Editors Blog

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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99 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.

  39. KarenInSacramento

    For me, successful writing involves taking an idea and expressed it well (including opening and closing any plot arc, if that applies, and doing it in such a way that it entertains, educates, moves, or inspires someone else. Whether it’s a poem, a blog post, or a story, that will always be my goal.

    I’m always happy to finish something that I’m proud of, but I feel more satisfied if someone else enjoys it, too. Art without an audience just doesn’t feel the same. The audience doesn’t have to be large, but the external appreciation always makes me happy.

    I do write for myself, but I hope not to write only for myself.

  40. ecosopher

    In some ways it’s like doing the housework, or baking a cake. I feel some sense of great achievement — success, even! — when I do them well, and I bask in the glow of a job well done, but then the bathroom gets dirty (within minutes, it seems) and the family is hungry (what is with that constant need to eat?) and so it begins again.

    Getting my name in print for the first time was brilliant, and gave me a high for days, but I guess it feels as if the job’s not over yet. I think it might be in my nature to constantly move the goal posts just that little bit further, each time.

  41. DragonScribbles

    I think that the key for defining success as a writer comes down to one question: Why do you write? Those writing a memoir for their families will have a different sense of success than those writing to send a message to the world, those who want to write for themselves, or those who want to see their names on the New York Times Bestseller List.

    Then there’s also temporary versus ultimate success. Your ultimate goal might be that bestseller list, but for now success is finishing the final draft. You can still be happy with your temporary success while reaching for that ultimate success.

    For me, personally, I write because I love reading and creating stories, and I love sharing them with others. Every time I find a new favorite book, everyone knows about it. The latest find? Protection for Hire by Camy Tang ^_^. My personal definition of success as a writer is to create stories that others enjoy reading.

    In this regard, my most successful moment so far has not actually been in professional publishing. Several years ago, I posted a few stories online for critiquing, and it was invaluable to have direct feedback from readers. Several became regular readers of my work, and I was able to become a regular reader of theirs. Real friendships bloomed, and one of them lasted for years, even after I stopped using the site. So far, I consider that my most successful moment as a writer: knowing people enjoyed my work.

  42. DaveGourdoux

    After several aborted attempts through the years, I recently completed the first draft of my first novel, and feel a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment. It’s the book I wanted to write, and despite the fact that I have been around the block enough times to understand how slim the odds are, I am optimisic that it will one day be published and find an audience. Even if that never happens, the fact remains that I finished it, it is a tangible object created from my own imagination, and nothing can ever take that away. For this reason, I consider myself a successful writer.

  43. rockhard

    James Thorpe-I feel I’m a successful writer, if I enjoy reading what I just wrote. I like to read emotion and action filled fiction. If I can cry when I read an emotional sad part of my book I feel I’ve related an emotion to my audience. Even if that is only myself or 1000 readers. I also enjoy letting my characters write their own story without my intruding on their actions. If I do these few things I feel like a successful writer. You have to look into yourself an find satisfaction before your look to see if others like your writing.

  44. Morilinde

    I’ve had a few little successes and a few frustrations, the latter often a result of my own vanity. ;) (“How did that person beat my amazing entry in this amateur writing contest?!”) My biggest success thus far is probably getting to the highest writing level on the copywriting site I write for. Although I don’t write as often for them anymore, I certainly let out a big cheer when I made it to the highest level. :) And that’s really something for an introvert like me!

    Now I’m trying to write an actual factual novel (even though I said I would write one in fourth grade — and tried!). After years of starting plot-hole-ridden scripts with weak characters, I’ve finally crafted an idea I like and am working on the outline (why didn’t anyone tell me how hard that would be?). Of course, my writing skills seem to have abandoned me in my time of need. However, I know I’ll feel successful once I finish the manuscript, even if it stinks and no one wants to read it. I’ll even spend $50 on paper and ink just to print it all out and snuggle it in my arms. I suppose that’s one benefit to procrastination: It makes you feel successful later on when you finally defeat it. ;) A bit of a hollow victory, maybe, but you don’t hear me complaining. Much.

  45. CMcCalla

    ‘Writing success’ to me is like crack to a drug addict. I had my first taste when I published my book, and I’ve been chasing that high ever since. Over time my tolerance has got stronger and it takes more and more for me to feel success on any level.

    In my latest attempt to get the rush that comes with achieving anything great, I just today posted in my blog that I WILL be a six figure freelancer by 1/1/14 – 456 days from now. I am taking my readers on the journey because I will achieve that goal if it takes every ounce of energy in my body.

