I read a “motivational” cartoon last week, called “How to Be Average.” It then listed a bunch of things not to do, including writing a book, if you aspired to average-dom. It was generally condescending to those who liked having a house, stable job, and family.
But the book part is what caught my eye and my ire.
As anyone who has written a book can tell you, there are a lot of us. Writing a book may not be what the “average” person does, but that doesn’t mean it’s a small population. And while writing a book is a fantastic goal, it’s also a relatively small goal compared to what people think someone who has written a book should be like. Nevermind that most writers right now are small or independent, folks (understandably) think of the Big Dogs, the J.K. Rowlings, Neil Gaimans, and Margaret Atwoods of the world. So when someone hears you’re a writer, they start to ask a bunch of questions about book sales and publishing strategy–they want to know if you’re a real writer.
Or at least pushing you on to the next step. More than one person, after I announced I’d won NaNoWriMo this year, asked me when they’d read it. Um, I don’t know. Possibly never?
Which is just to say what the title says: success is entirely relative. There are times when success is just finishing the damn thing already, and times when it’s meeting an agent, and times when it’s having a book signing without the store kicking you out, and times when it’s just dragging yourself home after an exceptionally long day.
Right now, I’m defining goals literally one day at a time, and all my goals look like one long to-do list. That doesn’t mean I’m not a successful author or human being; mostly it just means that you don’t have the right yardstick to measure my victories.
Is it just me, or are you frustrated by the feelings of “unsuccessfulness” in your publishing career?