1. alw86

    alw86 Member

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    How do you measure your success as a writer without thinking about publication, sales or awards?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by alw86, Feb 3, 2021.

    I admit I stole the idea from something I saw on Twitter. I thought it was interesting, and could be uplifting for those of us for whom things like publication, sales and awards are a bit of a pipe dream.

    For myself, I really want my characters to stick in at least one person's head long after they've finished the last chapter. I want them to feel that kind of love for the work which, if they're inclined that way, makes them want to read or write fan fiction of it. I don't care how weird or warped or unfaithful to my original material it is, what's important to me is that the characters stuck in the reader's head so effectively that they are still 'working' even once the book is closed.

    This is one of those things that, unless I somehow blunder into the next best selling YA series (unlikely, since I don't write YA), I'll probably never know whether this has happened. In my own experience, one book that I still think about 20 years after I read it was the objectively-not-very-good memoir of some random woman growing up in 1960's rural Wales. I can't remember how I got this book, the author's name, or even the title. But I remember how she described her grandmother and other random bits, and even now they pop into my head occasionally. I like to think about this, and remember that even if I never achieve financial success or wide recognition as a writer, if I can just get my stuff out there somehow, it is possible that one solitary person somewhere on the planet will find it and love it and remember it.
     
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  2. Lifeline

    Lifeline North of South. Staff Contributor

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    This is a real good question, and I had to think about my answer for a bit.

    Part one is that I find myself growing as a writer. For example, I couldn't make a particular setting I wrote come alive two years back, but I can, now. New concepts I learn about, fluency of writing and expressing myself. Deeper characterisation, a sense of satisfaction when I read the last line of one of my stories; but I admit all these are purely personal milestones.

    Part two is that my stories are getting read and give something back to their readers. I'm pretty selective who gets to read (I'm still very unsure and shy), and all of my readers are persons whose opinions matter to me. If one of them says that I did well... it gives me confidence that eventually, I'll be able to express what I want to say.

    Yeah, that is what I want as well. Just one and I'll be satisfied.
     
  3. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Modern Dinosaur Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would just like to find myself being taught in schools. If what i wrote was deemed to valuable enough literature that either grade schools or college level classes picked up some of my work to teach students, then i would feel truly successful in writing. I do realize that's a fair bit more lofty than just regular publishing, but I'm honestly a lot less interested in sales profits than I am in writing something that makes strong statements and can be used as an example of how to do things right.

    Super vain, I know, but that's how I look at it. I want to bring something of lasting value to the table.
     
  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Not so good in the 1st POV present tense, but that was my fault for
    taking on a harder tense in the first place.
    So far as per the forum, I take some pride in being the worst writer
    (not so much in the grander scope of things.) :p
    Some people seem to like my writing, even though I have terrible
    grammar at times, or put commas where I don't need them.

    Overall, I would say I am improving with help from group and,
    when someone is brave enough to read my terrible stories/chapters. :)
    So, still kinda sorting it all out, and trying to have fun with it.
    Bang.gif
     
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  5. LisaV

    LisaV New Member

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    Great question. When I get down on myself for abysmal sales (I'm terrible at marketing), my family reminds me that I've written four novels so far. Most people will never write one in their whole life. It's a small consolation, I know. I left a different forum (a FB writer's group), because they were ALL about sales, and it made me feel so inferior and embarrassed. But writing and marketing, I think , are two very different talents. Also, you can do everything right, follow all the marketing plans, but the competition is so high, most people will never even see your book unless you actually put it in their hand. Short answer long, success as a writer to me means I finish a novel and am satisfied with what I've created, even if no one reads it.
     
  6. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

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    Success is subjective. You don't have to look to external factors to be successful.
     
  7. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    1. I land in a lot of anthologies since I write so many shorts, so I always see if any reader-reviews name my story as a favorite. That always makes my day. Even if sales are terrible (sometimes sales are terrible), at least someone liked what I came up with.

    2. I'll tell my kid my idea for an insane story I'm thinking of doing and if his eyes are not glazed over in teen boredom, then I know I'm succeeding. Especially if he's staring straight ahead, intently listening, and grinning.

    3. If I pick up the story months later and find myself laughing at crazy situations I'd forgotten about, then that's great too!

    I guess someone needs to laugh. It doesn't matter who.
     
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  8. Kehlida

    Kehlida Member

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    I think it's unfortunate, but it's common for people to base the average writer's work on how many times they've been published, how their sales look or how many times they've been featured someplace, or how many contests they've won. While all that does hold weight in its own right- one has to consider what a vast plane writing is and how many writers are scrapping for the same "number 1" spot. It's just a fact of life that you can do your very best and do everything the "right way," and still see almost no outside attention or merit for your efforts. ]

    To me, becoming famous as a writer is almost like the idea of becoming internet famous. Some people can set out solely to achieve fame, and it's possible that they do, but others will fail- especially when it's obvious that they're only chasing stardom. But some of the most successful people never in a million years thought they'd become famous, and a random series of events led to their discovery and their subsequent popularity.