    Will I ever find ‘success’? I almost hope not because I absolutely love the chase…

    1. ecosopher

      ‘Writing success’ to me is like crack to a drug addict. I had my first taste when I published my book, and I’ve been chasing that high ever since. Over time my tolerance has got stronger and it takes more and more for me to feel success on any level.

      Yes, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, here.

  46. bahartman

    I have published articles, won writing contests, completed hundred thousand-word manuscripts, organized critique groups, attended national conferences, enrolled in writing classes and webinars, and had work requested by agents.

    But back when I was 16, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul selected one of my poems for publication, and my local Barnes & Noble put on a book signing for me. It was only a three stanza poem, I didn’t receive any royalties, and only five people stopped to get their books signed, but I have never felt as proud of a writing accomplishment since.

    Success is not an achievement, it’s a feeling.

  47. paula

    One day, if I ever have a child, I might name that child Success.

    Not because I want to ruin some poor kid’s life but because naming my child Success is probably the only way I’ll be able to use the phrase, “My Success” in a sentence and not feel like a fraud.

    Though I’ve self-published one book and this makes me somewhat happy, I don’t believe self-publishing a book that very few people have heard of gives me the right to call myself, “successful”.

    This makes me wonder if I equate success with a monetary number…and perhaps, to a degree, I do.
    But success isn’t really about money, it’s about contentment.

    A wealthy person, despite their financial success, may still suffer from overwhelming anxiety.

    On the other hand, the person who finds contentment, or peaceful satisfaction, in their work and everyday life is successful.

    While every writer will define career success in their own way, for me, the contentment I crave would come with my being able to support myself by writing fiction stories and actually have people read/respond to my work.

    While this is my goal and I’m going to continue working for it until the day I keel over, in the back of my mind…I think I ought to warn my parents that one day they’ll have a grandchild named Success.

  48. shantipoet

    As Emily Dickinson wrote, “Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.” It may be that perfectionism tends to run hand in hand with the drive to write, but I believe most writers, regardless of the stage they’ve hit in their career, feel there are mountains yet to climb. For me, success will be to have my work read as widely as possible (and a little money would be nice, too).

    If I had to pick a moment thus far in my writing career where I felt at my most successful, I would say it was the time I was invited to participate in my first post-graduate poetry reading, to read at the Knitting Factory in New York. The reading was hosted by a small literary magazine, “Poetry New York,” which had published my poem about the Titanic, “The Shoes.” I was elated upon receiving the invitation, highly aware of the fact that major musical acts had played at the Knitting Factory over the years. My first husband and I secured sleeping arrangements, sleeping on the floor of a friend’s family home in neighboring New Jersey. Her father, who I’d never realized until that moment, was full-blooded Italian, took us to a marvelous Italian market, where I was amazed at the wide variety of olives and cheeses.

    The next day, we took public transportation into the city and, as we walked the final blocks to the unassuming building, I was on Cloud 9. The reading, held in a small room downstairs which included its own bar, was no bigger than the readings I’d done during grad school. But this one felt much larger, and when my poetry received a positive response, including an invitation from another magazine editor to submit my work, I felt like a superstar.

    That was 15 long years ago. My first husband and I lasted only a year. The magazine has folded. My friend and I, though never having an official fallout, have fallen out of touch. I’ve experienced other achievements in the decade and a half since — founding an online literary magazine, WildViolet.net; publishing my first chapbook; and several more publishing credits — but it would be hard to achieve again that feeling of accomplishment, where I felt as if I was on my way to somewhere amazing.

  49. JulieK

    I’ve been blessed to have been published both as a freelance writer and a children’s book author. A highlight for me was when my advance copies of the book arrived. It was a thrill to see my name on the book jacket!

    Even more so though is the joy that I experience through sharing the book and how it came to be through school visits. Just knowing that I’ve taught a child something new, or touched someone through my stories is the epitome of success. No matter how many stories I’ve written, how many of my works are published or even how many rejection letters I receive, connecting with someone’s heart through words is immeasurable.

    That is what writing success is to me.

  50. lemahon

    I most strongly feel successful as a writer when people are moved to action or emotion as a direct result of reading my words. Can I create conflict? Can I mitigate it? Can I get what I need or want? Can I give it to someone else? Can I get my point across? Can I react to someone else’s? If I can achieve my intended goal with my writing, I can, in good conscience, call myself a success.

  51. nadz93

    To me, success in writing is this: touching a person through beautifully crafted words, rousing emotions from deep within them, changing views and outlooks, capturing the essence of life. A blank page is a writer’s canvas-success is forming a sublime piece of art out of it! The day I’m told, ‘Your story made a difference in my life’ is the day I’ll feel successful regardless of earnings and published works.

