Writers, What’s Your Definition Of Success?

I don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”–General George S. Patton

I’ve been seeing quite a few posts on what defines success for writers lately. It got me thinking about my vision of success.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand each person will have a different idea of what success looks, smells, and feels like. Yours won’t mirror mine, and mine won’t mirror yours. That’s cool. We’re each allowed to have whatever vision we want to have. I can respect that.

I think each writer should take a long, hard look at what they define as success. It can help give you clarity and motivate you on those days when everything turns to shit. Because there will be days where everything turns to shit and you sit back and wonder what in the hell you’re doing with your life. Believe it or not, that’s normal.

For me, success isn’t about money or fame. I want to create the best quality fiction my brain can squeeze out. Challenging myself to be the best writer I can be, while building a meaningful relationship with readers is my definition of success. I hope to one day have the privilege of doing just that.

For some writers signing with an agent is their definition of success. For other writers, taking control through self publishing is their idea of success. Some want nothing more than to hold a book containing their work in their hand. Some want to make buckets of cash and have movies made from their words. Different strokes for different folks.

We all come from different places and have been shaped by different experiences. Those same experiences will influence our idea of success.

The one thing I’m sure of is if any of us hopes to realize our vision of success we must keep writing. Success won’t magically appear one day. We must work toward those goals by forging ahead despite any setbacks. We must persist in the face of rejection and self doubt.

I’ve been seriously writing for four, going on five, years now. It took me three years to figure out which writing techniques worked best for me. It took me roughly another year to learn how to write with confidence. I used to seek validation from anyone with whatever I was writing at the time. I just wanted someone to acknowledge that I was good. It took me four years to see the folly of my ways. Validation should come from within. I don’t need others to tell me what I’ve written is good, or has merit. I’ve gotten to the point where I understand when I’ve screwed something up, or when I nailed something. I can see clearly now.

Through these past five years of my writing life, I’ve sacrificed almost everything. I don’t really socialize, date, or have much of a life other than writing. My time belongs to my muse. Sure, I still make time for family but other than that, I’m all in when it comes to building a meaningful writing career. There’s no turning back, no turning off the creative side of my brain. I’m either going to succeed, or I’m going to die trying. For me, there’s not quitting.

I say this because I’m not getting any younger. I’m approaching forty (still got a few years to go). I don’t mind passing up the social scene. Been there. Done that. I call on many of those experiences when I write. However, I never knew how much I needed to write. It sounds so clichéd, but it’s true. I can’t imagine a life without the joy of words.

It took me almost half my life to discover something I’m passionate about, something I’m decent at, and something that had been inside of me all along. You see, I never had role models growing up. I never had parents who spent time nurturing my talents. They were more concerned with when I was moving out. Everything I’ve done has been on my own. Now that I have it, there’s no letting it go. I’ll scrape and claw my way along if I have to. Try and stop me.

I used to shy away from telling anyone I was a writer. Part of me never truly believed it. And that was part of what was holding me back. I’m a writer, dammit! I’m confident. I’m persistent. One day you’ll open a book and find a story written by me. And somewhere out there a muse will get her wings. But that’ll only be the beginning. I’ve got a long way to go and a whole lotta stories to write. Buckle up. It’s sure to be a bumpy ride.

Feel free to share some of your writing aspirations in the comments below. Let us know how you define success.

When it came time to choose a song I felt best embodied this post, I knew it had to Born to Make a Sound, by The Material. Listen to the words and you’ll understand.

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11 comments

  1. I think success can be redefined as you go along in your writing career. Once you are successful with one goal or challenge, move on to the next one if you are willing to go that far. Right now, I want to be successful at writing a good sequel. That will hopefully mean gaining more readers who may want to read whatever I put out. Having a good fan base is success to me, as well.

    1. I’d be excited to write a sequel. I hope you are too. Like you said, you’ve got another chance to blow reader’s minds. Wishing you the best as you write. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think your definition of success is great – too often people (myself included) get caught up in visions of bestselling fame and glory. It’s only recently that I realized I just want to become the best writer I can be. Even if that means I’m not the wealthiest or most well-known, if I can write books that move people, or at least entertain them, that I enjoyed writing and am proud of, well, that’ll be success to me.

    Good luck in your writing journey! I’m looking forward to the day I see your books on the shelf!

    1. With your ideas and talent, I’m sure we’ll be able to grab your book from a store shelf soon. I mean it’s not everyday we get to experience dragon cuisine, right? I’d try it. Nom-nom-nom. Keep at it!

  3. My definition of success is to keep writing, keep improving, and find that ultimate *sweet spot* that is my voice. I think that’s what will draw readers in over the long run- no matter how fantastical a story, I want to write something readers will connect with and not think of the author, but something in the story that speaks to them, moves them, and want to spend more time in the world I’ve created when the story is over. Those are the books, after all, that I remember, want to read again, and go on to find other works by that author.

    Right now, the success I’m aiming for are completing small goals- finish rewrites, work on short stories and poetry, and blog. I’m working towards my “10k hours.” The more I write and work, the more urgent it becomes. I have so many stories I want to tell. It’s an awesome feeling when I can look at work from even a year ago and see how far I’ve come. Still further to go, but I’ve got this. 🙂

    I have this vision of at least seven books lined up on my shelf with my name on the cover. This keeps me going and releases me from over-perfecting my current story while still making it a damned good story.

    Great post.

  4. Good post and it’s something I’ve been contemplating for years. When I first started writing fiction I saw success as becoming famous through my writing. I went through many gyrations pursuing that false goal of success. Last year when I finished the manuscript for my most recent novel, I read the last word and I began crying. Crying tears of sheer happiness because when I finished reading the book, I knew I’d achieved success for me as an author. I wrote the best novel I knew how to write, and it moved me to tears when I finished even though I already knew how it was going to end. I cherish that moment and try to remember it whenever I find myself chasing some false sense of success outside of myself. Thanks for reminding me again.

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