There’s some painful truths we have to face as writers. Many of us–most of us, really–are never going to be literary giants. We’re not going to write books that go down in history and which kids are required to read in high school. We’re not going to have bestsellers. We’re not going to be asked to appear on TV talk shows. Most of us aren’t even going to make a comfortable living off our writing.
Does that mean you should stop dreaming about those things, stop hoping for them, and stop trying to achieve them? Of course not. But you also shouldn’t think you’re a failure if you never climb to those lofty heights. It’s a slippery ladder and the rungs are pretty far apart.
‘Success’ as a writer is not a hard-and-true thing. There’s no well-defined measure for what it means to be successful. This is mostly because every writer has a different concept of what success is and what they can be happy with. Some authors want to achieve commercial success and be a household name and they will never stop trying for that. Some are just happy to write and have a book to show their family and friends. Some take the accolades and income that comes along with writing very seriously, and some are much more relaxed about it and if those things come, they come. Each of us writes for our own reason and each of us has a standard we hold ourselves to.
No matter where on the scale of achievement, you’ll rarely find a writer who doesn’t say that the true joy is in the writing itself. Of course, I’m sure all of us would love to make money off our writing. We would all like to be recognized and have people say “hey I read your book and I loved it!” Of course we would. But there is satisfaction in the simple act of writing, in the process of putting words on the page, and we all know that feeling. Success for one writer is accomplishing that and completing a book, while success for another writer is when lots of people buy that book. But at the end of the day, we all sit down and write.
If you never ‘make it,’ you’re still a writer. You still get to be part of this community of people who enjoy and translate the movies that play in their own heads. If you never sell tens of thousands of books and make enough money to retire, you still get to feel the joy of creation. You still get to sit down at the keyboard, or take up the pen in your hand, and know what it is to have this blessing and curse. There’s no number of books you have to sell to be officially declared an author. You don’t even have to sell one.
Create your own idea of success. Make your own goals. Strive toward the things you want and rest easy in the fact that most of us aren’t going to be famous. But that’s okay, because we write anyway.