  52. Patspen

    Writers, like other artists, are often their own worst enemies. Many are certainly their own worst critics, if only by listening to other’s opinions and taking them to heart. A word against what we’ve written and we’re all but ready to give up in despair. A mild criticism can undo everything we’ve done, leaving dust and ashes in it’s wake.

    Until we learn.

    I’ve been writing since I was 10 years old and had many, many teachers and adults and friends tell me what a “good” writer I was, how I’d “be a famous author someday”. I had all the encouragement a writer could want. And still, a mild comment from a relative or friend would erase all of it, leaving doubt and despair behind.

    My one saving trait? I didn’t quit. I kept writing. I didn’t always believe in what I wrote. In fact, I seldom did. But I kept writing. And then, a young adult, I took a job at a small weekly paper. It wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to write “my” stories, fiction, not journalism. My words, not someone else’s. But I needed the job and I did the job. And I had those I worked with who felt I did fine. But there were quite a few who didn’t think I did fine, or even mildly passable.

    One was a production supervisor and one grim evening, with everything running late and my page one story still needing to be laid out, I found myself down in production as this supervisor raged and tore at my story, insisting that it was beyond hope of saving, that it was a hopeless mish-mash and so poorly written she couldn’t even think of a layout for it.

    I was exhausted and tired and just wanted to go home, and in the past, her words would have destroyed what was left of my self-esteem. But I remember taking the “flat” (page layout) from her and setting out to fix it myself, because suddenly, her words meant nothing. She meant nothing. Her opinion wasn’t important. Not because she didn’t know her job. She did. But she didn’t know MY job. She said I couldn’t write. And something in me just said “no” all of a sudden. Because it wasn’t true. And because I finally KNEW it wasn’t true.

    Am I a genius writer? No. But I’m not a hack, either. And I never will be again. I may never make a fortune writing and I may never have a shelf full of novels with my name on them. But if you ever ask me again whether or not I’m a writer, I will tell you “yes” with no hesitation whatsoever. Because that is the answer that is true for me. And that’s the only truth that matters to a writer. And, to me, that is the only sucess that matters.

    And I can live with that.

  53. SatyricalRaven

    Success. Truth be told, there is no firm definition as it can only be measured by what each individual is trying to accomplish/succeed. And it is ever changing. So, to define success is really like listening to a politician trying to make a promise with a lot of lip flapping and very little of substance said.

    Therefore I am going to cheat and quote Henry Howard (yes of those Howards) who was favoured by King Henry VIII until he too was divided from his head. For me, true success is when one attains a Quiet Life.

    When you are satisfied with your final version of your manuscript or query letter and can simply set it aside. When you sleep without issue or struggle of scruple, when you begrudge nothing to others for fear it will lessen your own life’s ambitions, this is when are truly blessed with success.

    The Things that Cause a Quiet Life

    My friend, the things that do attain
    The happy life be these, I find:
    The riches left, not got with pain,
    The fruitful ground; the quiet mind;

    The equal friend; no grudge, no strife;
    No charge of rule nor governance;
    Without disease the healthy life;
    The household of continuance;

    The mean diet, no dainty fare;
    True wisdom joined with simpleness;
    The night discharged of all care,
    Where wine the wit may not oppress;

    The faithful wife, without debate;
    Such sleeps as may beguile the night:
    Content thyself with thine estate,
    Neither wish death, nor fear his might.
    Henry Howard
    (1517-1547 / England)
    I could not have put the definition of happiness or success better and therefore will not try, for what better example of success is there than truly to be content in one’s place ion the world?

  54. woodsmanstories

    We write many pieces and some of them are read. Sometimes what we write has an effect on the reader, it might even change them. When they contact you and tell you that your work, you have changed them, you are successful.

  55. Perilous1

    “Will you ever consider yourself successful as a writer?”

    I’ve wondered about this for a while now. It would be easy to say “yes,” as I languish about in the land of the currently unpublished. Right now, getting a contract sounds like an epic success. And yet, none of the published authors I know seem to consider themselves successful. Perhaps it’s partially the result of rampant low self-esteem . . . but I think there’s more to it than that. I think many of them are concerned that if they allow themselves the satisfaction of claiming success, they’ll stop pushing their limits as hard as they had been. Their future growth and quality could potentially suffer.

    And honestly, I can see myself ending up with the same hesitation. But I’ll let you know when I’ve gotten a little farther in my journey. ^_^

  56. wandafull1

    Writers never fail.

