Monday, August 6, 2012

How Do You Measure Your Own Success?



Last week, in response to my post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, many commenters spoke of how a writer’s focus often changes once he or she is agented, signs a book deal, and/or gets published.  It only makes sense that this would happen.  Just as our dreams and careers are not static, neither should our blogs remain fixed. 

The purpose to my blog was to chronicle my journey toward publication.  In the beginning, though I had a book, I had no idea if it was saleable or if I could even consider myself an actual writer.  I met others along the way who were exactly where I was on the journey and many others who were farther along—agented and hoping beyond all hope for a publishing contract.  And still others who had their contract or were even already published. 

I enjoy reading each writer’s contribution, studying their progress, and partaking of their generous advice and experience.  I’ve never felt any jealousy but rather a sense of encouragement that it is all, in fact, possible somehow, if I just work hard enough.  But even having said that, there has to be some measurement of success along the way, some way that we, in our own right, encourage ourselves to continue, to not give up. 

For each of us, I imagine, it’s quite different.  I know when I started blogging, I was excited if one person read and commented on my posts.  Then it became all about the number of followers I had and how many I was adding each month.  After my numbers increased, I measured my success by the number of comments I had for each post.  I still do both of these to some extent, but I’ve become less obsessed with the overall numbers.

In the past few months, it’s been more about my book and who’s added it to their Goodreads TBR pile, but that seems rather shortsighted of me.  Now, all I can think about—the one true way in which I can gauge my own success—is by my writing.  That means I have to write another book. 

Over the last two-plus years, I’ve often wondered if this whole experience is not just some kind of fluke.  I’ve asked myself if I could ever duplicate it, if I could ever do it again.  So that’s how I’ll be calculating my success now.  Can I do it again?  Can I plot and write another novel worth publishing? 

I have my doubts.  Serious ones, too.  I’m working on another story, a sequel to The Mistaken.  In fact, I was flying along in the outline phase until my edits came in from my publisher for the first book.  Then I came to a screeching halt.  Afterwards, one of my dogs died and the other got very sick.  I know once my son goes off to college out-of-state in a little less than two weeks, I’ll have all the time in the world to focus on my new WIP and move it along again.  Still, there’s that part of me that thinks I’ll never be able to do it again.  But I’ve always been of the mind that if I did it once, I can do it again.  God, I sure hope so.


So what about you—how do you measure your own success?    
            

38 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Welcome to my world! I didn't think I could produce a second book and I really didn't think I could write a third that would be worth anything. All I had was the one idea and no plans to go any further with it. So I know that if I managed to pull it off, you can as well.
My idea of success has changed. Now that my first two books have done well, I don't worry about my success as an author anymore. It's more what I can do for others.

S.P. Bowers said...

I try not to measure success other than to keep improving my writing. If I set other standards with blogging or publishing then I just end up depressed.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I don't measure success by getting published. It's that I make progress with my manuscripts and grow as a writer. Because that's what I can control in this writing process.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I agree with S.P. and Natalie. My success is marked by how much my writing has grown and continues to grow. I know people who publish a book and become too focused on the numbers. And if it does well, they go on about it again and again and again. I don't want to be one of those people. I'd rather be the author who works at making her next book better than her last in terms of story and writing.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A lot of it has to do with personal growth as a writer. For me, success is knowing my stories touched someone is a positive way.

Chris Fries said...

Well, I'm still in the baby-step stages, hoping to get something published, so it's not like I'm an an expert, but I think "success" as a writer is really just varying degrees of the same thing:

Do you have readers who have said they've enjoyed your writing? Have your words connected and resonated with another person? Have you made a meaningful impact within the hearts and minds of your readers?

If so, then you're a "success" as a writer, and everything else -- whether you're published or not, financially rewarded or not, widely-known or not -- is just icing on the cake.

JeffO said...

That's a great question, Nancy. It's tough, there are so many possible ways to measure success. Growth as a writer is high on that list, and I think a lot of the other things (agents, publication, etc.) show that growth. One of the dangers of focusing too much on one thing is that, when you achieve it, you may be left adrift, in the 'now what?' boat.

Kelley Lynn said...

Oh no! I'm so sorry about your pup! That's so sad :(

I guess I measure it by just forging on. I finished this MS, I'm editing this MS, it's out on submission, it's getting published (eep!) and then make sure to look back at where I came from. To acknowledge that I am moving upwards. Sometimes that's hard to see when we're just looking forward at the next huge hill.

