What Defines Writing Success? (& A Chance to Get Published)

The QEveryone defines success a little differently. Some define it as owning a giant house. Others define it as reaching a goal. In the writing community there are countless ways to measure success—completing a first draft, landing an agent, winning a writing competition, receiving that first royalty check, writing a hilarious tweet that gets retweeted several times, etc. So what does it mean to be a successful writer?

Personally I think writers struggle to define success because there’s always another hill to climb. It’s a “perk” of being a writer. Published your first book? You feel successful until no one bites on your second book. Had a column in a magazine? You’re riding the high life until you’re asked to write your farewell piece. But it’s this lack of a clear definition of success that keeps us motivated and thirsty and driven to accomplish more.

The first time I ever experienced a taste of success was not after I started writing my Questions & Quandaries column in Writer’s Digest, but when I received my first piece of fan mail. The note was kind and generous with compliments, but it was also the first time I ever felt appreciated for something I wrote (other than that time in sixth grade where I wrote that Mother’s Day poem my Mom loved). That was a great feeling and one that gave me a sense of success.

So here’s my Q to you: Will you ever consider yourself successful as a writer? If so, when? If you had to pick a moment thus far in your writing career that you felt was your most successful moment, what would it be?

Post your answer below. In fact, if I get more than 50 responses I’ll pick my favorite one and give that writer an opportunity to write a guest post for this blog about finding writing success. Help me get over that 50 mark by tweeting this or posting it to Facebook:

What Defines Writing Success? (& A Chance to Get Published With @WritersDigest) – http://bit.ly/QAAw8L

UPDATE: We’ve passed the 50 mark (and then some!) so I’m setting a date of October 22 for anyone who wants to to enter. After that deadline has passed, I’ll pick a winner and announce it here on the blog.


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100 thoughts on “What Defines Writing Success? (& A Chance to Get Published)

    1. Brian A. Klems Post author

      Great question! I did pick a winner and have yet to contact that person or announce it (So sorry, it keeps getting shuffled on my list of to-dos). I will make the announcement in the coming week.

      Online Editor

  1. mepowell

    If I had to choose a moment when I felt most successful as a writer, it would be the time I opened a letter I received in 2004. I had been writing short stories and poetry for a few years. I took writing classes and workshops, and later joined writing groups where I could take the resulting stories and poems for critiques. But I never felt “successful” enough to send my work to a literary magazine or publisher. For example, at one class I took, I was pleased that my short story had received a compliment from the writing instructor — until another participant in the class said she thought it was “just a character study.” So I placed it in a plastic file box in my basement, along with a growing pile of my writing. Then I saw a call for submissions from award-winning Canadian writer Byrna Barclay, who was editing a literary magazine called Transition. She offered to critique every submission for this magazine. (Later I found out Byrna had received 250 submission, and had critiqued every one of them!) I thought, “Finally! Now’s my chance to find out how to make that character study into a real story.” So I sent it off, hoping to get some feedback. A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail, and opened it up to read Byrna’s critique. The opening line of the letter ran, “I love your short story, and I want to publish it in Transition.” That was a beginning for me, and since then I’ve won manuscript contests, had other stories and poems published, and finished my MFA in Creative Writing. I’ve discovered it’s more important to believe in yourself and your writing, than to worry too much about whether you will be “successful.” Just write, and the rest will follow. That’s my motto now.

  2. JRPDavis

    I am already a success.

    No, I’m not swimming in that indoor pool or vacationing on the islands (whichever islands), but success is not measured in monetary amounts or by how many times a week I get my legs waxed. Success is an emotional destination.

    When I first decided to be a writer (at hormonal age eleven), I decided when I was published I would be successful. It wasn’t until I started posting Harry Potter fan fiction years later that I realized my views were off. In January 2010, I received a review from a fifteen-year-old girl whose best friend had just passed away from cancer, two weeks before her sweet sixteenth birthday party. In the review, she expressed gratitude for me writing the story and explained that Amy (her friend) had read it with her every week. They had favorite characters, plot lines, and quotes. She told me that was what had gotten Amy through her treatments and the loneliness late at night when the reviewer could not be there. The girl then asked if I could name one of the extra characters after Amy, just to preserve her memory.

