Understanding Success as a Unpublished Writer

This is a short companion post to last week’s piece about my failure board.

I thought I was going to be published within a couple years of writing my first novel. When that didn’t happen, and when my failure board had begun to grow I knew I needed to reevaluate the way I measured my success, separate from my success of being published or I would get discouraged and leave writing behind. It can be easy to think that the only way to be considered successful in writing is when you can find a book you’ve written in a bookstore.

I am an unpublished writer*, but I consider myself a successful writer. Here’s how I measure that success.

On my success board, which is next to my failure board, I’ve put the writing accomplishments of which I’m most proud. For me, it is things like how many words and novels I’ve written, it is how many words I’ve written in as short a time as I can manage, and, more recently, it was making it to the longlist for the 2018 CBC Short Story Prize.
When I let go of the idea that to be a successful writer I needed to be published, I was able to enjoy what I had already done, and set more reasonable and attainable goals for myself as a writer for the future.

My measures of success are likely to be different than yours. You don’t have to write a hundred novels to feel successful. You don’t have to win NaNoWriMo to be successful. I think every writer’s success is determined by what they understand their skills and accomplishments to be as a writer. The method of determining a writer’s success shouldn’t be dependent on other writers of experiences. Determining your success as a writer should be based personal benchmarks rather than on a comparative global scale of writers everywhere.
I am much more oriented toward being a jack of all trades rather than a master in one area, meaning, my success is based on the types and breadth of my writing. I love trying new styles and genres. I like bending rules and trying on a hundred ways to do an idea, but that doesn’t mean you will, or necessarily should. I call a 10,000 word day an accomplishment, but that might not be the way you write, so that might not be the way you measure success.

I’m not published yet. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a successful writer. I’ve just had to learn how to adjust what I consider successful writing to look like.

What accomplishment have you reached that makes you a successful writer?

*When I say I am unpublished, I mean I have no traditionally published novels. I don’t consider my blog to be a collection of ‘published’ work.

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