What Does Success Mean?

What Does Success Mean?

I stumbled across this question while reading a blog post yesterday, and it was unrelated to writers. This question, which clearly had the blogger stumped, was just as thought-provoking for me. I thought I would turn it on all of you. 

“Success” is a complicated word. Writers at any level of their careers can struggle with this problem of properly defining “success”. So, what is success, in your opinion? Now, before you jump in and tell me that success is a house in the Hampton’s and a summer home in France, which are worthy goals, to be sure, perhaps you should give yourself time to ruminate on this question. I posit this question to you, and then dare you to come back to it five years later. I bet your answer would change. 

The truth is that we’re all in the same crazy boat, whether we’re just starting out as writers, or whether we’re self-published or traditionally published. The competition is fierce, forcing us to get rather creative in our author journeys. Both indie and traditionally published authors have to work their butts off, and anyone who thinks it’s simple is just plain wrong. So, I urge you to consider the following questions carefully.

1.     How do you define success?

2.     What are your goals as an author?

3.     Why do you write?

4.     Is there a moment that has made you especially proud? Or more than one?

5.     What do you require to be happy?

“Wait a minute, Marie. This is getting deep. Aren’t you going too far?”

Not really. As authors, we must constantly reevaluate our goals, and shape them as trends change. We evolve as writers, just as we grow as people through our experiences. And I sincerely think these questions can help anyone, even if you aren’t a writer.

What does “success” mean to you? Is it measured by a steady paycheck and food on the table? Or do you have loftier goals in mind? What is your passion? Have you pursued it? If you haven’t, why not? And what will satisfy you in the long run?

As an author, is it enough to see how far you’ve come? Maybe not, but it should weigh into your goals on some level. Why not take a moment and recognize it? Did you imagine you’d be here five years ago? Well, heck, I certainly didn’t! I was just trying out the self-publishing fad after years of writing and actively working on my big manuscript. Fast forward five years and now I’ve published twenty books, I run three blogs, moderate several discussion groups on LinkedIn and Facebook, I’ve had numerous author interviews, both on blogs and on the radio, written countless articles, and the story ideas just won’t quit. I’m just plugging away, steadily working on my goals. Instead of thinking, “Well, gee, I’d love to be a millionaire someday”, I am thinking of specific projects, and what kind of progress I’d like to make on those.  

So, what is success to you, and how do you go about defining it?  Maybe you have a role model you look up to, someone you know has gone through a lot to get where they are today. Well, that’s great! Is that person your idea of “success”? Or could you also be just as inspired by a mother of three who works a day job, manages to get a promotion, and still carves some quality time out of the day to spend with her children? 

No matter our goals as authors, we can’t forget that we are human beings as well. How do your goals fit into your life? Life will go on regardless of whether we write. The clock will keep moving, and the people who depend on us will still require our attention. Being an author can feel like a solitary, juggling journey at times, but it’s not exactly lonely. A whole community of writers who’ve been through the same thing, who are going through the same thing, are out there as well.

Despite all of that, it’s good to define your idea of success, and answer some important questions for yourself from time to time. Your answers may change as you grow as an author.

So, what is “success”? I’ll give it a go. To me, it is pursuing your dreams and taking the risks to achieve them.

What are my goals? I don’t ask for the moon, and I don’t really care for being a millionaire. My ultimate goal is to make it into a bookstore, and I don’t mean just walking into one. LOL. I’d like to see at least one of my titles on the shelves. 

I don’t know how it will happen and I don’t know when, but there it is. I think the goal is achievable, and I will continue to work towards it while enjoying the crazy journey along the way. Do I have other goals? Sure, I do, but they are smaller goals, as aforementioned. The great thing about being an author is that you can reshape your goals as publishing trends change. Will bookstores go out of style? Will ebooks take over entirely? I don’t know, but honestly, I am satisfied with where I am right now.

Why do I write? I am answering the call inside of me, the urge to put pen to paper, and I am honoring the characters who need their stories told.

A proud moment, or moments? There have been a few. Receiving a book contract was one, and I can’t even describe how it felt to see my book in print for the first time. Amazing! And third? Well, I think I feel a wonderful thrill every time that I finish a manuscript. There’s just something about knowing the world you’ve created has played out to the best of your ability, that you’ve told your story and honored your characters. 

And then there’s that tricky question…

What do you require to be happy as a writer or author? For myself, just give me the ability to write (a keyboard, or a pen and paper), maybe some fresh air and a good drink like hot tea or water. Then I am set! I don’t need anything fancy, just that connection to the page, to the story and I know I can’t lose. Writing is who I am. To take it away would be a personal tragedy. If I ever get stranded on a deserted island, I'm probably screwed because I'd have no creative outlet. Although if I could find a way to create a makeshift pencil, I guess I could write on palm leaves. LOL. But, I digress. Back to the topic of success.

So, is that enough for you? Can you content yourself with how far you’ve come as a writer or author (remember that those successes should be celebrated too!), and knowing that you are still working towards your ultimate goals? An even if you’re not a writer, these questions can be just as thought-provoking. Let me change it up a bit in that case.

1.     How do you measure success?

2.     What are your professional/personal goals?

3.     What is your passion? Why do you do it? If you haven’t pursued it yet, why not? What’s standing in your way?

4.     Think about some of the proudest moments in your life.

5.     What do you require to be happy?

Wow! See how that completely changed everything? Why shouldn’t we take a step back from our busy lives, and try to define “success” for ourselves? It will mean something different for everyone. Maybe your definition of success is that mentor you’ve always looked up to. 

Perhaps it’s one or both of your parents. Just because that person isn’t in your industry doesn’t mean you don’t admire their trials and successes, big or small. Or maybe success for you is defined by a specific item you’d like to earn or acquire.

So, what does success mean to you? Think about it. I dare you.


  1. The journey, of course, is most important to me. On my travels, I make and achieve goals and enjoy other authors I meet along the way. Every day is a chance for a new learning experience: To look back on that road and see how far I've come; or to look ahead and see how far I still have to go. I measure success in small steps. Even if I have to backtrack or stop for a rest once in a while, I keep trying to move ahead. Where I'll end up, I don't know--but that's the fun of it!


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