Back in August 2011, I asked the question, ‘So am I a writer?’ here. That was when nobody – nobody at all – was reading my blog. I had scrawled the first (catastrophically rough as it now turns out) 45,000 words of my first ever first draft and written 3 unremarkable short stories, one of which has, astonishingly, been published.
Today, I have produced the completed manuscript of my first novel – that’s 97,000 words give or take – and I have the firm intention to get it out there one way or another.
In the intervening months whilst writing, editing and doggedly refining Singled Out, I’ve continued to earn my living as a business copywriter and marketer. I deliver blog posts for my clients (for which I am paid); I deliver short promotional vignettes for my clients (for which I am paid); and I deliver a slew of output around sales propositions, products, thought leadership and product/service promotion (for which… yes… you got it). So I will, thank you very much, define myself, however cautiously, as ‘a writer’. I write, therefore I am… a writer.
Moving on from this, today, a fellow blogger Eli Glasman at his fascinating blog here, gave me pause for thought on defining success or failure as a writer. It gave me cause to reflect on whether I am – or ever will be – a successful writer.
Here were my thoughts on the matter, commenting on Eli’s blog:
What makes you or I a successful writer? Is it enough simply to write until something – anything – is complete? Must one produce multiple stories, or a novel, or more than one novel? Is it enough that your friends and family love what you write? Is it sufficient to self-publish? Or to be published by an independent? Or do you need the credibility of a mainstream publisher? Do you need sales in the several thousands to consider yourself successful? Do you need an occasional royalty cheque, payment for the odd short story? Is it enough to earn something – anything – from your writing? Or a proportion of your income – one-third, half perhaps? Do you need to be able to live on your writing income? Do you need to be an in-demand speaker at literary events? Would you have to have a place on the bestseller lists? Or a prize – Booker, Costa perhaps? Where does it end?
If you’re one of my writerly blog followers, have you ever considered what would make you classify yourself as a successful writer? It’s a wholly subjective question. And the inevitable follow-on question is this: If one isn’t – perhaps by one’s own definition – successful, does that mean one is an unsuccessful or even, heaven forfend, a failed writer?
I don’t believe so. I might be successful on one level as my freelance work, which is largely writing, supports me. On another level – in the field of fiction – I can’t own the word successful… YET.
I’m going to brand that perspective on the matter ‘success-in-waiting’.