I had a conversation last night with a very dear friend who, by his own admission, knows little about the art or industry of writing. And being that it is in his nature to want to help people succeed, he asked me the simple question, what steps do you need to be taking to be as successful as you want to be?
He certainly meant well, and as a business-minded man, it is a valid question - akin to the old interviewing staple: what's your five year plan?
But the plain truth is, the only five year plan I have is to keep writing. And the only success I am seeking (at the moment) is to be able to read my own words in a publication without cringing.
I tossed and turned last night, thinking of all of the things I "should" be doing, to be successful. I could write things that sell - easy to read stories, quick, feel good, soup for the soul sorts of nuggets. Or something along the line of the airport bookstore paperbacks that I pick up and skim through. Books that certainly have their place (stuffed in carry-on's and left behind on beaches or hotel breakfast tables), and whose author's have certainly succeeded beyond myself.
I could do that. I could write that. I could probably even sell it.
But even then, would I consider myself successful?
And so my friend's question only brought about the larger one - how does one define success?
I am not (yet) a prolific author. I am not able to quit my day job and live in a large house with a farmer's porch, where I can sit and watch my children play in our expansive yard whilst I type eloquent musings on my laptop. However, I've never judged my success as an author on whether or not I am able to support myself with my work.
If I can write something that inspires someone else to sit down and take a stab at self-expression, then I have succeeded.
If a stranger is able to read something I've written and find it somehow amusing or beautiful or if it is able to distract them momentarily from their own life, then I have succeeded.
Of course, if I was able to earn more by writing, I would be able to write more. And, I have been taking steps, publishing my first collection of short stories: The Simplest of Acts and Other Stories and by starting to take on more writing related projects.
But my five year plan remains the same.
Write well. Write more. And hope success will come.