Michael Abayomi said...

I'm relatively new to blogging and self-publishing (less than a year), so I guess I might not be in the perfect position to answer your question. Yet.

That said, I currently define success by meeting my goals, whether that goal is to write 60,000 words in a month, or to Blog from the letters A to Z. :)

Julie Luekenga said...

Sometimes I reread Bird By Bird and drink a glass of wine. That helps.

Mostly I'm like the little fish in Finding Nemo-- just keep swimming, swimming, swimming and make sure the big chunk of my affirmation comes from pursuing my own goals and dreams. I loved the other comments on here. Encouraging!

James Garcia Jr. said...

It's so funny that you chronicled your steps achieved that way because I did it, too; post hits, followers, social network numbers. Perhaps we all did.
It took me twenty years to write that first book (long story), so when it was done I recall wondering whether I could write another one. That one took 8 months to write the first two drafts, thankfully.
Just keep moving forward, Nancy. No regrets! That's the big thing that drives me. I wasted too much time wishing...

-Jimmy

KarenG said...

I like this post. I'm with you, on measuring success as a writer with how many books are done and out there, and improving with each one, rather than the other stuff we can't control, like how many people buy it or review it.

Heather Gardner said...

You think too much.
Go write!

Saw this and thought of you.

http://christinenolfibooks.blogspot.com/2012/04/pr-basics-for-debut-novelist.html

You're going to do great and you will write more books!
HMG

Lisa Regan said...

I never thought about this. I guess the way I measured it was whether I had an agent or a publisher. I guess I was always looking at the bigger picture--some tangible evidence that I was on the right track, especially since both were so damn hard to come by! Now I have no idea. I guess reader feedback. If I'm connecting with readers, that will equal success for me!

Carrie Butler said...

I'm with Lisa. I find success every time someone connects with my story. :)

Jasmine Walt said...

Sorry to hear about your dogs, Nancy. Right now I'm measuring my success by word count, if we're being honest, lol. And the fact is I'm getting a lot father than I used to with my writing. I think it took me four months to hit the 20K mark on my first novel. With the one I'm working on I hit it in two weeks.

That's not to say that the 20K I wrote isn't total tripe or anything... but they say one of the best things to do is get your first draft down fast and that was always something I struggled with. I think I'm finally starting to get over that hump. Yay!

I'm sure you'll be back on track after your son is off to college. Best of luck. :)

Nicole Pyles said...

It's been so tough for me! I finished my novel earlier this year but my progress came to a screeching halt when I got laid off. Now I am FINALLY employed and I know i will have to reassess everything. Plus my laptop crashed and I have taken a few steps backward because I lost two chapters. And I can't afford a computer just yet, either.

Success to me right now is measured one step at a time. I look at my short term goals and the long term. My short term right now is to finish editing my novel and make money off of my blog. Long term, publish my novel. But one step at a time, of course. :)

Melodie Wright said...

You'll be able to do it again, Nancy. Just wait - you'll be so excited when you sit down and the words just flow.
That's success for me, actually. Getting in The Zone. Love it!

Melodie Wright said...

You'll be able to do it again, Nancy. Just wait - you'll be so excited when you sit down and the words just flow.
That's success for me, actually. Getting in The Zone. Love it!

Rob-bear said...

As a blogger, I measure success by the quality of the conversations I have with people, because of my/their blogs. Not something that one can "take to the bank," but it works for me.

I suspect, however, that we Bears think differently from others.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Honestly, this is one of my favourite subjects. I talk about it a lot at book readings, mostly because it's what the readers want to know. I remember when I first got online in 1994 before Wins 95 was released. I was on dial up! I was desperate to fellowship with other writers. I was hungry to know everything I needed to know about the business. Man, have times changed.

As you can imagine there was little in the way of help. I had to stumble and fall and make a fool of myself. I inadvertently joined a university sites where professors got together to whine. After two or three posts that quickly revealed my naivety, they proceeded to ignore me. I was crushed. Okay, I was young so devastated is more like it.

Then I found Novels-L and the rest is history. From there I joined Noveldoc, then Novelpro. I was utterly dismayed during my first critique clinic. I went through periods of deep depression because I thought I was the worst writer in N/A.

