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Starry-eyed teens in love with writing, new writers with a nearly finished manuscript at home, and people flashing and shorting their way to their first anthology all have something in common. They need to define when they succeed.
Writing is a tough business. Most success is measured in money. By that measure, few writers ever succeed.
David B. Coe, who by most writers’ measurements is successful, touched on this topic in More on Success and Rejection during a 2011 Magical Words posting.
When I talk to people interested in writing, I tell them to define their success now. Record it.
Otherwise when moving up in the publishing world they will continue to compare success to the level (or levels) above where they are, never seeing the success of the journey they made. The object of recording a first level of success is celebrating when reaching it, then setting another one – like graduation from high school then moving on to a first job or college.
Success in the writing world for a beginner isn’t about huge stacks of cash or being a best seller on the New York Times list. That is like telling a T-baller to shoot for the Hall of Fame, ignoring the millions of other T-ballers and the hundreds of other success levels between. If you only care about the fame and fortune, find a different aspiration.
What goals would be a good first success? It depends on the person. For some, the writing goal is to complete a story, others is acceptance by a publishing company – any company, others it is having a real book with their name on the spine, others it is selling one book to someone else, and still others having a book signing is when they feel the success. Once a goal is clearly defined, choosing a path between self-published and traditional becomes clearer, or whether publication is needed at all.
Remember other people’s goals and success is not yours. For someone, they may want to make a living to be successful, but that might not be you. Getting a single book completely written, sold, edited, and published is pretty awesome.
Don’t be afraid to aim low. Taking a step on a staircase isn’t self-defeating – trying to jump up to the third story in one leap is.
Figure out what your goal is.
I’ve posted some of mine over the years. Starting a blog. Completing a self-published book. Setting up a website. Being a guest at a convention. Getting published by someone else. Participating in an anthology. Each goal isn’t big, but I have reached them. Future goals include getting more books published, getting into more anthologies, and editing a best-seller.
WRITING EXERCISE: Create one simple goal to reach for this year. Does it depend on stuff entirely under your control or do others have an impact on it? Example: submitting to five anthologies is under your control, being accepted by one isn’t. Although, one (being accepted by an anthology) isn’t going to happen without the submission. Define your simple goal with activities entirely under your control; you can add a bonus for results requiring responses of others to your activities.