I happened across this provocative little piece on Reddit and it got me thinking. How do you define success as a writer? What does it mean to you to "make it"?
To be fair, while I found this post cynical and even a bit incindiery, I can't deny its core message; a great deal of us will never achieve mainstream success. Not for lack of talent, mind you, at least not in my opinion. As Jeff Bridges said in Tron Legacy; "Life has a way of moving you past wants and hopes."
Sometimes we allow life to take away our dreams. We put priority on family, children, responsibilities, and before you know it, those dreams of book signings and Neil Gaiman-like fan bases have fallen by the wayside.
I've never measured my success as writer by financial gain. In fact, I think if you're writing solely to make money, you're in for a world of disappointment.
I've been in a situation where the only way I would keep a roof over my head and eat was by writing. It's the most difficult undertaking on the planet. You learn to function without sleep. It's not a pace I'd recommend, nor one I'm eager to return too.
However, making money is not how I define success. Money finds its way to the ambitious.
Having a complete stranger shout out across social networking that they love my stories, even naming creatures I made up, that's the most awesome feeling in the world.
Having the same people, people I didn't know before I started writing, comment on my blog and tell me how much they enjoy my work. Or seeing another subscriber pop up. Or seeing my work shared across the internet.
That, to me, is successful. When people find you solely through your talent, and praise you and respect you for it, that is success. When you're viewed as an authority on your subject, that is success.
That also means, countering the article I referenced at the start of this post, that I'm not alone.
So writers, I say to you, it's true. The odds are against you. The chances are high that you will never achieve the type of success that Rowling, King, Gaiman, and even the much-reviled Meyer has.
That is not to say that you can't do it. Quite the contrary, if you're talented, and willing to endure every heartache, failure, and rejection that rains down upon you, then you have what it takes. You can do it.
And I guarantee you, as one who's made the mistakes and kept going, if you persist, if you never, ever give up, and commit yourself to your craft and the betterment of what you do and who you are, I promise you; you will not die alone.
You may, or may not, achieve mainstream success. Bear in mind that all of these people, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, JK Rowling, and Stephanie Meyer (hey, love it or hate it, Twilight is a massive success) were all beginners just like us. If they can, you can.
But if you stick with it, you'll see results, I promise.
Thanks for reading, and good luck.