Today I'm not the same writer or person. And that's a good thing. I'm calmer, I'm at peace most days, and I'm here if anyone ever needs anything, because even tho it's been several years, I remember what it felt like. I remember very well.

I measure my success by my peace of mind, by how fortunate I am to have met authors like yourself, Nancy. I measure my success by experiencing the wonders of blogland.

Alleged Author said...

I'm definitely still having my doubts about this whole writing thing. But I keep writing. Sending out queries? Not so much. LOL!

Lynda R Young said...

I think every writer has second book jitters. I'm always doubting everything. I wonder if it gets easier? hehehe.

kmckendry said...

Right now I measure my success by if I complete my manuscript, but once that's finished I will change how I measure it. I'm sure if I ever get it publIshed the bar will change again.

Have confidence in yourself I'm sure you can write a great book 2!

tfwalsh said...

My idea of success changes and will probably continue to do so as I write more... right now it's about getting published:)

Al Penwasser said...

I'm sorry, but I really think this is an indication of how my mind works. When I read the title, the first thing I thought of was the line in 'Caddyshack.'
Judge Smails: "Then how do you measure yourself with other golfers?"
Ty Webb: "By height."
I think I have a problem.

The Golden Eagle said...

At present, I measure writing success by what I complete and by how much I learn about the craft. I know I'm a lot better at dialogue and plot structure than I used to be, for example; that's a small measure of success for me.

Empty Nest Insider said...

I'm sorry about your dog. Best of luck getting your son ready for his first year of college! Look how much you've been able to accomplish during this busy year. Now you'll have more time to focus on your writing, and it will take your mind of being an empty nester. Julie

M Pax said...

I keep striving to improve. I consider a steady trickle of sales a success ... my boulder is starting to budge up hill ... so I hope. More people signed up for my mailing list ... now I have to keep the momentum going and build on it. Most of my anxieties come in there.

A fan letter makes for a very good day.

Ink in the Book said...

At this present moment, I measure my success by how many words I can add to my current WIP. When I finally grab an agent, my success will have skyrocketed. And when I finally see my book on the book shelves, well that success will be out of this world!

Karen Elizabeth Brown said...

I recently read a story I wrote early in my writing journey and I cringed at the writing. I realized that I had grown enough to see the change in my writing. To me, that's success!

By the way, there's an award waiting for you on my blog. Congratulations!

Andrew Leon said...

Right now, basically, it's by each person that reads and enjoys my book. Everything else is moving to slowly to try to count.

nutschell said...

I think you definitely have another book in you. Actually, I think you have a lot more books in you. Creativity never really fades once you've had a taste of it, and if writing is your passion, you'll never run out of words!

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Lexa Cain said...

This is a big can of worms. I think it's not only jitters about whether future books will equal or surpass the first, but what effect success will have. Will it be as good as expected? Or will it bring its own new problems with it? I worry about that. Sometimes, I've found having isn't as good as wanting.

Kittie Howard said...

First, I'm sorry about your dog. That's really tough, Nancy. *sends hugs*

About success -- you hit so many nails on the head. I think the commenter above also synthesized much with being adrift after realizing an achievement. I think writing a book drains us -- I know Remy drained me -- and we have to re-fuel, but not like pulling up at a pump; it just has to come. This may take time. And since there's so much growth out of writing a book, I don't think it's possible to duplicate the first experience, like the prom, always a special moment in time, but other dances in life are just as great, often better, actually.

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey Nance,

Thanks for sharing some of your inner tickings and for much of the post I was "oh, I do that, too."

This means I'm not alone in counting various stats - but I agree what's more important: The writing or the number of visits or comments.

Consider where you are now, compared to two years ago, and I would say the comparison is night and day.

So, with your great talents - and soon to be extra time - I think the pen is going to line up with the paper and you'll crank out #2 with no bothers.

Put me down for a signed copy, that's what I'm talking about :)

Aimée Jodoin said...

I tend to measure my success based on the quality of my writing rather than the word count (because lately it's not been much) and because I haven't published anything but one short story in an anthology. Since I haven't had much time to write recently, I've felt extremely unsuccessful; the amount you write, though, while it's hard not to look at it, is not as important as how good the words are. Easier said than done, though. :/

Livia said...

I can totally relate. I keep an eye on those numbers of followers and comments! My purpose for blogging is to gain a wider audience. I will realize soon enough that it isn't about the followers, it's about maintaining your blog and writing good posts.

This is a great post, Nancy!!