    I feel like "success" should at least be grounded internally, from a personal place in your mind or heart. For me, it's being able to see how far I've come both in skill and in life when I look at my poems. I've formed pieces about break-ups, losses, and generally hard times, and being able to pick up something that brings back all those feelings I fought to overcome, or see how my point of view may have changed is very interesting to me.

    Plus, I just enjoy sharing my hobby with people I'm close to, whether it be family, friends, interests or even co-workers. It's this neat thing I can be proud of, and if it helps just one person or just one person feels it's just as neat as I do, then it's all worth it.
     
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  9. ISalem

    ISalem Member

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    Tough one to answer.

    I think one way to measure it, is to look back at my previous writing and see how my writing journey has gone all the way through. It gives me insight into how I grow up as a writer.

    The other way to measure it, is by the influence of my writing on readers' mind and how powerfull my ideas and words were to remian in the reader's mind for as a long time.

    Another way to measure, is by the impact of my writing on other writers. How good enough was my writing to other writers, espeacially new writers who at the first stage of thier writing.

    At the end of the day, I would be satisfied if someone one day fall in love with writing becuase of my writeen works and my writing style.
     
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  10. Thomas Larmore

    Thomas Larmore Member

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    I write for myself. I consider my writing a success if I like it.
     
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  11. Malum

    Malum Offline Supporter

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    I measure it in the word-count of what I feel unable to edit/revise further.
     
  12. Zerndivaz

    Zerndivaz New Member

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    I think success is subjective. For some it would be publishing and for others it would be just finishing a book, or a chapter, or even a paragraph.

    I came back to writing with the goal of publishing a book and now my goal is just to get some words on the page. If I somehow manage to get a full chapter together, I'll have been the most successful thus far. Just trying to take it one step at a time, at this point.

    Putting that much pressure to be "successful" was kind of damaging when I first started this book.
     
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  13. TBWright

    TBWright New Member

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    For me, it's reading back the entirety of a first draft and thinking, there's a good story here. And then after the second draft, being okay with showing it to my close group. If they like it, then the hopeful demographic will probably like it as well.

    Pretty small stakes for sure but it helps keep me focused and always growing.
     
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  14. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Excellent question. I measure it in three ways:

    1. Am I making myself clear? Or can I be misunderstood?

    2. Is it as spare and simple as it needs to be? Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote: "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away."

    3. Can people hear my authentic voice in it? I mentioned elsewhere that a friend of min told me that, when he was reading my writing, it felt like I was right there in the room talking to him. I considered that a high compliment.
     
  15. Ed from Bama

    Ed from Bama New Member

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    Good afternoon to all-

    Since I write 95% of my work on assignment and for publication, I suppose I have to be conscious of how readers react to my work. And how can I measure that? If I keep getting assignments from the magazines I work for because they don't keep using writers who do a bad job.

    I guess personally, I measure my writing success in two ways:
    1. When the byline says "Written by Ed from Bama" which really does make me feel good.
    2. When the check says "Pay to the Order of Ed from Bama" which really does make the bank account feel better.

    Since 99% of my work is non-fiction, I don't have to worry about plot, characters, conflict and all of those other elements I tried to teach my students in high school and college. My biggest writing concern is good solid research and good interviews with experts. But good writing is good writing no matter the nature of the beast.

    good evening to all- Ed
     
  16. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Here's my perspective on this (I'll also think about answering the question at some point, but first I must wax pseudo-philosophical).

    Looking back at the 60's and 70's when I was growing up I now see them as a golden age of creativity and freedom, when the various corporations responsible for developing and marketing artistic production (books, movies, music etc), while of course geared toward profit, seemed to honestly want to promote excellent art. They saw that as necessary to dominance of their field, to maintaining a good image with the public.

    As an example, looking into the history of the prog rock band Kansas I learned Don Kirshner kept promoting them through, was it 3 or 4 albums? None of which ever gave him a popular hit. He pumped millions of dollars into marketing and promotions, while always saying "Come on guys, I really need a big hit on the next album." Eventually his faith in them paid off big when Kerry Livgren came up with Dust in the Wind, followed on the next album by Carry On Wayward Son.

    Now of course if a band doesn't get a hit immediately they're dropped like a hot potato. Film directors are treated the same. There's no longer that necessary period of learning and adjustment where they can develop and start to master their material.

    Then the 80's rolled in along with the personal computer, which was a huge game changer. You can see exactly what I mean in the movie Moneyball, produced by and starring Robert Redford. It details the massive changes in the Baseball industry in the early 80's. Redford plays the owner of the losing-est team in history if I remember right. In desperation, when his only other choice was to dissolve the team and take his losses, he hired a kid fresh out of college who was a computer programmer and had already saved a few struggling businesses by writing algorithms to cut their expenses and basically taking the human decision element out of the equation.

    All the coaches, owners, and the mass media and general public humiliated the hell out of Redford's character (based on a real story), but by the end of that year his team had become the winning-est. And the following season they all had to scramble to hire their own programmers to keep up with the new game.

    This was the birth of the modern approach to 'creative' decisions by corporations—demographic studies, focus groups, statistics, etc. All in the places where formerly the cigar-chomping tycoons would follow their gut instinct or whatever human agency they relied on.