    It was that moment I knew I was successful. It wasn’t about being the next big American writer. It wasn’t about writing lyrically or coming up with that huge twist. To me, success was measured in lives changed. I named a main character Amy, had her favorite character throw a sixteenth birthday party in the story, and have grown to have a strong relationship to that reviewer.

    I will always be successful, even if I never publish that novel.

  3. KakiTwit

    Success from Within ~
    At what point did I make my personal cross over from wanna-be to successful writer? Well, I must be truthful. My initial thought, before settling on retrospect, was to dive into this piece for the sole purpose of dazzling you and my literary compatriots. It seems my seventh child need to please and gain praise has ebbed only slightly since my youth. At least I’m headed in the right direction. My rise from self-focus is partly due to parenting. Years of, ‘Look who went on the potty!’ Or, ‘My, that was a lovely K turn,’ have redirected my need for self-tooting hoorah’s. My triumphs are now deeply seated in the feats and personal happiness of my offspring. Still, I cannot lie. Within my psyche remains a bit of that need for external validation and acceptance, yet, my true successes will always be housed from within.

    I can compare my literary pursuits to my journey as a gardener. For years, before I committed to my garden, I admired and studied the horticultural triumphs of others. I marveled at climbing roses that seemed too effortlessly blanket a convivial arbor. I was awed by how a mere mortal could partner with nature and accomplished this thing of beauty. When I entered a garden where plump scarlet tomatoes dangled next to vines of endless beans I was all at once impressed, engaged and more certain that I too wanted to propagate edibles. By watching, reading and asking I learned to cultivate the soil in my own garden. I gained knowledge and experience by trial and error. What to put in and what to leave out. When a weed boasted a lovely assortment of flowers or an aggressive plant was overstepping its grounds, though I admired their effort, I took action. I weeded and cut back to ensure the beds leafy cohabiters could breathe and grow properly. In my years of gardening I’ve learned that even my best attempts might not produce a great harvest nor will my yield pair with everyone’s pallet, and that’s ok. You say tomato and I say brussel sprout.

    My first heartening moment in the literary world came after I received feedback from a classroom of children. They had just been read a book co-authored and illustrated by son Ryan and I. They were intrigued, they had questions and they wanted more. I was elated. Still, as the story they read, the first book in our intended series, was written by my son and the success due to a collaborative effort between creative text, artwork and a scholastic Q&A, I did not feel fully validated. If it were my words alone trying to reach an adult audience, could I hold my own? My self-doubt has forever curtailed my creativity. Wearing one’s heart on a sleeve can be daunting particularly if it is not personal validation you seek.

    This past spring, however, I made a decision. I was going to dive into this wonderful world of literature, write and dream, and pay less attention to popular demand. I was going to cover my ears to the voice of self-doubt. My father, who passed away in April, was one of my biggest supporters. Always ready with a, ’Way to go babe,’ I sought out his praise regardless of my years on this earth. For whatever reason, the loss of my adored dad, the forced reality of being unable to gain his approval and accolades, fueled me. I was no longer going to hold back for fear of failure. If I wanted to write, I would write. Life is too short and unpredictable. Self-doubt should not be allowed to stifle what is good and in your heart.

    The stories I had scribbled down for years, dialogue that bounced around in my brain as I tried for sleep, were finally given a platform. The chapters of my memoir trickled from my heart and swiftly filled the pages before me. The process of personal critique began yet I reveled in the rewrite. Editing and pruning my work, I found, was a joy like none other. I fell in love with the art of writing and that is when it happened for me. That is when I found success.

  4. traciegila

    I’m torn! Part of me says that everyday when I edit and publish one of my 100 word stories on my blog I feel successful. It feels good to rip apart the draft and toss it about in my mouth like a dog with a chew toy. But then like a sensible adult, I glue it back together and lay it out for everyone to read.
    But the other part of me says, keep ripping up 100 word stories gangster style but you will not rest until that novel is published. Only because that means that I would be on the other side of the fence, talking to all the other dogs with published books. We can compare chew toy stories. In other words, I will be successful when I eventually work this whole writing system out- the writing system that I refuse to let take over the time I spend writing, hence the reason I’m still hanging on the lonely side of the fence. Arrroooo! Throw me a bone here masters of the writing world!