    Successful writing starts with the thought of writing and ends wherever the author chooses to end whether it be one paragraph or a completed manuscript.

  57. Jack Ori

    I think success is a very personal thing. In the past, I made the mistake of measuring my success by external yardsticks–i.e., how much money I was making and how many people were reading my work. Unfortunately, these measures make me (and I’m sure most writers!) appear spectacularly unsuccessful.

    So, instead, I set goals and check whether I’ve achieved them. One of initial goals is to get 10 comments on my blogs. Done. I’ve gotten positive feedback from people I don’t know personally. I know I have made a positive difference in at least five people’s lives as a result of the things I’ve written. I’m prolific enough that I can find myself on the first page of Google when I do a search of my name. For me, all these little things add up to success. The most exciting moments for me are when I get feedback from strangers because then I know I’m reaching people, and that’s what I set out to do.

    I think we’re all conditioned to think it’s all about money, and money is really irrelevant to success. I know we need to support ourselves somehow, but writers who write part-time while working at a day job aren’t less successful than those who are full time just because they aren’t supporting themselves through writing. I don’t think any of us do this for the money, and yet money and fame seem to be how we judge ourselves and our success.

    If you’re feeling unsuccessful, ask yourself how much further you are on your writing journey than you were the day you decided you wanted to be A Writer. If you’ve created an entire story and last week or last month or last year you were just dreaming of writing, YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL. Build your successes on the foundation of other successes…don’t focus on what you don’t have.

    I’m much happier and prouder of what I do now that I’ve given up checking whether the outside world validates my writing ability. Even if I never sell another piece of work I am still a successful writer because I put words on paper and touched lives with them. Whatever your goals are, if you’re achieving them or are closer to achieving them than you were yesterday, you’re successful too.

  58. brookilyn

    Success cannot be measured by bound books or publications, or else most of us would end up slitting our wrist and bleeding all over our keyboards. I say this hoping the power of suggestion is a myth.

    At any rate, in a keep-your-head-up approach, I say success is measured in tiny, finite moments in our writing life.

    For instance:

    Have you made it an entire half hour during your dedicated writing time without falling into the black hole of the internet? Victory.

    Have your in-laws come to visit and monopolize your weekend, but you still find time to sneak away and squash out one thousand words? Triumph.

    Did you battle rush-hour traffic and miss dinner to make it to your critique group’s meeting? Champ.

    Did someone, somewhere in the fickle, subjective publishing world decide you were worthy? Eh…well…good for you.

    Okay, that last one probably reads a little cynical. Let me rephrase. I mean to say if you’ve reached the authorial summit and get to see your work on something other than your home inkjet, then you were a victorious, triumphant champ a million times over before that. It means you had countless, seemingly inconsequential successes which allowed you to get where we are all trying to go. And so, good for you, really.

    End story — Success is measured one word at a time, and seeing how I really want it, I probably ought to stop messing around with this post and get to it.

  59. Julia Munroe Martin

    My personal measure of success, professional success, “making it” as a fiction writer, is the same today as it was the day I started writing fiction: traditional publication of a novel. That said, I’ve been surprised that my definition of success has expanded over the years. I consider myself a success every single day, every time I reach a writing goal for a day. Because of that, I appreciate and celebrate all my successful moments along the path to my larger goal: blog posts that touch a chord with my readers, local publication of personal essays, national publication of a short story, and (like you) personal emails from readers who have connected with something I’ve written. And, perhaps needless to say, publication with @WritersDigest would be a huge step and celebration along my writer’s path.

  60. bacooper45

    The fact that I keep writing makes me a successful writer. I feel most successful when I take great pleasure in finding just the right words and putting them in just the right sequence… and poof, I’m a writing genius :-). My most exciting moment as a writer was the publication of one of my short stories – they paid me over $500! That day I was a rich genius…

  61. Frostie

    My definition of a successful writer is seeing your imagination alive in print, whether it is physical, or digital. Somebody somewhere will discover it and fall in love just like you did. The day that happens will be the day I consider myself a successful writer. Until then, I’ll keep practicing.

