Have You Changed Your Mind About Writing Success?

Wednesday, November 01, 2017
A while ago, I wrote a post asking Muffin readers if they had ever written about something that they never thought they would. I also posted a version of the same question on my blog, and I received a lot of interesting responses. It turns out that in our writing journeys, things don't always go exactly as we planned. Most of the time, this turns out to be a good thing because we might be published in ways we never thought possible.

For writers, we also become surprised by how we define success. At my critique group over the weekend, we had a huge talk about success because one writer is doubting her ability to succeed at writing. Because she has children who will go to college, she is wondering if she will ever make enough money at her writing career. We all encouraged her to go for it right now. Her kids are young. She is working on a trilogy--one book published, next under contract, and currently writing the third. Her youngest child will be in full-day Kindergarten next year, and we said: give your writing and success some time. She might just surprise herself. But making money with her writing is how she defines success. And I'm sure none of us blame her. Actually, book sales and royalty checks are a measure at how well you are doing at marketing and knowing your audience. But does it define your writing success?

I'm going to say: NO, and not just because we at WOW! like to be inspirational and encourage you to follow your dreams and keep writing. I'm going to say that success is measured by each individual writer and his or her ability to reach writing goals. I'm also going to venture that similar to the topics we write about or the formats we use expanding beyond what we thought was possible when we started writing, success is always changing, too.

For me, I wanted to publish articles and stories for kids. I wanted to get something accepted by Highlights Magazine. I wanted to make money writing. I wanted to get books published. I wanted to be invited as a speaker at conferences. I wanted to do school visits.  I have done all of these things, and yet, I am like my critique partner. I don't feel overly successful right now. Why?

Good question! I'm not really sure. I think for it is because I had to put a halt on the path I was on when I got divorced. A lot of the time I spent marketing and speaking is now spent with a full-time job and single parenting. But this question is something I really want to explore for myself in the next few months. So, I'll be back with an update, but in the meantime, how are you currently defining success for your writing and is this different than when you first started?

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach, published children's author, blogger, editor, and instructor. She works full time as an editorial assistant for a farm media company. Find out more at margoldill.com. To sign up for her WOW! novel course, go here. 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--Blogger ate my earlier comment.

You ARE a successful writer because you've written (and gotten published) several books, you write on a regular basis, you belong to a writing critique group, and you submit stuff.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I agree with Sioux! You are successful, and I've noticed that your divorce and single parenting have started an entirely new writing path for you (your blog, your memoir-type posts), and I'm super impressed.

For me, the definition of success has totally changed. I used to be focused more on making money as a writer and now I'm more focused on personal growth. For me, right now, success is just getting words on the page. I know that seems like I'm aiming pretty low, but I'm still deciding which project I want to focus on, and as long as I'm writing, I know I'm moving in the right direction.

Margo Dill said...

Thanks, guys. :) You both are so great and supportive.

Ang: I feel like I'm a bit like this too--making money used to be so important to me but now I'm on to getting words on a page and personal growth, too. I totally understand and don't think you are aiming low.

Renee Roberson said...

Even though I haven't gotten rich off my writing, I do feel like I've had a personal level of success with my non-fiction work. But if you had asked me in college if I ever thought I was going to make money writing for parenting magazines I would have laughed and laughed! I do feel like I haven't reached that pinnacle level of success yet, publishing a novel, but I can't complain about that too much because I haven't done any submitting!

You are doing great! I recently took a full-time job too so I'm happy just to be writing regularly and submitting short pieces here and there.

Margo Dill said...

I was thinking of writing some short stories or flash fiction right now too!

Mary Horner said...

I agree with the others, you are successful right now! But another part of success is continuing to make goals and meet them, so you will continue to be successful!

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