Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Writing 101: Success as an Author

I've been thinking a lot, lately, about success. As a writer, it's my job to define words and think about what they mean. Sometimes, I'll agonize over a single word in a sentence for so long it's the only one I get to write that day. As a person, it's easy to get overwhelmed by bills and living expenses and big emergencies and all the rest. And as an author, I've realized that I have no idea what success actually is. 

Are You a Success? 

Are you a success? Before you ask yourself the question, figure out what the heck that word means to you. Because every writer knows that words contain shades of meaning within different shades of meaning. The word opulent may have personally negative associations for me, while to you it just means extra lavish

So you get to find your own definition of success (and maybe you'll share yours with me). 

Does it mean that you're financially comfortable? That you have no worries? That you don't panic when you get an unexpectedly enormous bill to pay? To some people, that's exactly what success means.

But are you still a success if you hate what you do in order to earn that money? Suppose you're a killer for hire making a cool 50 grand for every life you take...and your last target was a 20-year-old soldier? Or a mother of three? Or maybe you just make a ton of money standing in a room and filing all day (because that might be possible somewhere), but your mind is turning to mush and you're bored silly. Are you still a success under these circumstances?

By that measure, are you a success if you're happy with what you do? If you enjoy your days, but every night you have to worry about where your next meal is coming from...are you a success then? 

And let's not forget the factors that are unique to authors. Are you success if you get a lot of 5-star reviews...or even just one? Are you a success if you get a real, bona fide fan letter? Or are you only a success if your book becomes a bestseller?

I don't have the answers, because I don't get to judge whether or not you are a success. That's the real secret of the question: you're the only one who can ever answer it. Don't let someone else answer that question for you. You define your own success, and you make it happen as best as you can. Success as an author means shutting out every one else's opinion...and just figuring out your own. 

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