  62. missmoxie79

    I have always loved to read, draw, and write. I dreamt as a kid that one day I would go work for Walt Disney Studios and be apart of the magic behind drawing their movie animations. Somehow that dream never materialized. I tried again as an adult to go to art school and after a year realized it was not a full time passion of mine. Reflecting back at my childhood, I overlooked how much I read and wrote. Poems, songs, short stories, etc.
    Here I am later in my adult life, after attempting to build a career in MANY different areas, that I decided to write an essay for a professional convention that would sponsor their favorite essays. After seeing that, I wrote what I could and sent it out. A month later after no response I believed I wasn’t chosen. I questioned not just myself, because it was a personal story, but my writing. Maybe I was awful?!
    As quickly as those thoughts popped in my head, an email was shot to me that I was one of the few chosen.
    Then a few weeks ago I challenged myself with submitting a short story to my community college and found out I came in 2nd place. This is MY success. This is what is giving me the courage to try for something more. I am going to dust off old written stories and start editing and sending them out. Writing is my passion, and no matter how much I may get rejected, in my heart it’s my success.

  63. eabendroth

    I feel that declaring yourself successful is a matter of individual circumstances. In a profession where age is not an issue it is nice to think you can always better yourself and your material. I feel the past year is my most successful even though it hasn’t lead to my being published. I began working on my Bachelor degree in art and have noticed my writing is much better because of what I’ve learned. Recently I entered a competition and have placed in the top five. It’s a huge improvement for me. I felt very successful when I read my story’s title as one of the finalist that morning. I’ll never forget how that felt. I have a way to go, but it looks like a writing career is a possibility and not just a dream anymore. It really takes a lot of passion to become successful in any field.

  64. bohemianwriter211

    Immortality is the only suucess. That being said, I don’t think that you can call yourself a successful writer in this life. You may make money, have fame and be forgotten in a decade but the great are remembered long after they have past.

  65. excelsamaleia

    “Can you read it again mommy? That was funny!” My three and six year old would tell me after reading a book I had written for and about them. “It’s one of our favorites” they would say, which marks a huge accomplishment for me as a story teller. I consider myself a writer when it reaches that point- when it connects with my children or people in such a way that it prompts re-reading and sharing. They laugh at the funny portrayals of characters,exaggerated or not, and they sit at full attention grinning from ear to ear. What better way to share fifteen minutes than to open up a book and their imagination with a work of art that is truly from your creative masterpiece.

  66. Dan Cole

    Being successful as a writer can mean a lot of different things. For me in particular, being successful means never giving up no matter how much rejection or criticism you receive. As long as you enjoy it you should keep doing it regardless of what other people say. I kept this philosophy in mind while I was writing my first novel up until the very last word I typed. It really made a huge difference in terms of the motivation I needed to follow the prcoess through to the very end.
    As far as the most successful moment during my writing career goes, I’d have to say that it was the first time someone told me they liked what I wrote. It made me feel like I had at least one person who thought I was good at what I loved, and that was more than enough to keep me going. Even as I am writing this I have the document containing the first three chapters of my next novel minimized on my taskbar.

  67. kospina

    I have always wanted to write. As a kid when I imagined being a grown up I always pictured my grown-up self as being a writer. I filled journal after journal with observations and anecdotes and even won a local writing competition in the fourth grade. In high school I happily took creative writing courses and was a finalist in the NJ Teen Arts Festival for creative writing. Then reality hit. Once I was out in the “real world” I wound up doing restaurant management, graphic design and coordinating trade shows. When I found myself parenting alone, one job became two, neither of them writing. I had a paper route (hated it), worked for a caterer (loved it) and even spent some time shelving books in the library (tedious at best). Yet despite it all, I never quite gave up on the dream and wrote for my own entertainment, if nothing else.

    Last year I did my first ever NaNoWriMo at age 44. I eagerly jumped in and spent the entire month hammering away at my computer keyboard after work each night. I won, producing a 50,000 word manuscript by the skin on my teeth during the very last hours of the very last day. I was so sick of the darn thing by then I tossed the manuscript in a drawer and left it there. I achieved my goal, but I was was convinced I was nothing but a hack and it was time to give up the dream.

    I found that manuscript not that long ago, during a flurry of cleaning. I was taken aback – I had all but forgotten about it! Remembering how awful I felt when NaNo was over and I knew my manuscript wasn’t any good, I quickly threw it out before I could change my mind. But my conscience niggled at me for days, until I finally caved and opened up Scrivener on the computer and pulled the file up on the screen to read it.

    I expected to hate it, but didn’t. True, the plot had some weak spots, but mostly it worked. The characters needed more definition, but I could bond with them and enjoyed getting to know them again. The pacing was not as bad as I thought it was and the ending wasn’t nearly as trite as I’d feared. I sat there and thought to myself, “This isn’t half bad and I wrote it.” I cannot adequately explain the feeling, but it was as if a mantle of distortion was finally ripped away and my true self was finally revealed to me.

