Readership allows for yet another accounting. I don’t have metrics on most individual articles. But according to total website visits listed on Similarweb in late December 2022, the biggest articles I wrote this year were:
- How Not to Be Sad: 9 Tips for Managing the Emotion (Everyday Health – 18.3 million visits)
- Is My Kid’s Therapy Helping? Plus 7 Steps to Take if It’s Not (Everyday Health again)
- Feeling Good Institute Online Therapy Review (Verywell Mind – 17.7 million visits)
Still another approach to tracking achievement is audience share, or the percentage of traffic sent to a website compared to its competitors. Using the audience share listed on Similarweb in late December 2022, you could say the most significant things that I wrote this year were:
- Best Online Family Therapy (Verywell Family – #3 in its category)
- Best Online Therapy for Teenagers and Kids (Parents – #3 in its category)
- Feeling Good Institute Online Therapy Review (Verywell Mind – #5 in its category)
Numbers like these provide something solid-feeling to hang my writerly hat on. But these data don’t capture everything important to me, as a surprising email made clear.
When I began to compile these end-of-year reflections, a message from Medium popped in my inbox, containing even more numbers — my latest stats from that website. Since I don’t put much new content on Medium these days, the numbers tend to be pretty flat, but this time I saw an Everest of a spike.
What happened is this: As far as I can tell, someone (or several someones) sent one of my stories in an email or instant message, and it caught fire for a few days. When I clicked to see what article it could possibly be, I laid eyes on a piece I’d mostly forgotten crafting. I wrote this one from the heart because I had to get it out:
It felt good to revisit this piece and picture other people reading it. Just about as good as those “bigger” professional accomplishments above do.
To be clear, the readership doesn’t even begin to touch those articles up top – we’re talking a thousand known readers, not potential millions. The story hadn’t landed in any publication, so it’s not represented in the collage either. Forget about audience share. But I’ll tell you what: It’s awfully satisfying to channel words directly from my heart to the world.
This feeling has weight too, and I want to remember that going into 2023. Because Medium’s email reminded me that, in some ways, what makes a freelancing year successful is a little like what makes a life successful. It’s something you decide. You set your own terms. You make your own meaning. You aim — as best as circumstances allow — toward what matters to you.
Here’s to more of that for all of us in 2023.
New From Me This Month
In July, two important things happened in my little world: My youngest son turned one, and I decided I was ready to take on more writing projects again.
Taking on more writing project was supposed to be a gradual thing. One project here. Another there. Just a wee toe-dip.
But that’s not what actually happened. Instead of a delicate little dip of my pinky toe, I catapulted myself headfirst into the boom/bust whirlwind that is freelance writing.
It was an accident — and I’m grateful for the experience — but it was a lot. Basically, what happened is I threw my hat in the ring on a couple of out-of-reach seeming projects that turned into yeses, and an editor reached out to me for some “hell yes” type work. Now, all at once, a lot of that work is finally out in the world, so here it is:
I wrote How Not to Be Sad: 9 Tips for Managing the Emotion for Everyday Health. Don’t let the title fool you, not ever being sad isn’t the goal, exactly. Instead, I interviewed experts and dug into the research for advice on how to deal with sadness skillfully.
I got to write the Talkspace Online Therapy Review for Health this year. This one weaves together expert interviews, research, and my own experience as a client this fall.
I wrote Best Online Therapy for Teenagers and Kids for Parents. I waded through a lot of data — 105 users from 55 companies worth of data — to figure out the best virtual therapy options for teens and kids. I also wrote about what you need to know when pursuing online therapy for your children.
I wrote Best Online Family Therapy for Verywell Family. Just like the roundup for Parents, I combed through tons of survey data and market research to determine the best virtual counseling options for families. The experience made me optimistic about how online therapy can help increase access to mental health support in a time of increased need.
I wrote the first-ever Feeling Good Institute Online Therapy Review for Verywell Mind. Just like the review for Health, I spoke with experts, conducted research, and experienced therapy at Feeling Good Institute first-hand.
Your Curated Reading List
The Science Writers’ Handbook: Everything You Need To Know To Pitch, Publish, and Prosper In The Digital Age by The Writers of SciLance (Edited by Thomas Hayden and Michelle Nijhuis) is the best kind of writing book. Not only is it chock-full of practical information, but it makes the sometimes-isolating pursuit of writing feel less lonely. For example, reading “assignments tend to come in downpours and droughts” made me feel better about a too-busy fall. I was skeptical since it’s nearly 10 years old at this point, but it genuinely holds up well.
I picked up Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein because a friend from bookclub chose it. She grew up in Janesville, WI, a place I’d only passed through driving on I-90 to get from where I live in Minnesota to where I grew up in Illinois. The older I get, the more I understand the ways in which some parts of my life experience are common to the human condition and some parts are idiosyncratic to my cultural context. For instance, I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a factory town and how it shapes everything about life there. This journalistic investigation into what happened to Janesville after the General Motors plant there closed in 2008 helped fill in that gap a bit, and I recommend it to anyone interested in better understanding this slice of American life.
I read and loved Writers & Lovers: A Novel by Lily King over a year ago, but it comes to me sometimes still, so I wanted to share it with you now. It’s a novel about a writer working on a novel — a meta-type that’s full of landmines, in my opinion — but King pulls it off.
King’s writing is compelling, alternatingly funny (“But I can’t go out with a guy who’s written eleven and a half pages in three years. That kind of thing is contagious.”) and heartfelt (“From the death of my mother, the world began to dissolve around me, beautiful, iridescent, but passing away substanceless. Till I almost dissolved away myself, and was very ill, when I was twenty-six. Then slowly the world came back: or I myself returned: but to another world.”).
The novel is about more than a writer writing, of course. I believe that every novel contains a phrase where the author pulls the reader aside and tells them what they were trying to do. This, I think, is King’s: “Kay Boyle said once that a good story is both an allegory and a slice of live.”
Check out my Bookshop for more excellent reads.
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