How do you rate success?

Howdy all!  Ever have those days when you wished that life had a skip ahead button like your favorite MP3 player?  Yeah, I'm having one of those.  Sadly, there isn't anything specifically bad.  Just a BLAH! kind of day, if you follow me.

To be honest, I've not really been feeling the best about my writing goals and such as of late, and I think that has something to do with it.  I've been 'working' at this writing stuff for awhile--not forever, but long enough to know that I've attempted something.  And lately, I'm not really feeling any closer to what I set out to accomplish a few years ago.

As a goal oriented person I don't mind telling you that kind of freaking drives me crazy.

I have family and friends that know this is what I dream of doing, and that it's what I squirrel away hours of my life working at.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel at least a little pressure from that.  That's part of the reason I made it known in the first place.  To create pressure.  To create urgency.  After all, we've all known those people who write and no one even knows it, and they never work at it because they don't REALLY have anything at stake.  Right?  Still, it's a little deflating when they ask me when I'll have something in print that they can read.

I take that as code for: What exactly have you been doing with your time?

Anywho, I'm not writing this as a boohoo, or a "I'm giving up".  I've got perspective.  This isn't a race, it's a marathon. etc., etc., etc.  :0)  I've got tough skin.  I'll read something inspiring in the form of an old favorite book, or perhaps one of your blog posts *wink* *nudge*, and I'll be right back on the crazy train of writerly aspirations.  However, it has got me to thinking about my vision of success.  Maybe that's what is out of whack.

Maybe I'm so focused on what I THINK writing success means to me that it has taken some of the joy out of it all.

So I ask you, readers great and small, what are your terms for writerly success?  Does it ever run away from you?  If so, how do you reign it in?  How do you get your mind off of the big picture and back on the page?



  1. Did you ever hear Steve Jobs's commencement speech at Stanford University? He said to ask yourself in the mirror everyday "If I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy about how I lived today?" and live accordingly. I think if you can follow that as best as you can (practically speaking), then you've succeeded, no matter where you are.

  2. I think it is the time of year. I had hoped to be querying agents and working on a new WIP, instead I find myself wishing I had waited on querying the agents I had and rewriting my old WIP.

    On a bright note, I am learning much more about writing everyday.

    I know you can reach the goals you've set for yourself. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer, and the help of friends and family to reach them.

  3. my approach has always been one goal at a time.

    it started with "if i can just finish a book, even if it never gets published, then i can always say 'i wrote a book.'"

    then it was: if i can revise, if i can manage to write a decent query, if i can at least interest an agent, etc... and always ended with "even if nothing else ever happens, that one goal will really be something!"

    now i'm at: even if no reader ever picks it up off the shelf, at least i'll be able to say it was ON a shelf.

    and i don't really know what comes after that because, as i said, one goal at a time.

  4. The previous commenters have it right, IMO. Great perspective.

    So far as dealing with questions goes, I found it helpful to mention the awesome folks I knew online. "My friend's book comes out next month" at least lent credibility to the fact that I am approaching this as a career, not a whim.

  5. Right now my first manuscript is sitting on someone's desk at Wiley-Merrick. The first success was actually finishing the novel. The second Success was actually convincing someone that mattered to at least read the whole thing. I measuer my successes in tiny steps. And I've prepared myself for that 'NO" or you're going to have to rewrite this and that...but it all leads to eventual success.


    Keep going forward. We'll get there.

  6. As an unagented, unpublished author I agree -- it is tough.

    What if you weren't writing?

    Would that be a better or more enjoyable life?

    No matter the frustrations and the brick walls, I still have to say NO to that second question.

  7. I agree with KO. Writing makes me happy. Period. Do I want success as a writer, and that for me means to be published in print one day, of course. It's easy to be discouraged and frustrated, especially as there is so much conflicting advice on how to achieve success, as well as no clear path on how to get there. The only thing that keeps me going is the love of writing and the person I am when I do. Does that make sense?

  8. Holy crow! You all have outdone yourselves! I'm not surprised; after all, who better to turn to for perspective on big picture goals than a bunch of writers?

    Thank you so much!

  9. E.J., I have to confess, when I started out, money and position were my main goals. I got both, but I was miserable. That's why I left traditional publishing and self-pubbed my most recent books.

  10. I agree with lifeafter39 E.J. If you love it and it makes you happy then do it.

    When your mind gets tangled up in goals then you might as well be selling merchandise for the I.M. BEST WIDGET CO.

  11. I hear you about the pressure aspect. I try to diffuse those questions because really, the people who aren't writers in my life tend not to want to know what's going on. It's my writer buddies (online and in person) who let me spew all that is literary. And so with them, we discuss our successes--the ones that are about just getting a paragraph right, and the big ones we all dream of.

  12. I feel your pain. Writerly success to me means be published via the traditional route.

    HOWEVER, I have *come* to the realization that I have to write.

    So, like KO said above, I've asked myself if I'd be happier not writing and the answer is definitely NO!

    So, while the path of traditional publishing is not an easy one... it's become more bearable knowing I am a writer who has to write.

    But, I have to admit I've been in a bit of a slump the last 4 weeks or so... I'm trying to dust myself off and get back to it.

    Let's give each other a kick - or a hand up. :)

  13. I'm late because ... all sorts of stuff in chewing through my day ... but I agree with whoever said: Would you be happier not writing?

    Maybe I've set my goals way too low, but as long as my writing amuses me, I'm okay with it. While I try to write 500 words a day or 3000 words a week, I don't get upset if I don't make it. There's more to writing than putting word and word down on paper or screen. Pop. Pop. Poppitty-pop.

  14. For me, writing success is being read widely. And changing somone's life in some way: their perspective, their feelings, etc.

    For now, I'll settle for blog success. I'm working on the writer bit.

    Hang in there, E.J.

  15. I don't know if this will comfort you, or depress you, E.J., but my first novel (not the first one written but the first one published) was released in 2007, just before I turned 65. Even though I started writing right after high school, I had to squeeze everything I did around college, demanding jobs, husband, and kids. The thing is, you can never give up. It might take awhile, but it's definitely worth the ride.


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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