    I may still waitress here and there, or even be forced to take up another paper route, but no matter what else I do for a living I will always know that I really and truly am, and always will be, a writer.

    1. RedHeadedViking

      High Five, kospina!

      You sound a lot like me. I always wanted to write as well, but life and perfectionism kept getting in the way. I finally jumped into the world of fanfiction two and a half years ago.

      I did my first NaNoWriMo last year as well – I turned 49 during the month. Like you, once November was over, I was so burned out I couldn’t bear to look at my manuscript. After a couple of months, I finally got brave enough to re-read what I had written – and discovered that it was actually pretty darn good! Was it perfect? Absolutely not – but it definitely had potential.

      I used material from my manuscript as the basis for my assignments during a writing class and received a lot of positive feedback from my instructor. This gave me the confidence to work toward publication – either traditional or self-publishing.

      I will always write – even if it is just for myself.

      If you decided to do NaNo again this year, look me up. I’d love to be “writing buddies.” (I’m redheadedviking there as well.)

  68. Catherine Gracey

    I define success as moving beyond the point where I thought I was capable of going. It is when that voice in my head switches from “I can’t do this” to “whoa! I’m doing it!” I have had that moment when I first completed a draft of a novel, when I got the first follower to my blog who I didn’t know, and when I got my first publication. Writing can have a thousand small goals, and we are successful as we achieve every single one of them. It is difficult not to feel successful when you ensure you honour each subsequent accomplishment.

  69. KMoeller68

    I consider myself a success already. Fear of success can be what stops someone, the same for fear of failure. I have decided, come what may, I am in it for the long haul. I started my journey, finally, this past June, after fifteen years of thinking about it. My most successful moment to date is sending off the first few stories to a writing friend and getting his response, “You’re Fearless.”

  70. Nena

    For me, saying I’m successful at writing is akin to saying I’m successful at walking. Once we make the remarkable leap to walking, success is at hand. Most likely someone cheers and spurs us on, celebrating this milestone at a time we cannot grasp its significance. We falter a lot in the beginning as our muscles and limbs grow to meet the new challenge, progressing at the pace right for us. Then we walk. Everyday. For the rest of our lives. There are laborious walks and leisurely ones, marathon walks and walks to the mailbox, walks of fame and walks of shame. Stumbles, falls. All integral to life. We walk, and keep on walking. From the first step to the last.

    As a woman in midlife who has recoiled from writing with embarrassing false modesty, while constantly waiting for some divine bolt of permission from the sky, or the coffee pot, or the mailman—I’ve finally resolved that writing is integral to my life. I will write, and keep on writing. From the first piece to the last. This milestone has taken me over 40 years to accomplish and it feels damn good! So I cheer and spur myself on and celebrate, most definitely grasping the significance.

    Everything now is a matter of doing the work and developing the craft. Committing to it everyday. Putting myself ‘out there’ (wherever that is). Trusting the advice of colleagues, mentors, friends. Setting and achieving goals. Honoring the process of creating but never taking myself too seriously. Trusting myself. Never losing faith. Remembering that writing is my first and true love, and first and foremost I do it for me. Because it’s who I am. It is a scary thing most of the time, but there is also the ecstatic rush of liberation most of the time. Nothing has ever felt more authentic. Whether I publish a thousand things, or one, or nothing. Or win a thousand awards, or one, or none. I am a writer. My success starts there.

  71. Ardent Muse

    P.S. (just for the record….) I wrote my answer before I read anyone else’s answer and didn’t base it on anything written in the initial question. I’ve always believed what I’ve said about writing and the definition of success ~ Writing is an Art, …and just as a painting, sculpture, or a song can touch people, so can the written word. How well one accomplishes this defines success. :D

  72. handyman43127

    There was a moment when I felt a measure of success, when my first poem was published. Seeing the words I had written printed on the page with my name underneath. I can remember thinking that somewhere someone was reading it and finding a little comfort. However that emotional high soon faded as I found myself on my next project. I suppose that if ever I fully empty myself, find that no longer is every thought a story line, every chance encounter an ever thickening plot, every waking moment a story to be written, I will have finally reached success. I then can close my eye’s and dream no more.

