The Definition Of Success

I’m going to be bold and I’m going to call myself a successful writer.

No, I haven’t made a million in three months and I’m not dripping in money. But I’m consistently making more than goes out, I’m consistently increasing my readership and I’ve got the means to invest in future projects (audio, ahoy!) without having to dip into my own funds. Within a few years, I expect to be able to pay all of our household bills from writing.

In the light of people whose names we see emblazoned across news sites, the word success has become poisonous. A lot of people, especially those who just start out, equate success with those crazy stories of the writer who hit on some kind of nerve and sold millions.

And the thing is: they’re often just crazy stories. Those stories often have a couple of things in common:

  • The author has no idea how it happened
  • The author has no means of repeating the success, or structures in place to capture those readers
  • The author probably won’t be around for very long

Hey, if someone offered me millions for a flash success of a single book, I’d take it, but the trouble is: you can’t plan for it, this is not a healthy career, and it’s not a long-term plan for a sustainable income.

Moreover, while these stories attract a lot of news flies, I believe they are damaging to the new writer, because it conditions them to believe that hey, they can do this, too! Even if the writers themselves often say: I’m a fluke, don’t listen to me.

Those stories are also damaging because they raise utterly unrealistic expectations, and skew beginning writers’ perception of what success even looks like.

New writers who publish become disheartened when, hey, this kind of success doesn’t happen to them, while the reality is that the more you believe this will happen, the less likely it will.

You can’t plan a career around that definition of success.

You have to define your own success with much more realistic goalposts. Success need not be about income. It could be about regular publication, or about other metrics.

Define what you mean by success for you. Don’t let other people define your success for you.

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