Continuing with the conversation over the last few weeks on defining success as an author, here is more insight from my writing friends. Be sure to read the first set of quotes here.
Personal success – that changes as time goes by. But I’ll try to describe what it means to me. At first, I just wanted to get an agent. I felt that I wouldn’t be successful unless I achieved that. But when I got an agent, my success meter moved. I just wanted to be published. Then when I got published, I just wanted to be published AGAIN. I have to remind myself not to forget where I’ve come from. Now, I like to imagine I feel success when I’ve protected my writing time and had fun getting some words down in a day. To me, that’s the measure of success.
Success for me means feeling that I have put forth my best effort to tell a meaningful story. That effort may, and probably does, involve many rewrites before it’s printed on pages for the public to read. And the stories that don’t make it to press are still successful, in my eyes, if I’ve put forth my best effort.
For me, writing is what I want to do as my job, and I need to make a living. So success means making enough money from writing or writing-related activities (teaching, critiquing) to support myself. That often means seeing myself as an employee who has to do what the boss wants, even though I’m a freelancer. But I encourage other people to remember that making money, or even being published, does not have to be their goal. If you want to write for the joy of writing, that’s fantastic. Just remember what your goal is, and don’t get distracted by other people’s definitions of success.
I’ve learned the hard way that success must be defined before publication. Success for me is defined as I finish a book and revise. Plot, pacing, story arc all must be polished to a high sheen. Those things are in my control.
Publication has changed my idea of success. At first, success meant signing with an agent. I experienced success when we sold manuscripts. Then – WOW! – my books started to be published. Success! But am I still successful if I don’t get starred reviews, awards, and best-seller status? What if I never sell another manuscript? What if success is actually just a moving target, largely out of my control? What a letdown. Luckily, I landed on a more satisfying definition of success after sharing my donated books with sick kids at Children’s Hospital. Now, for me, success is more about giving, not getting. I feel successful because I created something worth giving.
Success is meeting the little goals you set for yourself and feeling good about it whether or not anyone else ever notices what you have done.