Celebrate those milestones

Don't let your accomplishments pass you by!

Celebrate those milestones
What a happy chap! Image by Max-Kegfire via Canva Pro

One of the worst habits of a freelancer is forgetting to celebrate the wins. It happens all the time, especially if you’re fortunate enough to work on an ongoing comic series or a project like the High Republic.

It’s something I regularly discuss with my pal, George Mann. Like me, George is a freelancer, meaning we’re often chasing our tails. At any one time, you can be pushing for a deadline, juggling edits, handling marketing material or just battling through the admin required to keep a creative business ticking over. In the middle of the day, a box arrives in the post containing the comps of your latest comic or even copies of your new novel, and you glance at them, think, ‘That’s nice,’ and then swiftly put them aside to get your nose back to the grindstone as quickly as you can. I’ve done it so many times, and it’s always a missed opportunity.

Worse than that, it’s a mistake. Milestones, both large and small, are the perfect opportunity to acknowledge that one project is completed before powering on with the next. They’re also the ideal time to reflect on where you are in your career or personal life. By skimming over these moments, you’re robbing yourself of the chance to pause and consider how you arrived at this moment, remembering the lessons that got you here.

And yes, you’re also missing the opportunity to acknowledge your achievements. Just typing that makes me shudder. I’m a Brit. Blowing your own trumpet goes against our nature. We’re hardwired to take the mickey out of ourselves at the first opportunity and play down our talents whenever possible. The last thing you want to do is brag because bragging… well, it’s simply not cricket, is it?

group of person playing cricket
The opposite of bragging, apparently. Photo by Craig Hughes on Unsplash

But acknowledging your achievements isn’t showing off and it certainly shouldn’t be an embarrassment. If you’ve written a book, or a comic, or script or anything, you’ve achieved something that has taken months of work and determination. It deserves to be appreciated, especially by yourself.

There are profound psychological benefits at play here, too. Celebrating milestones reminds us to be grateful, to give thanks for every part of our lives, both work and play. For a few glorious moments, we can dwell in the present, not worrying about the deadlines and nonsense of tomorrow, but enjoying the here and now. And who knows what else might we notice if we allow ourselves to breathe?

Personally, moments like these also help me with my imposter syndrome, which is one of the main reasons I find it so hard to relax. I’m forever pushing on and on in an attempt to prove that, despite all my doubts and fears, I’m somehow good at this job!

But what’s the use of ploughing on if I thunder past the moments that can give me the actual proof I need? Surely it’s better to turn off my screen and sit quietly with my new book, flicking through its pages, taking it all in, rather than blindly chasing after the next big thing. The evidence that I’ve successfully closed off a project that has taken months or even years to complete is there quite literally in my hands! I’ve learnt to my cost that powering on regardless only leads to exhaustion and dissatisfaction, a life where you’re never fulfilled, never satisfied, only obsessed with doing more, more, MORE…

It’s the reason I hit a wall last year, experiencing severe burnout for the first time in my life, something I never, ever want to experience again. That’s why I made a point of marking the publication of The Path of Vengeance last week. I took myself off first thing in the morning and treated myself to a quiet breakfast before diving into a full day of promotion.

And yes, I took a picture of my food, because I’m one of those people!

Breakfast and a book for the win!

Then, when I got home to the family, we had a special meal, opened a bottle of bubbly and settled down to watch The Sound of 007 (which I’ve wanted to see for ages and was well worth the wait!)

Indulgent? Maybe, but isn’t that the point? I ended the day so grateful that I’d had the opportunity to write the novel — and for those who’d helped me cross the finishing line — that I was raring to go the following day.

So, try to remember to celebrate your achievements, great or small. And, actually, don’t always wait until you’ve finished a project. There are plenty of milestones you can mark along the way. I know writers who, when starting a novel, wrap up little treats that they can only open when they hit 10,000 words… or 20,000… or the midway point… That’s a pretty clever way to motivate yourself, don’t you think? Why not give it a go?

What milestones can you celebrate right now? Share them in the comments below…