You Are Enough: Defining Writing Success on Your Terms

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This post is a little different from my previous blog posts. I am participating in the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by Positive Writer. The goal of the contest is to help writers face their challenges and ignite their passion for writing.

A Google search generates countless inspirational stories about authors who were told they haven’t got what it takes only to make it big later. Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times before it was published, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected 12 times, and even Dr. Seuss’ first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times.

I don't want to think about where the literary world would be if these authors had listened to their critics and accepted rejection by giving up on writing. If you think you’ve got a story in you, you need to pursue your dream of getting it out there.

So what's my story?

I'm not going to pretend that I have it all together or that I'm making tons of money from my writing because I don't and I'm not. The first book I self-published made less than $100 in an entire year. But what I can say is I’m a lot happier since I started writing regularly and figuring out how that looks as a career.

I've always had an overactive imagination. It often interferes with an accurate interpretation of reality. I've always loved writing, and in elementary school I won a couple of writing contests. Then I got to high school, and my  English teachers weren't really fans of my work. I let this affect me in such a way that I decided writing was not the career for me, but I never let the idea of writing a book completely leave my mind.

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As I started exploring career options I focused on making money rather than doing something I enjoyed. I thought you couldn't make money being creative so anything artistic fell by the wayside. There was a brief time in University where I thought I could teach art and English but I freaked out when I saw how talented my fellow students were and I told myself I didn’t belong there.

So, I became an accountant and spent almost 20 years working in the public accounting industry. I longed for something more. I still had dreams of writing a book and told myself I could do that when I retired, but I realized I didn't want writing to be my retirement project. I wanted to do it now, so I took the steps to sell my accounting practice and wrote my first book, Keep More Money.

I chose to write about what I know - accounting. But publishing Keep More Money showed me that I really wanted to write stories. I still had an overactive imagination and I wanted to write fiction, so I took James Patterson's Masterclass and entered a competition which I didn't win. I really enjoyed writing for the contest and decided to write the rest of the novel.

That was about 18 months ago. Since then I have been querying agents. I have now outnumbered Stephen King’s rejections for Carrie with my manuscript for Murder Audit. I’m not giving up. I self-published before and I’ll do it again if I can’t find a publisher willing to take a chance on me!

Achieving Success

There are a few things the writing process has taught me about success as a writer. The first and most important is how you define success. Success means different things depending on who you talk to. It can range from seeing your book on Amazon to selling a million copies. That’s a really wide range.

For me, success in writing is being able to pay my bills and live comfortably from the profits of my books. I’m not there yet, but having this definition of success gives me a clear goal to work towards and prevents me from comparing myself to other authors who may have a different definition of success.

Practicing Your Craft

I don’t care what your goal is, you’re not going to achieve it if you don’t practice. If you want to be a successful author, you need to write every day. I know this isn't the first time you’re hearing this. When a baby is learning to walk, they want to practice all the time. You should feel the same about your writing. Find any way you can to sneak writing into your day. Carry a notebook around with you, use a transcription app on your phone, or block out ten minutes to write every day.

Learning How to Improve

Whatever skills you may feel you are lacking in the writing department, you can learn them. Part of this learning will occur as you are practicing your craft. There are so many writing resources out there that you have no excuse for not improving (many of them are also free). Ask some friends you trust to give you their honest feedback and then learn how you can improve your piece.

Relaxing Into It

Have fun and remember to take breaks. When you come back to your writing, you will be surprised at how many new ideas you have. Writing is based on experiences. The more you can enjoy life, the more you will have to draw on when you are writing. You’re story is unique because of the experiences you have. Nobody can tell the same story in the same way that you can and that’s what makes you enough!

Whatever story you dream about telling - do it! Go practice and perfect it because people need to hear your story. You are enough!