Every person wants different things; every person’s definition of success is different. There are individual successes, like when you ace a test in school, and there are overall successes, like when you get your high school diploma. As writers, we share many of the same individual successes-finishing a book, finishing an edit, submitting your book, getting published. These successes are shared by writers of all genres. Overall success, however, changes from writer to writer.
Individual successes in the fiction writing business are universal: the first finished book, the first successful rewrite, the first agent, the first contract, the first book sale. The first royalty check. Success in writing cannot be determined by the amount of money you make, or you’re sure to get discouraged-it takes time for even the best writers, even the promotional geniuses, to make any real money in this game. And so we measure and think of success in different ways-each new challenge we overcome as a writer is a success.
But what does overall success look like? Well that’s different for everyone. For me it looks like a small house in my ancestral land-the highlands of Scotland. It doesn’t involve any kind of corporate job; it involves gardening, cleaning, hiking, and writing. It involves at least one cat and preferably a husband of some kind-not a ceremonial wedding but a man who will stick with me through the thick and thin of my writing career-possibly a househusband if I ever make enough money for that kind of thing.
Most of all, when I’m older and looking back on my life, I’ll know I’ve reached success if I have a long line of published books which people really enjoyed. I’ll know I’ve reached success when my non-writing time is filled with talking to readers and other writers about books. I’ll know I’ve reached success when I go to a writing conference and some kid I’ve never seen or heard of before tells me that they read one of my books and were inspired not only to read more-but also to write. It is easy to blog and to give prompts to those who already write; it is harder to reach out to a young mind and make them think hey, maybe they could write a book too.
In the end I want to give back to young people. Writing has saved my life and I want to give that gift to other young people going through hard times.
What does your vision of overall success look like?