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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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. ^_^

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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…

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.)

  30. 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.

  31. 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.”

  32. 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.

  33. 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. 😀

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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!

  37. 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.

  38. 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!

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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?

  42. 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.

  43. 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).

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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. 😉


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