    Not only that, but freedom and creativity and anti-censorship etc were in the air in those days (the 60's and 70's). It was literally a golden age. And as always happens about the time we realize we're living in a golden age, it's already over and the descent begins. Now we continue down that slope. The corporations no longer care about being seen as the one who cares about quality, it's all strictly and nakedly about the bottom line. Cut-throat corporate politics became a thing in the 80's, as did Yuppies. Pure materialism ruled and has been taught and promoted ever since.

    A decade ago I met my niece's boyfriend/fiance, and at dinner when introductions were being made he announced that he was going to be a millionaire by 25. I'm sorry, his actual words were that he 'planned' to do this. I asked him what the plan is, and he laughed and said "Well, not a plan so much as just something I want to do." A little more questioning revealed that he had no skills or talents or education and no actual method by which such a plan could actually be realized. He picked this attitude up from the culture, from the kind of shows, movies, songs, teaching and etc that he was exposed to while growing up. Totally different from how my generation grew up, the influences and attitudes we were taught.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2021
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  17. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure, but I'll tell you what's motivated me, kept my going, and in general affirmed me as a writer - that is, when people have commented on how much they've liked my writing. I've had various comments. It's only recently I've started branching out a bit to letting non-writers read my stuff, to be honest. Amongst writers, I've always had praise. When a writer friend of mine still remembered details and scenes from 5+ years ago over a draft I'm (still) working on (12 years later, finished and shelved, now reopened), I realised I had to have had something there. Another writer/English tutor friend of mine, when she read my writing for the first time some 8+ years ago had told me she almost didn't believe I actually wrote it, as it far surpassed anything she's seen of her college pupils, the majority of whom were older than me. These comments have stuck with me and perhaps given me undue confidence in myself.

    Now as I'm starting to branch out to non-writers, I find they're far easier to please than writers, which shouldn't come as a surprise, but it surprised me anyway. I wasn't there in person to see, but several have told me they cried over some cliche little thing I banged out in 5-10min. A cheesy fluff piece I wrote in one night supposedly gave someone goosebumps lol. I'll take it lol.

    I'm slowly moving into professional writing, I'd say. I'm just about to sign my first contract as a ghostwriter. I've been hired by a professional graphic designer to write a short story, which she's illustrating and self-publishing come March (considering how large the project is though, I doubt it'll come out in March really). I've also managed to sell four name poems via instagram. I haven't got an agent yet, but I've had personalised feedback, requests to revise and resubmit, requests to query them in the future. So, all of this is affirmation.

    For me, ultimately, it has to do with validation by other people. All writers need it, in my opinion, because even having a reader is validation by someone else. I would think people at different stages of their writing journey will have different forms of validation they seek. For the one who's just starting, perhaps validation is simply they finish one novel, whether it's any good or not. And that is a valid criteria of success. For me, after 3 finished novels, that would no longer be "good enough" for me, because it's no longer my personal best. I think at some point, you cannot escape the need to be published if you're seeking success as a writer, rather than simply being good at a wonderful hobby.

    Success is progress, I believe. But ultimately, we all want to be read - if we are writers and no one reads our work, there is no success.
     
  18. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    I have had quite a few stories and novels published, and I always write with that objective.

    But discounting publishing, I list success as actually finishing a project--so that it is the best quality version of that tale I can create, and it's in the best shape I can make it for submission to publishers.

    I have always held the notion that you cannot really hope for success unless you finish projects. Thus, completing a project, especially a novel, is always a major milestone for me.
     
  19. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    The things mentioned in the title are purely materialistic trappings of success. I measure creative success according to spiritual terms, using the word as I understand its original meaning— the non-material parts of a person. Thoughts, feelings, intuition, dreams, hopes, fears, imagination etc. We still use it that way at times, when we say things like 'lift my spirits', 'the spirit of the times', or That's the spirit!"

    It's about that rush I get when characters take on their own life and start interacting as if they're living beings working somehow through me. When a project begins to grow beyond what my purely rational mind could devise. When I'm transported by the creative process, which is a form of shamanistic trance.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2021
  20. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    Slight correction here: the co-producer and star of Moneyball was Brad Pitt, not Robert Redford. The two are easily confused because of their "pretty-boy" looks and their acting styles, although they've seldom worked together.

    But you main point is well taken about how artists are compelled to conform to some sort of industry standard before they can even get their foot in the door, and how all sorts of dubious metrics are applied to them to determine their marketability. The music scene in general, and rock and roll in particular, blossomed from the 1950s to the 1970s because the market then was more free-form, with lots of niches explored. Some artists had hits, some didn't. But how many female singer/songwriters do we have today that could compare with Joni Mitchell, Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, or Joan Baez? They are surely out there, but they wouldn't fit into the current model of what the record companies consider "commercially viable."

    And artists are seldom given a chance to develop their craft. Even "overnight hits" like the Beatles spent two years playing music for ten hours a day, six or seven days a week, in nightclubs in England and Germany, accumulating the experience become expert.
     
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  21. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Wow!!! I just had to adjust my vision of reality to accommodate this. Thanks for the correction. Lol, I guess I got it mixed up with another Redford movie...
     

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