It's another meeting of the IWSG!
Before I decided how I defined success as a writer I had to look it up in the dictionary. I looked it up in the online ones - always a pathetic trip down a stupid lane. Then I hauled out the second volume of the enormous Oxford dictionary we have with its attendant magnifying glass. Too tiny still and overly complicated. At last I went to where I should have gone first - my favourite dictionary The American Heritage Dictionary. It gives me four meanings:
1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.
2. a) The gaining of fame or prosperity. b) The extent of such gain.
3. One that is successful.
4. A result or outcome.
None of these satisfied me in terms of defining success as a writer. I think I'm going to be a renegade here and say that, for me, success is none of these things. When I was a teenager success would have meant having a small volume of poems published. As I got older I wanted to write the Great Canadian Novel. Or I wanted to be an award-winning journalist. Or have a play on Broadway. Year by year those things morphed and changed. I hung on to the idea of it but the heart changed. I thought that being a published writer would satisfy me, but now I know that isn't true. Don't get me wrong - I will be ecstatic next year when I hold a novel with my name on the cover. I still want those outcomes but my notion of success has dissolved. Now I know that being successful as a writer means to me that I have a thought and as I write it and work on that thought it becomes something another will understand upon reading it. Or perhaps not even another - but that I will understand what seemed incoherent and buried - that the act of writing it out will bring the idea to life.
So that means that sometimes I succeed and sometimes I stumble. If I don't know what success means to me, I certainly know what failure would be - stopping. Giving up. Falling down and staying down.
Further to that I believe the most dangerous notion of success I could hold would be 2 a. I would then be putting success in the hands of others. Only the market or public opinion would make me. Gah! Again that doesn't mean that I don't hope my book becomes a runaway best seller - it simply means that nice though that might be my armour of joy and contentment comes from satisfying myself.
I'm glad I wasn't a runaway success early on. It could have ruined me.