  5. writingitout

    I’m a perfectionist in every aspect of my life, so I have a tendency to set my bar very high. However, I believe that I will consider myself successful in my writing career one day. It will be when I am writing for a living. When I don’t have to get up at 5.15 every morning to head off to my day job. When I can wake up and go to my computer, or pick up a pen and paper and start my job. They say your job defines a large part of who you are. I refuse to believe that at the moment. I define myself as a writer already, but I can’t wait until that day when my peers and everyone define me as a writer. When they see that I’m more than just that girl who puts on her uniform and badge every day. When they see that I’ve been a writer all along, but I just had to do something else for a bit to pay the bills.
    In my eyes, I have experienced a little success already. For one, I worked through my writer’s block, and took off on my manuscript after having hit the wall for a time. But, something that I felt was major to me has been more recent. I started up a blog. I was finally ready to start sharing some of my writing with others. I will never forget the night when I looked on my stats page and read that people were actually reading what I had to say. Even more, I was receiving many compliments. I couldn’t believe that people liked what I had to say. The biggest success of all, though, was when I read I was being google searched. People were actually looking me up. That was an overwhelming experience. I remember texting my best friend and sharing that experience with her. That is something that I will never, ever forget. I was quite excited, overwhelmed, and humbled. No matter how successful I am in my writing – even if I write an international best seller one day – I will never forget that night. The night I realised someone, somewhere, wanted to know who I am, and what I had to say.

  6. brittany.ketter

    Success is something that we define on many scales. When it comes to writing, when would I consider myself to be a successful writer?

    What I have learned recently what success is. Success does not mean that I have “arrived”, there is always a higher standard I can reach. But success is knowing my purpose, growing to my maximum potential and sowing seeds that will benefit others. I could write a book, and have it published by one of the most well-known publishers, but if that book was not written with my purpose in mind, if it was not written at my maximum potential, if that book is not helping people, then how can I call that success.

    Success is not measured by the car I drive, by the money I have in the bank, or by how many people know my name or followers that I have. Success is living REAL. My writing success is every word coming out of loving God and loving people and that produces fruit.

    If I had a pick what I would call my most successful moment in my writing career, I would have to say when I realized that it is not about me and began writing with a purpose beyond myself out of love for people. And beyond that, when I began to see how my words impacted and influenced people.

  7. kwcraft

    Success: that narrow plateau that you’ve reached through training, constant application of effort and skill, a few timely boosts, and one final, mad, precarious scramble over a crumbling edge. That place just large enough to plant your feet that allows you to look back over your climb, enriched by the added perspective this height allows. Where you can rest, and allow tears of wonder.

    Just look at that view.

    No one needs to tell you where you are and no one needs to affirm it—you’ve made it.

    And it is not enough.

    You turn again to the mountain and seek the next handhold. Your foot slips—you dangle without a safety line heart in your throat dear god what were you thinking? Once again, a beginner. Voices whisper: You don’t need to do this. Let go. Rest.

    But your vision is so real. Just out of view is another ledge, you know it in your bones, and if you can reach it the view will be beyond anything you’ve previously experienced.

    Your fingertips shake. Slip on their own sweat. Rock rips skin. You are about to lose it all. Yet this climb makes you feel so. Damn. Alive.

    Experience kicks in—once before, your feet found their way. The smallest motion eases panic as your toe explores the rock face and finds a hold. Haha! Oh, there’s no stopping you now. Adrenaline has rejuvenated your hands and refreshed your spirit and you remember.

    Success isn’t a destination. It’s a step up.

  8. sanockij

    The definition of success changes. I’m a successful writer if I find time to write every day. Sometimes, I have to define success as a writer as simply getting up in the morning. I make little goals, to write x number of words or to query 5 agents or to edit 10 pages. I might meet them or I might not, but in the end I’m a writed because I write.

    It’s nice to get published and get paid, but this story may never go anywhere. I’m still a writer. That’s just part of who I am.

  9. Ninette Swann

    I thought I would consider myself successful as a writer when I got published. But I didn’t. Perhaps it’s because I’ve not written the book I want to write yet. You know the one. That original one in the back of your mind. The one not packed with easy cliches. The one where you agonize over every word, to get not only the story correct, but the theme, the style, the form. The one where each word says as much as each sentence says as much as each chapter but all in different ways.

