What Is Writing Success?

The trophy you yearn for might not be the trophy you truly want.


The question of what success is might be the most important question you can ask yourself as a writer and as a person.

We live in a culture obsessed with success in so many forms, whether it’s money, status, or beauty. Is success getting a book published, becoming a best-selling author, hanging out with other best-selling authors, and being invited to speak at fancy conferences? Adulation from friends and family? Thousands of social media followers? Or the money that comes from a best-selling book and all the spa treatments and clothes you can buy as a result?

All of that is great, why not? But are those the reasons you picked up a pen the first time to write? After a good writing session, are such things the payoff that make it all worth it?

I believe that living in reverence of our imaginations is the best way to preserve the essence of our being. Our art provides our spirit with a plenitude that can’t be found in any other way. Even though we know that whatever we write will never be quite as ideal as the words we’ve imagined, the effort of trying to capture what it is to be sentient weaves its way into every breath of our lives. We want to feel heard, we want to touch others, and we want to make something remarkable. Seizing our creativity for its own sake brings on an immediacy, a resplendency, and the urgency of our own possibility.

Being an artist goes beyond the work of art you create.

I know a writer who frequently compares her book sales to another. She monitors other people’s Twitter followers. She gets upset when others are invited to a conference and she’s not. We all have egos, of course. We all want to be loved. But when I hear her talk, I sometimes wonder why she writes. She has an agent, an editor, a book deal, but I wonder if somewhere along the way she lost track of the gift of it all — the gift she has to write a story, the gift she can give others through her story.