  73. theano7203@gmail.com

    What Defines Writing Success
    Inside a voice softly calls as you fill up with phrases, sentences; paragraphs. You know not where it is going to lead. You just know you have to sit down and write it out. The characters begin to have a life, talk to you in your sleep; while you are driving; in the moments you seem distracted. Your outline says the life will go this way, and your character takes a different path. You find yourself having to go down unknown, uncomfortable territory. Then the arguments start as your characters inform you he, she or it would never do that. So the rewrite and insertions begin. Out of the chaos of the multiplicity in your mind, a transformation happens as you put pen to paper or hands on a keyboard. An order goes out that even your characters hear, and units begin to form either as pages or as chapters. Then it happens. The story comes to life; is born, and the writing becomes more than just the characters. The journey; the path; the bigger picture of it all as it moves into bigger ideas, themes, icons, symbols; just like your life you participate in, but largely have no control over what happens to you. It is a creative clarion call. Success in writing is hearing the clarion call and accepting whatever way it turns.

  74. Ardent Muse

    For me, the answer is simple ~ A successful Writer is one who can effectivcely employ just the right combination, order, & choice of words in a way that not only conveys exactly, the message the Writer has in his or her mind, but also profoundly touches the reader’s heart, mind, & soul by enlightening, influencing, moving or entertaining them.

    To me, words are to paper what colors are to a canvas ~ just the right “shade” of word can change the overall meaning of the picture, so the choice of “hue” is critical to conveying a message exactly as intended. The words need to be molded like clay, and Writing, like any other fine art, is a craft that needs to be honed, polished, and perfected in order to successfully fulfill its function. To be acknowledged for it by the reader is exillerating ~ To achieve this is success ~ To be paid for it is iceing on the cake!

  75. RachaelAmick

    Writing success can be achieved with a simple sentence, so long as it is in harmony with human emotion and experience. Writing plays many roles, but at its ethos language and writing are links between people. It unearths a common denominator among individuals and in doing so weaves us together, as a bird weaves together a nest. Thus for me, successful writing is taking a specific experience from my life and tracing it outward so that others can fall in step with me for a moment, before relating it back to one of their own personal experiences. Successful writing intuits what it is to be human.

  76. CLKone

    Well, let’s define success in the time terms of this weekly venue: For me, a successful week has
    materialized as an established routine of concentrated work completing the tasks set for each day. What tasks you may ask?
    I assure you that coffee cups still clutter my kitchen counters and I failed to save a forgotten load of my husband’s permanent press from career threatening wrinkles.

    So, for me, a novice with limited accomplishments in the arena of bylines and publications, any small writing movement in the direction of the last page of a journaling volume is a giant step of success for Christine. My creatively crafted emails to former colleagues felt pretty good too and I definitely had a serious “way to go” moment when I mailed a letter to my daughter.

    This week the rest of the success bits looked like this: Daily reading and response journaling in inspirational and instructional writing materials, reviewing and notetaking of writing resources, research for a possible historical fiction piece and writing on a draft for a WD story prompt.

    Oh, and I was floating for most of the day after posting a comment on one of the community group boards and receiving a response. Move over Velveteen Rabbit, I think Christine is REAL!

  77. Carolin palmer

    I don’t believe that success for me as a writer can be truely measured. I feel quite fortunate that I got published and even more fortunate that I got paid. When I feel my best about writing is when I share my stories or thoughts with a pen to paper. If only for myself I write than that will be enough. I have been told so many times in my life what a gift I am to others but to me it has been the other way around. With every experience good or bad it has offered me more to give back. Success to me is the smile on someones face or just knowing in some way I have helped. If it is my writing that gives this to someone than yes I have been successful. The only thing left to do is continue my success.

  78. Emilyann Girdner

    I would categorize payment for writing, acknowledgement of my work, and loyal readers as wonderful treats, but I feel that success as a writer is measured in my continued efforts. The world of writing is such a difficult one that it requires bravery and the journey demands learning humble lessons along with developing resolve. Every time I gain knowledge as a writer and start the next sentence, I am attaining a new level of success.
    My journey always involves improvement and will never attain perfection; in the same line of thought, I would actually say it was my first partial manuscript request that I consider my greatest success so far. This may sound odd because the agent passed. Despite the rejection, to date that rejection has been one of my most enlightening experiences on how to improve my craft. Based on the agents request, I was able to gauge that my novel query and idea did get someone’s attention, and the rejection just told me I need to keep working at something that is worth pursuing.

  79. Guilie

    Isn’t it the nature of success, though, to be ephimeral, ever out of reach? That big house the accountant dreams of, the yacht the lawyer wants, the summers in Paris their wives pine after–don’t they all pale once one has them? That brand-new BMW gets polished every day–until you get used to seeing it in your driveway, it’s just your everyday car, and then one day you realize you haven’t even washed it in weeks.