    I think I will be successful as a writer when I am Marcel Proust.

    So, I guess I’ll not see you in the big leagues since, as far as I know, I’ll never be able to describe turning over in bed for 60 pages. But I do have this one work that I’ve brushed aside for five years now…a work left cold for more publishable endeavors. Maybe that will surprise you. Maybe it will surprise me. If I ever write it, maybe that will be success. I’ll let you know.

  10. Franky O'Connell

    My first measurement of success was actually feedback from my son. I am writing a middle grade fantasy book and have encouraged my kids to read with me as I write each chapter so they can influence the story. As we read the first chapter together, I successfully had my son laughing as he was forming a bond with the characters. After reading through the first few chapters, my son looked at me and said “Dad, that was awesome! It was like reading a REAL book from a REAL author.” It made my day! I know that I have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but that was my first writing success.

    It is now a month later. I have written over 67,000 words and I anticipate finishing in the next few weeks. Finishing the first draft will be a major milestone. Finishing my first edit will be the next. I hope that I am blessed enough to actually have the book published as that is truly a quantifiable measurement of success.

  11. milk_and_glass

    As writers, we’re storytellers. People might define success differently – by monetary success; by being able to reach the people they want to reach with their words; by publishing a bunch of books, or by seeing their work for the first time in print. I define success by the emotions I invoke in people from my writing.

    A good storyteller tells stories just to tell them. She doesn’t really care about fame and fortune. She is driven to tell the secrets and the quiet glimmers of wisdom in the world and she does it because if she doesn’t, she can’t live with herself. I measure my success in who I reach, of course, but more in how the story makes me feel. You can feel if a story or a poem is going to be something to make people want to read twice. Knowing that I’ve used my words in a way that’s satisfying not just for me, but for others that read, is the measure of success I use. If you reach one person – that’s success.

    It’s what, after all, we’ve all been given this talent for. Most of us would not be able to live with ourselves unless we can tell stories to the liking of not only our hearts, but others’ as well.

  12. NoodleSoup

    Well, to answer your questions:

    Sometimes I do consider myself successful as a writer, but rarely do I consider myself as successful as I’d like to be. As you say, there’s always another hill to climb.

    I feel most successful when I get a response to my writing, be it a comment, contract, or payment.

    However, I think my most successful moment was the one where I got a handle on my perspective and what it means to my feelings of success. At that time, I had never felt very successful, despite having reached a number of writing and publishing benchmarks. I was at a writing conference, chatting with someone who, like myself, had created puzzles for kids’ magazines. “Oh, I do a lot of puzzles,” she said, emphasizing “a lot.” “I’ve probably sold ten or more.”

    At that time, I’d sold over a hundred puzzles to magazines and had a contract for my first puzzle book, but I poo-pooed those achievements. I didn’t give them their due and missed out on the joy this writer had. In that moment I realized that I had, indeed, had some success, and I had wasted many opportunities to enjoy it. Feeling that then and remembering it now makes the whole writing experience more joyful.

    Success is singular: We must each define it for ourselves. Lucky for us all, however, there is no single test for success. Rather, we have many opportunities, day after day, to achieve some measure of it.

  13. Mag

    I can’t imagine anyone writing who disliked it. It is difficult enough to write when you love it. For me, if I ever stop striving to learn something new, or improve my writing, I may as well stop. Success for me is for the reader to want to read me.

  14. janasheryl

    I was a successful writer the year I had the one two punch of completing both a novel and a screenplay. Even though neither has sold and I’ve moved on to completing other works, that doesn’t define my success. When an individual does the work and has that book or screenplay in their hands to savor and share with family and friends, you’re a success. It takes hard work and sacrifice to follow your dreams. Accomplishment and completion define success. It’s what you do and how you present yourself to the world as an artist.

  15. tjakes0307

    The biggest success of being a writer is actually being able to tell yourself that YES I am a writer. My moment of success came when I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. I was extremely unprepared, but I needed the experience push myself to commit to to writing. Greatest moment was my confirmation of how prepared I was and also the potential I had. I was rejected all day at the Pitch Slam until literally the last agent table I had time stand in front of. She asked to see my first 100 pages. Excitement overtook me because someone was at least interested in what I had to say and then fear set in as I didn’t even have 100 pages to show. The experience proved though to be worth my money and the drive from Maryland to New York in the winter time. I have committed like I never thought I would and I now know that the writer’s life is for me. Whether I end up being a best seller or a local success. Just being a writer that I grew up imagining I would be, is as high on the success meter that I need to validate my life. Write On Everybody!

