Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines success as “favorable or desired outcome.” That’s like trying to eat a large designer cake in one bite. There are as many interpretations of that as there are people on the planet. And there are traps within personal definitions of success—traps where you give the responsibility away to others. As a result, it’s hard to pin down what success means to you. If you don’t define success for yourself in a realistic way, you may inadvertently say no to success. Think of success in simpler terms. What flavor of success do you want?
What does it look like? How do you measure success? Is success a book published, a book sold, a certain number of books sold, a certain amount of money earned? All the usual definitions may leave you unsatisfied. Why? Because most of those things are not in your control.
What You Can’t Control
You can’t control readers Not how many you get nor how they respond to your book. Even when you do mega-research on your genre, you have no control over a single reader.
You can’t control sales. Certain marketing maneuvers will increase the possibility of sales, but you cannot control the number of sales you get in a day, a week, or a lifetime.
Winning awards or gaining best seller stickers aren’t in your control (or you shouldn’t be able to control those things.)
What You Control
As a writer, you can control how much time you dedicate to learning and plying your craft. You can control the number of words you write, the skill with which you write, and how you publish a book. (Fortunately, there are more options for publishing your book today than ever before.)
You can even control (within the limits of your fiscal abilities) how much advertising you do.
Best of all, you control your definition of success.
How Do You Define Success?
Your definition depends upon why you write. And your why won’t be the reason any other writer writes.
Joanna Penn, of the Creative Penn fame, has an excellent blog post and podcast on what makes a good definition.
Better yet, is the recent post on SFWA’s website, Story Cake by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley. In her post she admits to having different definitions of success for different pieces of writing. She compares the success of a story (or novel) to the success of baking a cake. That cake brings delight and enjoyment to a small group of family and friends.
Give Yourself Permission
Allow yourself to enjoy small successes–no matter what “job” you’re doing. Give yourself permission to celebrate the mixing of the ingredients, the baking, the icing and decoration, and in delivering the confection to a single person. Take pleasure in that smile from the person who ate a slice of your strawberry cake.
Think about each story or job as a different recipe. What flavor of success do you want for that story, that job? Give yourself permission to enjoy all the flavors of success.