How do you define success?
By Melanie Nilles
For me success is defined by what goals I set. I know what I want to accomplish and achieving that gives me a feeling of fulfillment. That is success.
The trick here is setting goals that are achievable. Never set them to high so that you can't achieve them, but never so low that you don't have to work hard. Goals should be work to complete. Doing so is success. The trick is to keep setting the bar a little higher while celebrating each small achievement.
Those goals must come from within you or you'll never be happy. And if you're not happy, your creativity will probably wane. It's not about what you see others having. You'll always be disappointed because one person's path is not yours. Your lives are different. You must follow your own dreams.
For me, ultimate success in writing comes from pleasing readers. It doesn't always happen, because we can't please everyone, but when it does, I feel like all my work was worth the trouble. You can't look at numbers or compare yourself to others. You have to find what makes you happy.
But that is the pinnacle of a long road of smaller accomplishments that starts with an idea. Yes, making money from writing is a great feeling, but money won't make you happy. Only you can do that. There are tiny steps along the way, each of them accomplishments in themselves worth celebrating.
The first step is developing the ideas. Who are the characters? What are the conflicts? Where does it all take place? How does it all come together? I feel good solving these issues because each is a mark of successfully navigating a new idea and developing it into a storyline.
The next step is to write the story. Once I have my general outline and a few scene ideas, I start writing. I set daily word count goals, so each day is a success or failure, but those goals must be achievable so that I reach them more often than not. Sometimes I far surpass my goal and sometimes I just can't eek out the words. In the case of the latter, I look at the average. If I can at least keep up the average to meet that daily goal, I feel successful. That feeling keeps me motivated. I push on to reach the end, which is another success in itself.
The final stages are editing, trunking, and editing more. This is the hardest, because the goals are harder to define. I think this is partly why I have trouble with editing. I can't easily see progress. The story is written but not clean. I need to put it aside for some time and work on another project, which gives me another sense of achievement, but eventually I come back to the trunked novel and rework it, send it out to a select group of readers for hammering out mistakes and details that don't work, etc. I can see progress when I fix things they catch, but it's not the same as writing. What keeps me motivated is knowing that I am almost done.
When I have a project as polished as it can be, then I release it into the wild. That brings another sense of accomplishment in the success of having stuck it out and reached that point. But the ultimate success is the reaction of readers when a perfect stranger tells me they like my book. That makes it all worthwhile.
Writing isn't about making money, although I will admit that part is a great benefit. It's really about expressing ourselves and connecting with readers. The rewards are intrinsic. If you're only out to become rich and famous, you're in for a big disappointment. But if you take each small success along the way and celebrate those, you'll be far happier than focusing on an end goal that might never be reached because the road looks too long when focusing on the end so you give up along the way. Make it achievable and give yourself motivation in the small goals along the way.
Melanie Nilles is the author of the STARFIRE ANGELS young adult series and the LEGEND OF THE WHITE DRAGON fantasy epic, which includes the recently released FIREBLOOD. She currently resides in North Dakota with her family and trains her horse in dressage.