What is Writing Success For You?


In life there are many different ways to define success, and writing is no different.

Some of you will want to write a best-selling novel and to see your book prominently displayed in bookshops. Screen play rights snapped up.  Invitations to appear as a guest on TV shows.

Others of you will just get a warm glow from having been able to express what you want to say, or from being able to push through to the point where you can type THE END despite the busyness of your lives or an ongoing battle with self-confidence or dyslexia.

There is no definition of writerly success. It's an entirely personal thing. It's whatever's right for you.

If you wanted to take up badminton, it would be perfectly valid to go along to classes with the goals of learning to perfect your serve, forehand and backhand, and to have fun while you were  doing it. Nobody would immediately expect you to be working towards representing your country at the next Olympic Games.




It's the same with writing.

The chances are, your view of what success is will change anyway. Once you've got the writing bug, you're unlikely to want to stop at one story, one blog post or one novel. To complete any of these to a standard you're pleased with is an amazing achievement that deserves to be celebrated, and it's perfectly legitimate to be content with just that.


clebrating writerly success with champagne


But if you're anything like me, the very act of completing a piece of writing will boost your confidence and you'll probably find yourself asking "What next?"

The definitions of writerly success are as varied as people are varied.

In no particular order, here are some I've gleaned from the comments made to a blog post by Brian Clems on the Writer's Digest blog. Writer's Digest - What Defines Writing Success? They make for interesting reading.

I feel/will feel successful as a writer when:

  • Someone is moved by what I write.
  • I fell in love with the process of writing.
  • I'm writing for a living.
  • I find time to write every day.
  • I've written the novel that's been in the back of my mind for years.
  • I finished a first draft.
  • I made someone laugh. Intentionally.
  • I got paid for my writing.
  • People tell other people about my writing.
  • I can quite my day job and just write.
  • My wife can quit her day job, having support me in my writing for ten years.
  • I got placed in a writing competition.
  • When I could say "I'm a writer" without feeling like a fraud.
  • I found the courage to show somebody something I've written.
  • I start to edit when I've been given feedback on my writing.
  • I sit down and actually write.
  • I got my first novel published.
  • I first saw my name in print.
  • I manage to write for half an hour without going on the Internet.
  • I have visitors but still manage to sneak away to write.
  • I write blog posts that touch a chord with people.
  • I reach the word count I've set myself for the day.
  • People still read my books after I'm dead. (!)
  • The first time I paid my rent with my writing income.
  • I reached page 100 in the novel I was writing.



Personally, I'll never forget the day I received a letter telling me that my first novella was going to be published. It was called Stormy September, and it was a 50,000 word romance which was to be published by Woman's Weekly in a paperback with another author's story. When publication day came, and the book was in a carousel at my local newsagents, I was so thrilled. I kept having to go in there to look at it. I probably even bought a copy; I can't remember. And celebrate? You bet I did! I used some of the money I was paid to take my boyfriend - who had never flown before - for a surprise flight over Brighton. (I'll draw a veil over the fact that I was horribly sick when the pilot let him take the controls). I also bought a gas fire and a new radio. I know how to live. 🙂




Actually, I say I'll never forget that heady excitement; but I perhaps I have, just a little. Because for me, writing is a bit like having a gambling habit. One win, or one bit of success or encouragement, feeds your habit and makes you want more.



And then it's easy to become discontented with what you have achieved, especially if you make the mistake of comparing yourself to somebody else; somebody whose debut novel shoots straight to the top of the Amazon charts.

Last year, one of my language readers, Kilimnajaro won an award.

Adolescent & Adult: Intermediate

Author: Margaret Johnson
Illustrator: Redbean Design Pte Ltd
Publisher: National Geographic/CENGAGE Learning
ISBN: 9781424048753

I also had 2 novels published.

ANiW Final Cover
A Nightingale in Winter Published by Omnific Publishing
Taming Tom Jones Published by Crooked Cat Publishing
Taming Tom Jones
Published by Crooked Cat Publishing


Most people would say that's pretty successful. Now, if I can just stop listening to those pesky voices that say such things as "Yeah, but you didn't get any money for the award," and "But your book isn't charting as highly as (INSERT NAME HERE)'s book is." 

Perhaps I need to take my own advice and make time to enjoy the process of writing. Yes, I'm going to do just that!

What's your definition of writerly success? I'd love to know!



6 thoughts on “What is Writing Success For You?

  1. bea

    Thx for this "boost" and to remember writing is my "addiction"--i just can't stop even if I'm feeling unsuccessful or no one ever reads what I write

    1. Margaret K Johnson

      Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Bea! I'm glad I'm not the only one who's addicted! 🙂 Here's hoping our horses romp home in 2016.

  2. Wendy Janes

    Really entertaining post, Margaret. Love the list. An award and two books published - that's a jolly successful year. My own personal 'writerly success' is when someone tells me they enjoyed my writing.

    1. Margaret K Johnson

      Post author

      Thanks, Wendy! Yes, it's great to get some positive feedback that you've given some pleasure to someone, isn't it? A definite perk of the job. 🙂

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