    Success, like most things in life that truly matter, is a moment. Just a moment. It will not stay, it will not last. Does that make it less desirable? On the contrary, it makes it all the more poignant. Success is everywhere, one just needs to define it so, and then *live* it while it lasts. The first 100 pages? The first short story, the first novel? The first non-form rejection? The first agent, the first offer, the first published book? The first check, the first NYT review, the first award? Sitting in front of the screen for three hours, struggling with one sentence, one concept, and then–bam!–there it is, you got it, you gave it life because you found the right word? Waking up at 3 am with the realization your MC wasn’t who you thought they were, they’re so much more complex, they’re fascinating and a little creepy, too, because you feel you’re straddling the line between fantasy and reality now? All of it, and so much more, is all success.

    Perhaps it’s more a matter of changing our paradigm of success?

  80. kangasm

    For me, the success I gain when writing is measured by the self purpose and personal applications of my work.

    In other words, I am able to “successfully” recreate a story or image that I have in my mind that I can share with other people. I want them to peer into my world of words and be enveloped in the warmth and happiness it creates for me. It may seem selfish, but this is how my personal success is measured.

    I think the most success I believe I had ever achieved with writing was born from a children’s literature class I had taken a few years ago. I was able to elegantly articulate with words the importance of parents reading to their children. So much so that my audience could envision being their with me while I was a little girl, lying on my father’s shoulder with his boisterous booming voice accenting each of the characters personalities’.

    At the end of this class we were given the opportunity to write a short story and read it aloud before the class. Having been a veteran of writing songs, I took a poetic approach and wrote a story about a little girl “who lived in a fantasy world”. At the end of the story it illustrated the girl’s inability to be independent, because she was crippled from the waist down. But that she was able to go into the water and pretend she was swimming. It demonstrated the importance of imagination as well as social understanding.

    This story meant a lot to me, because I have spent years volunteering for the Muscular Dystrophy Association; working at their summer camps with disabled children. It is a big part of my life and I was able to put into words the luxury of movement we as humans often take for granted. The story stunned the class and gained report with my friends and classmates. I don’t think I had ever felt a bigger sense of achievment than on that day.

  81. moiradane

    Success? Reaching page 100 on my very first manuscript. Ever. That moment was truly special. I believe I did a little dance. When I told my fiance about the milestone, he said I have reached the point of no return, that there was absolutely no going back now. He was right. I just reached page 200 today and did another little dance.

    No matter how much, or little, I may achieve in the world of writing, I will always count my first 100 pages as my very first success. If I could frame them, I would. Perhaps after it sells? Perhaps (fingers crossed).

  82. Imaginalchemy

    My answer to this question could change almost every day. Sometimes it is a success for me simply to get past whatever hurdle it is that has been preventing me from continuing or finishing a writing project that I have been struggling with. Other times, it is that ultimate “pie in the sky” goal, to give up the nine to five job because my writing has become my career. And yet other times it’s in how I have come to react to rejection: I have overcome the stage where I get depressed and contemplate giving up on my projects, and now my automatic response is, “Okay, time to redouble my efforts and fight even harder, to prove I can do this.”

    While my most “successful” moment in my writing career thus far has been the acceptance of my first manuscript by a small publishing house for publication, and that is undoubtedly one of the most fulfilling moments of my life thus far, there is one moment that actually happened just tonight that made me feel more successful than even that.

    Tonight, as I was driving home with my husband after seeing a movie together, we were talking about his video audition for an independent film that he was going to submit. And he said, “I know if it wasn’t for you, and seeing how hard you’ve worked and how far you’ve come with your writing, I wouldn’t have had the extra boost to go after my film projects. You have been an inspiration to me.”

    To inspire just one person, to make their life a little better or a little more worthwhile in some way, no matter how small it may seem, is the greatest success I coul ever hope to achieve.

  83. samcarter46

    I have felt successful with every small step I’ve taken with my writing and believe I will continue to feel success as I achieve the next steps on the ladder. The key, I think, to avoiding dissatisfaction is to make sure you are grounded in all facets of your life including your writing. For me, that means I will be happy when the next step is achieved and will stretch myself to go further and support others who are coming behind me.

  84. creativemetaphor

    I like to consider myself an already successful writer, even though I have no agent, I’ve never been “published” and I’ve never sold a single copy of my work.

    I write every day (or very close to it.) I have people who say how much my writing has touched them, how much something I wrote meant to them. I have people who ask if they can share something I’ve written. I have people from other countries who follow my blog and enjoy my stories with their morning cup of coffee.

    I feel successful every time I post another short story and people enjoy it.

    I suppose the only thing that would really make me feel more successful as a writer is if I could use it to pay my bills. ;)