  16. Rachel Rogers

    A truly successful writer accomplishes more than amassing a huge repertoire of published works or a monetary fortune. True success in writing is marked by having a message to share and conveying it with such passion that its readers – however few or many – remember it always, even when the author is long forgotten. If any of my written works ever accomplish this noble task – this success – I will feel something more than successful. I will feel enormously blessed, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity afforded me to make a difference in this world with nothing more than a pen and paper.

  17. Su@dreamweavernovels

    I think success is different for each writer. For me, I guess I can dream of being the next best-selling author and sell millions of copies of my book. That’s not necessarily realistic, however. I would feel successful if people were willing to pay for my work, willing to tell others about my book. So many books have entertained me, made me smile, cry, laugh…think. If my words could do that for another lover of books, then I think I would be successful.

  18. cloudscudding

    I tell myself that a successful career as a writer is much like a successful career in any profession. Your career as a writer is succeeding when you’re mastering new skills and responsibilities at a reasonable pace, and you’re getting raises to match. (Vacation days, not so much!) Luckily, we writers get a wide variety of rewards from our craft, so that “raise” might be the rush of satisfaction when you finish a story, the warmth of knowing that readers loved it, the giddy glee when an editor calls you for the first time, or–yes–the comfort of watching your bank account balance grow and knowing that you can afford to spend more time writing and less time in a career that doesn’t offer matching compensations.

    One of my most successful moments so far was the first time I made a professional-level short story sale. I felt like I could finally introduce myself as a writer without adding a whole bunch of qualifications! So yes, I consider myself successful–though now that I think about it, I’m a bit overdue for a raise. . . .

  19. Natasza Waters

    My success came after a very long twelve hour night shift. Closing the gate to the parkade, I tore a hole in my sweater catching it on a stray hook from my seat cover, slammed my finger in the gate and then growled as the rain gushed out of the sky during my 70km drive home. Ready to smother my pillow over my head and fall into blissful sleep, I thought I’d check my email just in case the publisher I’d sent my manuscript to would respond. Glory-be and holy hallelujah, I saw a mail. I squeezed my eyes tightly closed and opened it. “We’d like to buy your book” it said. My heart shot to my throat and I did a triple axle off my keyboard, almost landed on my arse then staggered to the phone and called everyone I knew at 0645hrs. It was a milestone to say the least. Not even the best pasta dish in the world could top the dopamine rush that morning. Hopefully there”ll be more to come over the years, but as a writer those moments never end as we strive to mine the “golden nuggets” from the mountain of creativity in our minds.
    N. Waters
    “Too Grand For Words”

  20. lagunarover

    I’m writing this on the day of the first presidential debate, so before that happens, and in the spirit of both combatants who offer five-point plans for fixing the economy, let me offer five definitions of writing success:

    1. If you truly feel that this is what you love to do, and you actually do it each and every day, whether or not you’ve been published, you are a success. How many people do what they love each day?

    2. If you’ve not only started, but completed a piece of writing: a poem, a short story, a screen play or a novel, congratulations! You are a more successful writer than many out there who start but don’t finish.

    3. If you’ve completed a piece of writing, and you actually love it enough to tweak it, edit it, cut chunks out and refine it so that it’s now a bright shiny object you feel ready to submit to an agent – wow. You’ve written a potentially salable novel. That’s success!

    4. So, you’ve snagged an agent with your shining jewel of a manuscript and that agent loves it with such a passion they’ve sold it in a bidding war to a hungry publisher who can’t wait to sent you lots of money. Can you shout SUCCESS! Yep, I think you’ve earned the right.

    5. The true definition of writing success though is repeating numbers 1-4, again and again and again. Not only are you successful but you’re pretty damn happy too.

  21. Susan G. Clark

    Success is not so much about reaching a specific target as it is about enjoying getting there. So, if I’m loving the journey, then every word, every edit, every effort proves me successful. That said, having had the opportunity to work recently with a delightful magazine editor who liked my story, wanted my photographs and made the entire experience a joy, was even better!

