When I began writing - almost nine years ago now! - I hadn't made any kind of plan, or listed my goals or anything that many writing organizations or professional coaches tell their clients to do when embarking on a business. I suppose it was because I didn't consider my writing to be a business. It was - and still is - my artistic outlet in a life filled with non-artistic pursuits (well, except for my kids. I think they're pretty awesome works of art, myself. :) But once you publish - heck, even way before you publish - people are constantly reminding you that this is a business. And to be successful in it - and why would you deliberately set out to fail? - then it does make sense to have some measures by which you, as a writer, can define whether you feel you've been successful. The issue is: what exactly are those measures?
Now I'm not talking about other peoples measures of success. Other people's definition of success is theirs and shouldn't be applied to you because, like everything in this business, it is subjective. One person might say someone is successful only when they've achieved the fame and numbers of books sold of a J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins. If that's your measure then great! But, personally, my measures have always been less 'out there' and maybe not as obvious in the typical business definition of success (i.e. money). For me, my measures have been to make my writing stronger and better with each book and to put myself 'out there' in the social network arena as much as I can without making myself overly-stressed and too uncomfortable. Is that it, you say? How puny those measures seem to be! But I could have kept my writing to myself - I kept a journal for many years and could have continued to do that. But I needed to stretch myself and the only way to do that was to have my writing put out there for others to see. One of the first measures of success was letting others read my work without getting physically ill over the thought. Got over that so Yay! Successful!! Then it was querying agents and letting them judge my work. Got over that so Yay! Success number two. Actually landing an agent? Wow, I'm feeling pretty successful. Go me. Getting a book published. A dream. No way. But it happened. Another measure of success attained. The biggest yet. Yes!
So, then, after all that, I must be successful, right? And, by my measures, I am. By others? Maybe not. I'm not a household name. I haven't sold a gajillion books. Or gotten a movie deal or ______ (insert your measure of success here). But I've met mostly all the measures of success I set out to do plus a few more like gotten good reviews, a second book contract, I'm in lots of public libraries, and I just learned that I earned out my advance. As a bonus my independent publisher is supportive and believes in my work and continues to champion all their authors works so I've had a lovely publishing experience with them. These may not be huge measures of success for others but they are for me. I believe myself to be successful for the place I'm in now. But, by the same token, my measures are constantly changing as life happens and circumstances change. After all, evolution is the only way to survive in life and in business.
But what is the one constant measure of success that I know will never change for me? Writing the best book I am capable of at the time. For me, writing is a marathon, not a sprint and the only measure of success that matters is set by me and not others.
What about you? How do you define your success as a writer?