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: 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.
Lisa 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!
Jamie 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.
Julie 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!
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.