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Failure Is Not an Option!

Giving back through my writing...

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 3 months ago 7 min read
Failure Is Not an Option!
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Some people look forward to the new year with hope and optimism; I am not one of them. That wasn’t always the case. When I was younger, I bought into the “New year, new you” mentality. I used to make New Year’s resolutions like everyone else. I genuinely believed they would come true and that my life would get better by the end of the year, but our circumstances don’t undergo some big dramatic change just because the calendar changes. Life has a funny way of derailing hopes and dreams, as I learned the hard way.

You see, I didn’t want to be a writer. While I feel so guilty saying that when there are so many people who dream of doing what I am now, it’s the truth. I wanted to be a lawyer and someday start a family, but an inoperable brain AVM yanked those dreams out from under me. This is not a technical paper, so I won’t be going into great detail about brain AVM. In simple terms, it is a rare disease that affects less than 1% of the world’s population. Of that less than 1%, most don’t suffer life-altering symptoms; I wasn’t so lucky. My AVM has caused seizures, chronic migraines, and peripheral vision loss, which left me unable to attend college or work a regular job.

Each new year was nothing but a bitter reminder of dashed hopes and disappointments. I’d lost my ambitions and my family with no chance of rebuilding either. What was the point of striving to be better when my life kept getting worse?

After many years resigned to hardship and mediocrity, something unexpected happened. I met a man who believed in me when no one else did, when I couldn’t even believe in myself. Suddenly, hope, faith, acceptance… all things I thought I’d lost forever returned to my life, and I didn’t want those feelings to become a one-time thing. Suddenly, failure was no longer an option!

That day, I made a promise to honor my newfound mentor’s faith in me by becoming worthy of it and do whatever I had to do to give back to him. The problem was giving back to him required money, more than my fixed income could provide. Since a 9-to-5 job wasn’t possible, I did the next best thing: work from home to earn money with my talents. That promise led me to Vocal two and a half years ago, and I’ve been writing ever since.

While some people may make lists, I have only one goal for 2024: keep the promise I made to my mentor and see him again at the end of this year. Everything I do along the way is just a means to that end. So with that in mind, here are my plans for Vocal in 2024:


1. Earn at least $300 through reads and/or challenges. Ideally, I’d like that figure to be higher, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past 2.5 years on Vocal, it’s how hard it is to make money. 2023 was my most lucrative year on Vocal so far. Even then, I only earned $285.77, and less than $1 of that came from reads. My main goal for 2024 is to boost my reads and surpass last year’s earnings by as wide a margin as possible.

While I realize that goal seems callous and mercenary, I can’t look at writing solely as a source of enjoyment and/or expression. Not when every penny in my bank account could make or break my chances of a reunion with my mentor at the end of the year! As a person with a rare disability, my money-earning opportunities are limited. I have to take them when and where they come.

2. Write at least one entry for each Vocal challenge this year. In the past, I've sat out challenges when I didn't feel inspired by the prompt or had too much going on to properly devote time to writing. As a matter of fact, I debated sitting this challenge because aspirations require a level of optimism that I just don’t have in me, but I’m not a quitter. More importantly, if I'm going to bring in more money with my Vocal pieces, I can't pick and choose which challenges to enter. More challenges means more chances at prize money, so I have to try all of them, whether I like the prompt or not.

Ideally I'd write more than one piece for each challenge, but my ability to do so depends on several factors, including my level of inspiration, other obligations, and the type of challenge. Something like a poem or list generally takes less time to write than short fiction, which requires plot and world building, or nonfiction, which requires drawing on my own (sometimes unpleasant) life experiences. My tentative goal is at least three entries for all poetry challenges and at least one for all other types.

3. Write at least one just for fun piece per month outside of challenges. The downside to writing for the money is that you have to prioritize the challenge rules over your heart’s desire. Passion projects fall by the wayside in favor of boring, yet potentially lucrative ones. Going from challenge to challenge, the stories I turn out run together to the point that writing feels like a chore. While I still have to focus on challenges, I hope to publish more passion projects, at least one per month, in hopes that will take some of the pressure off writing for challenges that don’t resonate with me and maybe boost my read count as well.

4. Place 1st or 2nd in at least one challenge and runner up in at least two. While this goal depends on factors outside my control, winning challenges would be the fastest way to meet my earnings goal. Last year I placed 2nd in the “Pitch our Pilot” challenge and runner up in the “Nourished” challenge. That was a good start; now I need to build on that momentum.

5. Get at least one Top Story. I’ve been a member of Vocal since 2021. In that time, I’ve placed in a couple of challenges but never had a Top Story. Again, this goal is not exclusively within my control, but hitting that milestone would be a nice accomplishment.

6. Don't procrastinate! This is a big one! I have a bad habit of overthinking challenge prompts, spending too much time brainstorming, and leaving too little time for the actual writing process. Sometimes I take so long to choose and plan a story idea that I have only one or two days of writing before the challenge deadline. That leaves me working down to the wire, and my stories suffer for it. I often have to break my stories into parts to meet challenge deadlines, leaving them without a clear resolution, which I believe hurts my chances of winning. My goal is to allow at least a week to write each challenge entry and devote at least one day to editing/revision.

7. Drive traffic to my profile. My motto has always been, “if you fly under the radar, at least you don't get shot down.” Frankly, I don't like putting myself out there because it opens me up to harsh words and judgment and the negative emotions that come with those things. Unfortunately putting myself out there is the only way to boost my stats, which have been crap so far! I average 5-10 reads in a good month, and that's not enough. More reads means more money, and more visibility is the key to more reads. That means promoting my work.

8. Don’t put all my eggs in one basket. If I’m going to make money with my writing, I can’t depend solely on Vocal. I need to look for writing opportunities elsewhere. My plans are to enter at least one writing contest outside of Vocal per month and to look into publishing some works independently. For some people, that would mean writing a novel, but I don’t think now is the right time for that. I’ve tried writing novels before, only to wind up with an unfinished, disjointed mess when my passion dies halfway through the project. Instead I plan to start by writing enough short stories to compile an anthology. If I achieve that goal, a novel is the next step.

9. Reignite my passion for writing. I hesitated to put this goal on my list for two reasons. One, this is the only goal for which I don’t have some strategy in place. Two, of the nine goals on my list, this one feels the most unattainable. I have no idea how to make the writing process lucrative and enjoyable, but even when I can’t bring myself to care about the stories themselves, I care why I write them. That’s something, right?


Although Vocal’s plan is to revisit this challenge at the end of the year, that follow-up won’t be the measure of my success. Success isn’t even about how much money I earn with my writing; it’s what I do with the money. To me the real measure of my successes this year will be in arriving at LaGuardia Airport, in looking out a hotel window at the Manhattan skyline, in seeing the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and in hearing my mentor’s voice once more.


About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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