the good, the bad, and the ugly about the writing life

Are You a Success?

This is a question for you alone. Don’t ask the friends or spouse. And don’t go searching for your answer on social media.

The only answer that counts is yours.

Are you a success?


As you have realized, it all depends on the definition of success. What’s your definition?

If it has to do with keeping up with someone else, look a bit deeper.

Success for Me

I make a good living in Chicago as a technical writer. While I’m good at what I do, I’m not a success. Not by my definition.

My definition of success is finding a literary agent, getting a publishing contract, and seeing my name in print on a physical book.

I could maybe accomplish these tasks on my own by self-publishing, but that’s not my definition. My definition includes all the pain and heartbreak of seeking and winning an agent.

Add to that that I’ve been chasing this dream on and off for 30 years. I’m either stupid or stubborn. I choose stubborn. Stubborn helps if you have a long-term goal.

Success for You

So let me tell you a story. I teach writing.

For the most part, I teach adult students in a Continuing Education program at a community college. Sweet for me because no grades. I’ll talk more about me and grades some other time.

Often students sign up for fiction writing not so much because they have a novel they want to workshop (think others reading and critiquing their work) but because they need to know if they have IT–the writing gene or the knack or the talent.

Whatever you want to call that thing that makes for a successful writer. In their secret hearts they hope and pray that they do, but they come to me to TELL THEM if they have it.

Sadly, I have no crystal ball. I don’t know who has what it takes to be a successful writer. It probably depends on your definition of success.

Yes, I can clue you in if you’ve got talent—a good grasp of word play, a brilliant imagination, a plot that takes my breath away.

But I can’t tell you if you will be a success. Hell, I don’t know if I will be a success by my definition.

I always try to be positive. People get better as they practice. And, the bald truth is that success as a writer is not always about talent or skill. Often success is about staying the course and not giving up.

The Last Word

That’s a long way around to say that success isn’t about how many things you own but about your own internal benchmark.

So we’re back to my question: Are you a success?

Let me know what “success” means for you.

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