Friday Fun – What does it mean to “make it” as a writer?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Success can mean very different things to different people. What does success as a writer look like (and feel like!) to you? Do you believe you can ever truly “make it” as a writer, and – if so – what does that mean, exactly?

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: Ok, I’ll dive in on this one. I am a successful writer when words I’ve written impact someone else either positively or in a way that makes them consider an alternate perspective.

I am a successful writer. People have commented on pieces that I’ve written for the Boston Globe, our local newspaper and even things I’ve read at our annual school board meeting. People seek me out when they need to craft a message to convey information to their audience in a way that the audience will understand.  I’ve “made it” in my local sphere.

There is always room for growth and improvement, now, I want to “make it” in a larger sphere. I’m working on a romantic fiction novel. When that’s published and someone says to me “thanks for the enjoyable read”. I’ll know I’ve made it in that sphere.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I knew I “made it” as a writer when I completed my first year as a freelancer. I made my living as a writer. I’m now on year 10 and each year is better than the last. I’ve been published in fiction and non-fiction; seen my byline and ghostwritten. I write for fun. I write for money. I write because it’s what I do. I’ve “made it” and will keep “making it” as long as I can and in a variety of ways!

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace:  Reading the other responses, I realize that this is a more complex question than I realized. There are as many ways to define and measure success as there are kinds of writing.

For instance, though I have attained a certain level of success as a freelance content writer (I support myself and my daughter with my writing and have earned the respect and referrals of many great clients), I have not (yet!) given myself the opportunity to seriously pursue success as a fiction writer (I dabble, but don’t submit). Also, though they are not paying gigs, I consider my bi-weekly column in my local paper and my role  here on Live to Write – Write to Live to be writing successes. I may not be financially compensated for this work, but it gives me great satisfaction and the joy of connecting with others.

Would I ultimately like to earn a good living writing fiction? Yes. Do I consider myself a failure as a writer until I’ve accomplished that goal? Definitely not. I like to think of my “writer status” as a work in progress. Today, I’m a successful content writer, practicing essayist, and aspiring fiction writer. Someday (in the not-too-distant future) I plan to be a published author and someday after that, a profitable novelist. Until then, I’m going to do my best to savor all my successes – small and large – in all the parts of my writing life.

photo of Julianne HolmesJulie Hennrikus: The goal post keeps moving, doesn’t it? I do think that publication is a benchmark, but does that mean “making it”? I suspect that, for me, making it will be to continue to write, and to get better at my craft. Add to the publications. Perhaps, one day, to be able to support myself as a writer? Not sure, but I’m in for figuring this out!

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I like Julie’s image of a moving goalpost – and I’ve been guilty in the past of moving the goal further out as soon as I’ve scored. But no longer. I also used to measure myself exclusively by how much I earned with my pen, but now know that money is only one, limited, measure of success. Both these traits – moving the goal and measuring success only by income – breed chronic dissatisfaction, which can still the pen. I now believe that success is a series of achievements, from writing daily to reaching an audience. By that measure, I’m increasingly successful: writing, publishing, earning, and reaching a growing audience.

17 thoughts on “Friday Fun – What does it mean to “make it” as a writer?

  1. Very good question. I have exactly one publication! I managed to get a story in the June, 2013 issue of “The Sun Magazine.” The Story titled “Walter Lee Comes Home from Vietnam” is a title the editors wanted. My original title was “A Song of Innocence.” The change of the title was something I really didn’t like, but I was DESPERATE to be published. So of course I went along with it.

    Had I made it? I felt that I had achieved validation. I truly did, but I always had a nagging feeling that by changing the title, the editors had some other purpose in mind, some hidden agenda…. I don’t know…never will. I received terrific feedback from the folks at The Sun Magazine. But, it was a year later when I got an email from a tv producer in Atlanta who had come across my story in “The Sun” via his wife, and who wanted to produce it as a short movie. Whoa! Now, that project never seemed to come about, BUT ironically it became the “I’ve made it” factor for me. I had heard from a reader other than the editors and friends, and family–of course– that my story was well-crafted, well written, well everything! I still feel a nice glow from that letter. Since then I’ve piled up a basket full of rejections, but I know I can write. I know I am a writer. With each word I write, that feeling becomes stronger and stronger.
    I really love this series. Thank you so much!

  2. I’m with Julie – it’s a rolling parade.
    Having a submission (finally) accepted, seeing it actually in print and getting paid was such a lift – especially’cause then you have something to say when people ask – and they leave you alone and stop smirking/patting you on the head. So that’s a success.
    But then you can move on and write as you want, when you want, and for whom you want.