  22. Michael J Sullivan

    I couldn’t agree more with the “another hill to climb” metaphor. I’ve often compared it to hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just as you get to the top of a peak, you look out and see dozen’s more laying before you…each one just as intimidating as the last.

    Fact is, there is nothing easy about this business. I’ve been successful both in self-publishing and traditional and I still feel like there is still so much more ahead of me. Personally I like having another goal to strive for and I think it was Neil Gaiman who mentioned writers are forever in fear of a knock on the door informing us that it’s all over now and we’ll have to get “real jobs.”

    I think to date my most satisfying signal of success was when my wife was able to quit her day job, and we could live completely off my novel writing income. For more than a decade we lived on one salary (hers) while I banged away at the keyboard. Even if I never reached the top of another of those peaks, I’m grateful for being able to give back to her what she gave to me…freedom. Freedom to wake up each morning knowing that no boss is waiting on this, that, or the other thing. Freedom to take a walk with the dog in the late afternoon. I can think of no greater gift and know first hand just how liberating it can be.

    Michael J. Sullivan
    Author of The Riyria Revelations and coming in August The Crown Tower

  23. BamaCat1996

    Success for a writer, in my opinion, is writing what you want to say, not what someone else edits and thinks will sell. Say what you want to say, and write for yourself, not for someone else or the market.

    I had an offer from a publisher who wanted me to edit the heart and soul out of my book, the whole reason I wrote it! So I self-published “Tidal Wave 23,” I hired someone to do the cover art, and the book I wanted to write is for sale on all the major book sites. I’ve sold a few copies, I’m not making a living as a writer yet but I’m immensely proud of my novel. I’d rather sell 100 copies of the book I wanted to write than 100,000 of someone else’ edited version!

  24. vrundell

    What defines writing success? For me, it’s getting the reader to understand the words on the pages as being, quite simply, more than words. It’s that transformative moment when the reader connects to the subject, or main character, on a visceral level. I don’t care if it’s my novel-in-progress or the heartfelt memoir-letter my grandma calls me to ‘ghost write’ for an ailing friend, when my writing has emotional resonance I feel successful.

  25. Chocoleese

    My six-year-old son loves to read stories. In fact, he has so many books that there are some that he hasn’t even read yet, not because he doesn’t want to read them, but because there are a select few he enjoys reading over and over and over and …..

    Last year, I entered a local creative writing competition and received a gold medal for a children’s short story that I wrote. Over the past few months, I’ve been working at getting it published. So far, I’ve had one lovely rejection and I’m awaiting responses from two other publishers – well, it’s been almost seven months now since I’ve heard from one of them so I guess I’m really just waiting on a response from the other.

    I would consider myself a successful writer if I can see that book (or any other that I write) published in hard cover AND it is one of those books that my son enjoys reading over and over and ….

    So far in my writing career, my most successful moment has been getting that gold medal mentioned earlier, as well as, in that same competition, being awarded “Best Junior Short Story Writer” and overall “Choice Writer” (which is really 4th place overall) for the entry. Granted, it was a “small” competition but the recognition was great! This was my second time entering any writing competition! I received a merit certificate the first time.

    I know I have good stories to tell. Thanks WD for the writing opportunities and resources – prompts, comments, etc. With these, and with more practice, I hope to improve my craft and tell better stories. Oh yeah, I want to make some money too!!

  26. chackoka

    Indeed. What’s success? When I was in my primary school, I found the simple answer perplexing. I get fifty percent marks, bingo, I pass. Success. If my marks are forty-nine percent, alas, I fail. So: success and failure are that close? Just a one-percent difference? Simple, yet I would not accept that type of simplicity. Could one percent make such a vast difference?

    A kindly teacher tried to make it easier for me. “No one fails because one gets forty nine-percent. One fails because one deserves to fail. He (Please … no red flag. Those were pre-liberation years.) gets forty-nine percent because he deserves …. You understand?” Yes … I did. Something like listening to Arthur Schopenhauer trying to explain the meaning of life.

