Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Are we there yet?

I recently came across an award-winning writer I'd not previously heard of, who had written a dozen books or so, and who was published with a variety of reputable book publishers. Add to that being a professor at an Eastern college and you'd figure this author had arrived, right?

Well, why not, with a literary reputation and a position in acadamia. Back in the day before I worked in publishing, I'd have been envious of his accomplishments.

Since viewing Kindle rankings is an everyday activity of mine in my work with WiDo, I'll often check out author or publisher Kindle rankings, to see how their books compare in sales tours. Some of my own books' Kindle rankings aren't that great-- but compared to this particular author's, they were absolutely impressive.

What's the definition of writerly glory these days? It's definitely changed from when literary accolades and a scholarly resume were part of the formula. Clearly money enters into the equation. I imagine bestselling novelists like Danielle Steele and Stephen King, or self-published success stories like Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey, make more in one month's royalties than my anonymous writer/professor here will get in a lifetime of book sales.

But surely it's not just about money or fame or Kindle rankings.

Success is ever-changing, depending on where one is in the journey. When you get a publishing contract and/or an agent or even just finish the darn book: this definitely feels like success. I'm a fan of celebrating every step along the way. A finished manuscript. A contract. A launch. A positive review. Whatever it is, celebrate!

I use a pattern of personal goal-setting and forward movement to avoid envy, vanity, frustration, discouragement and such discomfort that comes with comparing oneself to others. It helps keep me on an even keel with my writing career. So wherever I am at the moment can feel perfectly okay, while continuing to work toward what's next.

As a writer, do you feel like a success yet? If not, what would need to change to make it happen?


18 comments:

  1. Great post! I feel like I'm in a very lucky place in my writing journey. I think that keeping my expectations low and hopes high made small successes feel like bigger ones. Feedback that indicated someone liked one of my drafts, personalized rejections from agents--all reasons to celebrate. Right now, I'm more that satisfied with where I am, but I guess I'd say that to feel "successful" in the next few months, I'd like to be able to translate the vague idea in my head into a draft of some sort :)

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    1. Jess, "keeping my expectations low and hopes high made small successes feel like bigger ones" -- awesome! I'm all for aiming high but expectations need to match reality, and sometimes that's at a low which wouldn't translate to success compared to others. But it's comparing oneself to others all the time that creates internal anguish.

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  2. Thoughtful, Karen. I had to redefine success for myself when I began writing because I knew my writing career would never qualify as successful in society's terms of fame and money. To me, if one person is touched by my words, I have succeeded.

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    1. Same here, Karen. I am continually redefining success for myself. Right now it's to get back to writing full time and flesh out my current wip.

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  3. My definition of writerly glory is an author whose work has "stood the test of time"--work that is applicable through decades of time. Not just the flavor of the month, but work that locks in universal themes.

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    1. Susan, I agree. So few have achieved that and often they're dead anyway and can't appreciate it.

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  4. That's very good advice to both keep an eye on competitors but also to celebrate every writing achievement--big or little. It's kind of lonely being a writer. We really do have to cheer ourselves on sometimes.

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  5. Great post as always. It makes me realize how very difficult it must be to be a writer. Before I met bloggers who were writers, all I did was pick up a book and read it with no thought of how it came to be there, in the book store, published, and ready for me to buy. I now appreciate what writer go through and you all have my respect and best wishes.

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  6. In many ways I am so fortunate that I am at 54 "new" to this whole process. I write because I love it. I write because I have a story that is burning to be told. I write because I know for a fact that dust mounds the size of toddlers will not kill me. I write because whether or not my novel is ever published I still have a lifetime of non-literary accomplishments behind me. My only concern is that I'll live long enough to write all the stories lined up in my head fighting for space! Success will be measured not in fame or cash (but I will of course accept them, I'm not completely loony) but in a hope chest full of manuscripts my grandchildren can discover upon my demise.

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  7. I do feel like a success every time I finish writing another book. It's a personal goal and I'm always happy to have another to submit.

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  8. I think I've achieved a certain measure of success. But the trick is, that I want more. :-)

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  9. Great post - as always - Karen.

    I don't check rankings, period. I know you have to as an editor, but it's made my life better! Now I go by reviews and messages from readers. They are far more fullfulling.

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    1. Donna, I check my own the least of all! Nothing like lousy reviews and disappointing rankings to quell the writer spirit. I'd recommend not checking at all unless necessary for marketing purposes. Smart that you don't! Want me to go take a peek for you LOL

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  10. I feel like I've taken a few steps up the later to success but the climb is a long one. The literary marketplace, I believe, is far behind other genres in embracing the digital age.

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  11. I basically rarely feel like a success, except fleetingly after a good review or something. Which is wrong, I know - I really should take your advice and celebrate each achievement more...

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  12. Award winning doesn't translate to sales. I'd rather a lot of people read my books than any of them win an award.
    Having my first book accepted for publication was a big success to me. Amazon best seller rankings was beyond success and I'm more than happy with that. Ultimately, the journey has been the true success.

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  13. Maybe the biggest reward is the sense of accomplishment.
    Personally, I would feel successful if I could just get back some of the enthusiasm for writing that I used to have.

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