How do I measure success? With the metric system.
Seriously, success is difficult to describe, which in part is why we’re writing about it here. My own personal measure of success is not by sales or publishing, though, those are great perks of the job. My measure of success is finishing. Yes, I want people to read my stories, enjoy them and even re-read them. But, to me, that’s validation, not actual success.
Success is starting a project, and seeing it through to the end. Did I have the perseverance to finish a story and the belief that it should be finished? To paraphrase an old adage, “Nothing breeds writing like writing.” If I write, then I should write more. It doesn’t have to be a lot, it just has to keep moving forward, and towards its logical end. Without a endpoint, you’ll get the writing equivalent of Winchester House, huge reams of words that are cobbled together and sometimes dead end.
Success though is conceiving a story in whatever manner you use. Doing the writing to create the story, and finishing the story. That is what I judge myself by; Did I start a story, and most important, did I see it through to the end?
After succeeding at finishing, then other successes are editing for spelling and continuity, checking dialog and description so that it matches my inner vision. I know this sounds like a repeat of writing, and it is. There’s no ultimate success, there’s a bunch of small successes that create a snowball effect for the story. Each piece gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that I completed my self-imposed task.
It isn’t always absolute fun, as there are days where I would rather avoid anything than face the day. Those are the days that finishing something as small as a 500 word section mean the most to me. I succeeded in pushing myself. I got the job, the challenge I gave myself and I finished it.
Don’t get me wrong. I love, seriously love making stories. There are just days where it sucks to sit down a make them. Those are the real successes. I can’t judge by publishing of a book, or how popular a book is. Like I said earlier, those are amazing perks OF writing. But they’re not success AT writing. Success is much simpler, and much harder to me. The thrill of seeing a book in print, is one heck of an exciting validation of my efforts and focus in writing the book.
People in general desire validation as it means they did something right. But as I said, it’s not success, it’s validation. Success is getting yourself to the end of a project, of getting yourself to write, even when you’d rather just vegetate and watch television or play your favorite app/game.
True success is you, and your goals, getting to the end together.