  3. In my humble position as a retiree just beginning in the field of writing , success is when someone is blessed through my efforts as a writer. I don’t look for world renown fame or a large dollar publishing contact. I’m successful because I do what God has inspired and leave the outcome to Him.

  4. It started with a traffic ticket. Actually, it was a family fight but both were written haltingly and with nervous energy. As a young cop, writing became a big part of each day. Television drama is a joke when it tries to portray real police work. E-gad the paperwork! Sitting and writing consumed much of each 8 hour shift. As I moved into detective work and later into major complex investigations, the writing became more detailed, researched and technical. Probably the equivalent of many non-fiction books. But the purpose of all that writing was to decide on someone’s freedom. Judges and juries ultimately depended upon that writing to make those fateful decisions. My first fiction was actually a chance to stretch my writing wings. Still a complex and researched exercise but hey, if all else fails, make it up. The first (of four under contract), SINK RATE, comes out this fall. Stay tuned…

  5. Hi all, excellent topic. The goalpost moves depending upon where you are on the field. I kind of given up on being a published author as wishful thinking. But there is still that glimmer of hope that somehow I would mysteriously get noticed and publish an awesome trilogy. The next blockbuster movie right? Nope. Who am I kidding? Now if I even write one to two posts on my blog, I’ve “made it” for that week.

    Thanks for the post.
    ps and the goalpost!


  6. Thanks for the post. I do not believe if writing is your passion you can ever ‘make’ it. With journalism my goal which when the opportunity was given to me I knew it was not for me. Then, some success in writing for papers etc. Having now written and had published two novels and 1 book of meditations. I surely don’t think I have made it. No one reading this would have ever heard my name. Writing for me is so much more than being known or even being appreciated……writing is like a life-force inside. If I had to write to support myself I think I would starve because I simply write. Blogging is a joy……It just IS ‘out there’ Keep shifting the goal post …….maybe the best think we can write will be when we can barely even hold a pencil. Enjoy writing! Let it be both your passion and your joy.

  7. Thank you,ladies. I hope to become a freelance and published writer but I have already written 13 blog entries ( so I feel like I am reaching people. I am writing what I want and getting great feedback so yes, I am a writer!

  8. Thanks for another wonderful post making yet again another interesting read. I have asked before but got no response – what does NHWN mean? Given the name of this blog I would have expected initials to be LTW-WTL so this is really bugging me. Will someone please answer?
    Going back to the subject I believe, and this seems to be borne out by the responses given that success as a writer is an individual thing. For some, publication is the be all and end all, for others earning enough to make a living, still others just showing up regularly to the blank page, still others all, or a variation of these achievements.
    For me, success is achieving whatever it is I set out to do as a writer and being pleased with the end result, whether it is an article, writing practice, or as I’ve recently joined the realm of bloggers, publishing my post/pages. Success for me is sharing my heart and touching someone’s life, perhaps changing someone’s negative perspective, bolstering someone’s self-esteem with my words, bringing life, or understanding, or hope.
    I recently completed my final draft of a non-fiction book. Success has been its completion after years and years of having this as a yearly goal. The next stage of success will be its manifestation as a self-published book achieving a long, long, longstanding dream. And the stage after that will be success in terms of readership, which will hopefully translate into monetary rewards. But the ultimate success will be its transformation from my imagination to manuscript, to book form (finally), to marketplace. Yay!

  9. To me success is multidimensional. I feel successful when I see my characters coming to life in the novel I am writing. I feel successful when I post a blog or status update that makes people thinking outside their world. I will feel successful when I witness my novel as a published work for all to read. Just living my dream of being a writer in any way, shape, or form makes me feel successful. 🙂

  10. As an old black woman riding a bus years ago said to my husband, at that time, when he told her he was thinking of becoming a preacher said; “Honey you either is a preacher or you ain’t, no one can make you that but God.” I think I am a writer, yes God has called me to write a few books which I am working on diligently. But I have been journaling since I got my first diary around age 10. Am I a writer, yes. Have I been published, other than blogging? No. I just IS one. giggle.

  11. I have loved everyone’s take on this question. I am yet to think about making it as a writer, probably because I have not even reached the point where I can own my own writing, and so I blog anonymously. I still write mostly because I have something to say, sometimes to myself. But why am I always disappointed when no one reads my blog?

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