    Now, when will I consider myself a successful writer? Simple question; easy answer. I’m still in kindergarten. Surely, when a respectable agent accepts my maiden venture to read; it’s just ready for submission. Oh … is that really the success …? Maybe, when it gets printed the first time? More like it. Still I am hoping; the yardstick would change. Perhaps move up. Like, when I get my call from the Royal Swedish Academy.

  27. MonicaSharman

    My most successful moments as a writer:

    – when I was as much (or more) a reader as a writer;

    – when my goal switched from getting published to writing a good book;

    – when I started acting like a writer—not just sheepishly admitting it, but declaring it without apology or embarrassment. (My educational/professional background is in engineering, so people I knew weren’t used to the idea of me as a writer.) Acting like a writer also included budgeting time and money for writing and learning to write.

  28. RedHeadedViking

    I am a successful writer, and alway will be, even if I am never published. How can that be? Two and a half years ago I overcame thirty years of self-doubt and allowed myself the freedom to write. When my first story was complete, I closed my eyes, said a prayer, bared my soul, and posted it on a fan fiction site. What would people think? Would I be reviled and hated – told never to write again? In fact, just the opposite occurred – people liked my work. I received favorable reviews and I have fans! 🙂 My heart still sings when I receive notification that someone has “favorited” one of my stories.

    In 2011 I used National Novel Writing Month to hammer out the rough draft of an original novel. I am now working with an independent editor on the final revisions.

    At almost 50 years of age, I finally know what I want to do when I grow up – I want to write! And I do – every day. In my opinion, that makes me a success.

  29. zoeyclark

    To have published my 3 novels, turned them into bestsellers and then being hired to write the screenplays for their big screen versions-while hanging around at the sets and getting new ideas for the fourth one. Oh, and did I mention I still get paid to write articles on my favorite topics including writing and freelancing. As long as I’m paid to write about what I love the way I love it, I’ll consider myself not only successful,but also living my ultimate dream.

  30. Niti Chandra

    As you rightly said, the definition of Success keeps changing. It varies from person to person, experience to experience. A person may define Success as an achievement of a certain goal. But once that goal is achieved, the next level becomes the definition of Success.

    I m a fiction novel writer. For me Success as a writer will only be when I m able to reach out to a huge number of readers, only when I m able to touch their hearts and only when I m able to generate a feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction in the minds of my readers – a feeling similar to the feeling that a thirsty person lost in a desert gets after receiving a sip of water – a feeling of happiness with a strong desire to have more !

    I had always been a good story teller since my very childhood but was never confident about my writing skills. After penning down my first novel, I hid it from my husband, fearing criticism. But once when he saw it accidently, he encouraged me to get it published. I consider that as my most successful moment as only after that I had the courage to get my work published. That was my rebirth as a writer and I have already published two fiction novels. The manuscript of my third novel is ready and I have already begun penning down my fourth novel.

  31. Dianne J. Wilson

    Successful writing to me, is not so much a single mountain peak to be conquered, but rather an endless rolling landscape of heights to be tackled. My first was an email from the editor of Threads & Crafts, accepting a humour page and promising payment at a time our fridge was empty. I also know I’ve nailed it when I can read something I wrote ages ago and make myself chuckle, go goosies or cry!

  32. evwings

    To me success in writing is to simply do it! You cannot be successful unless you do what you want rather than to tell yourself (or anyone else who you decide to let know) that someday, one day, etc. you are going to write. I did my first writing (it was a play) when I was nine in order to achieve a Girl Scout merit badge. I never stopped after that. All my life I have set small doable goals to continue being successful rather than making the goals so large I set myself up for failure. I have had comments throughout my life that I should publish. I have won contests in both essay and poetry. But nothing has made me feel as good as when I put pencil to paper and wrote the first word of that little from the- mind- of a nine year old play.

  33. SuperBecca

    For writers, success is continuous. Every time you set words down on a page in an attempt to eventually form some sort of cohesive whole – that is success.

    That being said, as a writer, I feel perpetually unsuccessful. What a wrote the previous day is crap. What I’m writing now is crap. I’ll never get paid to do this. I’ll never get another poem published. Woe is me, Writer’s Depression, etc. etc.

    So I revise my comment earlier: Success is continuous only if you continue to write. Once a sentence is completed, that is success – only if you write the next sentence. You publish a novel to widespread acclaim and popularity. That is not success until you start writing another, better novel. Success is striving: If you do not strive, to push yourself in the best way you know how, you are not succeeding. Because that is what writers do: Write. They don’t publish and then stop writing forever. They keep writing.

