A Different Definition of “Writing Success”

It happens far too often: after a presentation, inevitably someone asks the visiting writer, “How much do you make?”

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Now, would you ask your doctor or your dentist, the guy at the bank, or the woman who checks your groceries how much he or she makes? Of course not. That’s just rude!

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But I can assure you that many writers are asked this question on a regular basis. Some people ask because they think we all make the same salary as Stephen King or J. K. Rowling. Some people ask because they have a great idea for a book and they want to know how much money this awesome story is going to make for them.  Still others (like moms, worried siblings, or aunts and uncles) will ask because they are afraid you are starving to death pursuing this dream of yours.

The first time I was asked, it was by a small kid from a pretty impoverished area. I think I could have told this kid that I made $40 and he would have been impressed. But as time has gone on, I’ve realized that basically anyone feels it’s his or her right to stick his or her nose into your financial business. I understand the curiosity, and I can see how that curiosity manifests, but I don’t understand what compels those people to actually open their mouths and have the brass to ask the question. At this point, all I can really do is laugh!

My most recent experience with this happened when I did a presentation at a local library. I did my best to avoid the answer, but the individual continued to push the issue.  Finally I did the only thing I could do, and I told the truth. The person who asked the question sort of looked astonished. However, the experience for me turned out incredibly positive. It’s not the financial gain that keeps me writing, in fact I’ve often said I would write for free because – well – I just can’t NOT write.  But even beyond that, any writer who is honest will say that he or she writes in order to touch someone else.  I’ve been blessed to have six books earn feedback from readers, and now books seven and eight are prepared to do the same. When I do presentations, I’m heartened by the comments that I get from participants.  For example:

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No matter how many times I read Abby’s letter, I am still thrilled that I touched this young girl’s heart and that she felt inspired enough to tell me about it.  I’ve had wonderful reviews of my work, and I’ve talked with many readers, and this is the best reward I could ask for. I don’t measure success in terms of money, I measure it in terms of books I’ve had published, in terms of people who respond to those books. I look at success not in how others measure it, but in how I feel everyday, doing this job and pursuing this dream. And the truth is – I feel pretty darned successful.

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3 thoughts on “A Different Definition of “Writing Success”

  1. Excellent post! I’ve been struggling with this issue in a way. I am still of value even if large sums of money are not filling my bank account. Could I do something that pays better? Maybe in the form of green cash.
    Will I have grown as much or feel filled? Would I have touched anyone in a lasting way? Nope! My vitality and self are worth the low pay and insanity of writing. My soul demands it! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It matters!

  2. I know, Sandy. It’s the struggle to balance our practical needs with our souls needs, and that is sometimes a very difficult balance to achieve. I look at it like this – I may need a job to take care of those practical issues, but my work, my calling, is writing. That’s what makes me feel successful!

  3. Linda L. Bennett says:

    Another great blog! You just have to do what satisfies your soul.

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