08 August 2014

What is Success?

Recently I’ve been considering how my writing goals have changed over the years. Like many people, I started writing the great novel. I got to about the 20,000 word mark, and realised my idea didn’t have the legs to be a novel. Around that time, I took a couple of writing courses and read a number of writing books. Through the courses, I met a small group of other writers who also wanted to be part of a critique group, and so I had the feedback I needed.  I left the 20,000 words of my novel behind, and started writing short stories. I really recommend this as a great start. It allows you to work through all those autobiographical stories and ideas in the short form without trying to force them into a novel, and you come out of the other side with new inspiration and characters to use, as well as improved writing and editing skills.

Short stories don’t take as long as a novel. You get to practice both the first draft and editing stages far more frequently.

After writing, editing, feedback and more editing, I began to feel I was improving, and so the writing itself wasn’t a big enough goal.

That was when I really started setting writing goals. Firstly, to send stories off to competitions. There were plenty of black holes when I never heard anything, or occasionally received a list of winners (my name being absent!). Mixed with that were a few modest successes. They were the highs, and on the back of those I changed my goals and sent stories to magazines. Later, there was the goal to write a novel – mostly to prove to myself that I could.

I gave this post the title What is Success? There is no definitive answer. Success is different to each of us, and it changes over time. 

What is your definition of success? 

BUT, the big question is - how will you know when you’ve reached it?

To know when we’ve reached our goal, we have to be able to measure it.

To say, I want to entertain people, isn’t specific or measurable. What do you mean? Do you want to read out loud to an audience? How will you know if your readers have been entertained? 

I recall reading a post from a writer outlining her goals, some of them were specific sales totals per month. At that time I was speechless (doesn’t happen often!) at her targets. I’m still a significant way from her numbers, but closer than I was last year.

Your goals will be personal to you. They might include a certain word count every week, sales targets, winning a competition prize, or a specific number of good reviews from people you don’t know. We have control over some of these goals, but others are out of our personal control.

Whatever way you envisage success, I think it’s important to know what you’re aiming for, and how close you are to reaching it.

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