    You know you have succeeded when you die and you have ten unfinished novels for your contemporaries to unearth and publish years later.

  34. rangeltitanium

    I considered myself a writer and poet when I read my first, published poem in my college’s literary magazine, in 2011. Also, I’ve had two poems published in two poetry books, which has been quite an honor. Although I don’t have a published book yet, I would have to say that, to be a successful writer, one would have to write and read every day. Sharing your work is another way to gain exposure. Also, I believe that a writer has to go through the many struggles and challenges to improve more. Although we may go through various struggles, especially writer’s block, we have to believe in ourselves. Another good piece of advice I’ve kept in mind is that we must have patience.
    Writing is hard work, definitely. However, I’m not giving up on it. My goal is to have my first, fictional novel published. I don’t know when it’ll happen, but I believe that it will happen, one step at a time.

  35. WriteGr8

    Put your money where your mouth is. That defines success as a writer to me. An editor can declare, “You’ve got talent!” But unless they are willing to fork over the dough, it’s only words.

    Since my only published writings are articles in a non-paying newsletter, I haven’t reached success yet. Plans are in the works to change that. I’m ready to show my family and friends writing is more than a hobby. How much money will it take to make me a success? Dollar amounts don’t matter to me, an editor putting their money where their mouth is, does.

  36. Anne Galivan

    What would I define success for me as a writer? Consistency.

    I would like to be consistently getting feedback, by way of comments or e-mails or retweets, that tells me that my blog posts are inspiring and helping others. It’s not that I’ve never gotten feedback. I’ve received many comments saying how helpful and inspiring I have been. And I get retweeted pretty consistently (but I need to more consistently tweet my posts!) But we humans are finicky creatures and when we are not getting fairly consistent feedback, we start to wonder if everything we are doing is falling into some black hole somewhere!

    I hate it when someone sends me an e-mail asking for specific help and I craft a thoughtful reply often including links that I have researched for them and then I hear…nothing. Crickets. Often not even an acknowledgement that my reply e-mail was received.

    I would like to consistently get paid for my work. I would like it to be consistently easier to get my work accepted!

    I would like some consistency to my life as a writer.

    I’ve been homeschooling my kids for over 23 years and most people would probably think that my homeschooling “job” is incredibly difficult, but I feel like I could homeschool my kids blindfolded.

    But being a writer? Now THAT’S a tough job!

  37. JR MacBeth

    Forget “success”. It’s about purpose. Purpose, the purpose of my life.

    For a writer, our purpose is to communicate, to share. Why? Because it’s who we are. We have something to share, to give, and even if it ends up being only for ourselves, it matters. It matters to us, because we fulfill our purpose to some extent with each meeting of the mind, with each connection felt at the end of our sentences.

    There is a place, a place where our personality, our uniqueness, manifests into words. It’s the special place on a page where everyone can read about the only thing we really have to offer that isn’t already out there: In my case…it’s me.

    I don’t apologize because my current “success” (past tense) has mainly been through business writing, and ad copy. Millions in sales! A brag? Not to me. I want to write a novel. Not any novel, The Novel, the one about me, even if it’s not about me. Which is why I wrote it, even if it’s never read by anyone but me.

    It’s like sex. The more you give of yourself, the better it is. The better it is, the more real, the better I have fulfilled my purpose, as it unfolds, and is unfolding.

    I’m writing a story. Whether I type, or not, I’m writing my life’s story. To a great extent, I’m in charge of how this story goes. The Published Novelist still may not appear for a few more chapters, but he is coming, he’s in the story, and that’s what makes all the difference in the world.

    I am a success. Like Heath Ledger, even if I’m dead, even if I never get to that chapter I’m planning, I’m a success. Because I fulfill my purpose.

  38. Michael

    Writing success is being able to transport someone else to another time and place by the power of the words you wrote onto a piece of paper, or in this day and age, into a piece of electronic media. To be able to take someone else on the journey you took, while creating a piece, whether it is a poem, short story, or novel has to be one of the best feelings I have ever had. It makes me want to go back and see where else I can go into the creative ether so others can have the opportunity to take another journey into the imagination.


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