This made me then think of another thing I had read recently, an article in The Guardian written by a person who called herself a failed novelist, simply because she had failed to publish her two manuscripts. Now this brings us to the crux of this post, what does success look like to you as a writer? This is a very important thing for any writer to consider, because your motivations for writing will determine how you deal with success and the inevitable failure that comes in the writing world. Yes I did say failure, writing is all about failure, failure to fully articulate your intentions, failure to find a publication to take your work, failure of critics to understand your work, failure to sell, failure to repeat a success, failure to develop… So many types of failure. As a result, you need a good coping strategy otherwise you are likely to sound as bitter as the anonymous failed novelist. The flip side of this is success.
What about success, what does success look like to you? For many people I meet, success looks like a multimillion dollar selling book series, and a castle in Scotland, like a certain UK writer, whom I shan’t mention because we all know who I am talking about. If instant wealth and monetary success is the only bar you are using to measure your worth as a writer, it might be best to quit now, you’ll quit as soon as your manuscript fails to find a publisher anyway. Save yourself the frustration and tears, and go back to being a reader. Yes, that was harsh wasn’t it? I am not saying that this doesn’t happen, as patently it does, but as an unknown unpublished writer the odds of this happening are astronomical. The media publicises these people because they are so uncommon, not because they are typical of how most writers achieve success. The average yearly income for a working writer from their writing is about $12,000 in Australia, which is less than the dole. And those are the winners!
Again I ask: What does success look like to you? Knowing and having a realistic vision of success will help you to deal with failure better. For some people success is having their work read by strangers, for others it is leaving a coherent and detailed account of their family to their descendants. It might be publishing a blog, or an e-zine. Successful writing may need no audience at all, the cathartic aspect of writing having done its work. The point I am trying to make here is that only you can define success, it is no point me or anyone else setting the bar for you. Only you know how hungry you are and what will satisfy that hunger.
If you write, and cannot imagine your life without writing, then you are a writer. Money doesn’t make you a writer, just as several rejected manuscripts doesn’t invalidate you as a writer. So again I will as you: What does success look like to you? Because your answer will make all the difference as you strive to achieve it.
What I’m really thinking: The failed novelist, by Anonymous, The Guardian, accessed 18/4/17 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/apr/01/what-im-really-thinking-the-failed-novelist