GUEST POST by Robbie Myles - What Does It Mean to be a Successful Writer?

   

     What does it mean to be a successful writer?

     Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this question. People write for many different reasons, and some are more successful than others. But what does success mean? Is some people's writing more successful because they put more words on paper? Is it more successful because they got it done quicker and more efficiently? Did they get recognized or paid for their writing? How do you measure success in writing? Here are a few of my thoughts.

Now, I’ve always been a writer - seldom published up to this point, but I’ve always written, just like my dad before me. He was a successful comic book writer. They even had his books in stores. Man, I used to love going to the comic shop and seeing my dad’s name right up on the shelf. They weren’t purchased often as I recall, but that didn’t matter to me. My dad was a full-on writer, he was successful!

Just a few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague about writing. I mentioned that I was working on a new manuscript, and that I had written roughly fifteen thousand words. I was shooting for thirty thousand. I was so proud to share this information. I had written several books before, geared towards 7-12 year olds, but never eclipsed the 25k mark. I had my story this time, and I knew I would make it to 30k. I felt great about it. “That’s cool!” she said. And it was cool, I thought to myself.

She went on. “My friend just moved to California, and she’s a successful writer! She writes professionally!” That comment really put me down. I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt me, but I began thinking long and hard about what she said. It stuck with me all day and night. I even lost sleep over it. And here I am writing about it several weeks later!

I couldn’t not think about what she said - about writing “professionally.” What does that even mean? Was she published? Was she making money? I pictured her going to giant galas with fancy artists drinking all kinds of different wines. Is that what she meant by successful?

Her words were eating me up, draining me. So what did I do? Well, I wrote. I began writing more than I had ever written before. I had an innate desire to be successful. I wanted to be like her writer friend in California. That’s the goal, isn’t it? That’s the dream? To make big money and write for a living?

In my fury of writing, I realized several things. First of all, I was doing some of the best writing of my career, and I was having a blast doing it. I pushed myself every morning to wake up and do at least one hour. Some days I wrote 100 words, and others I wrote 1,000. But everyday I woke up and I wrote. There was one day that I woke up and was ill with a terrible cold. I was unable to write that day, but I had ideas flowing. I stayed on the course and believed in moving forward. Things get in the way. Not every path to success is short and easy. The following day, I got up and went straight back to my laptop. The engine kept running.

Even though I’ve always doubted myself as a writer, I believed in myself this time. There was something about the way my colleague used the word successful that irked me in just the right way. I wanted it, I craved it. If my colleague’s friend could be successful, so could I!

I had a brief run-in with success roughly 6 years ago. I wrote a short story and submitted it to R.L. Stine’s website. For those of you unfamiliar with that name, he’s the author of the greatest selling children’s books of all time, Goosebumps. I won the contest, and was his special guest at a cocktail party at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd street in New York City. What an experience! I met him and so many other great authors like Lee Child and Jeffrey Deaver. While validating, it was short lived. But, for that one night, I felt like a success.  I felt like I was an acclaimed author, getting paid by the millions writing book after book after book.

Anyway, that was a success, right? I had done it, I had been recognized for my writing! And not only that, but it was by one of the most famous authors in history. I didn’t make any money off of it, but I had finally done it. I had put my work out there, and been rewarded for it. What was my reward again? Don’t get me wrong, getting to meet R.L. Stine, and hanging out with him for a night was everything I’ve ever dreamed of and more. But it didn’t quench my thirst of being successful. Not at all.

Back to my colleague and her friend, I knew now that this was my turn to be successful. I was well on my way to finishing my book, and I was confident it would be published. At that point, once again I would be recognized for my work and my days as a successful writer would begin. Wouldn’t they? Or would I once again be left wanting more? What if I didn’t feel any different after my book was published? Then what?

So, back to what it means to be successful. Everyone’s different, and I think people write for different reasons. However, in my recent experiences, I’ve learned some really important things about myself. The first of which is that I don’t just want to write, I need to write. It’s an insatiable hunger for me. It gives me a superpower that I can’t possibly describe. I can fly. I can soar. When I put word to paper, the world goes away. Nothing else matters. The next is that I am undoubtedly, without question, most certainly, and unequivocally a successful writer. I’m successful because I write. I don’t need money to tell me that. I don’t need to be published to tell me that. Sure, recognition is nice, but I don’t need that either. All I really need to be successful is myself. My ideas. My laptop. My mind. My characters and my worlds. That is what being successful as a writer means. It means having the courage and desire to wake up everyday and do what you love. It means doing it in the face of everyone who disagrees with your story, and thinks they are better. None of it matters.

You, writer, are successful for putting pen to paper, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.

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