Three things no one ever told me about success.

 Note: This is one of two posts I wrote last month for the Boise Novel Orchard blog. Because I've picked up a few more followers since then (Hi, guys! *waves*), I thought I'd repost them here. Enjoy!

Like a lot of you, when I decided to get serious about writing, I started dreaming. Publication, awards, recognition, success.

But success is a tricky beast, as difficult to catch and hold as vapor. And there are three things about it that I didn’t know.

1.)  Success takes time

Writing is such a personal thing. Especially when you’re first starting out, everything you write feels so true and deep and precious. You want to argue when people point out weak points, want to believe that this thing you’ve poured your soul into is wonderful.

But the fact is, writing, like any other art, requires practice. You probably won’t play a concerto in your first month of piano lessons, and most people can’t draw a portrait the first time they pick up a pen. It takes time. In fact, studies show that you have to put 10,000 hours of work into an art or discipline before you achieve mastery.

But patience and time are not the only things that success requires.

2.)  Success requires a day-by-day commitment

By time and practice I don’t mean rewriting your first book over and over and over. You have to write something new. New words on a regular basis are the best way of improving as a writer. You can always take what you learn and apply it to your older work.

One thing I learned when I started blogging was the importance of consistency. You can’t build a good blog without posting regularly. Exercise is the same way; a long exercise session once a week is not as effective as smaller ones throughout the week.

Perhaps you work better in long stretches. That’s okay, everyone is different. But whatever you do, keep it consistent.

It’s hard to be persistent though, when you feel you aren’t getting anywhere. And that’s where my biggest lesson came in.

3.)  Success is something only you can define

Here’s the thing about success. It’s always the place you want to get to next, always the step right past where you are. The unpublished writer wants to be published. The small-press author wants to be published by a bigger house. The unagented writer wants an agent, the agented writer wants a book deal. Most writers would love to write full-time and still be able to pay bills.

There’s always something more to want.

What does that mean? It means that if you measure your success as a writer by those things, you will always fall short. Goals are good, don’t get me wrong. But you have to be able to appreciate your achievements for what they are without getting discouraged.

This is the most important thing I’ve learned about success. To quote the immortal John Candy in Cool Runnings, “A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it.”

Have you learned anything lately about writing and success?


  1. I like your take on success. As long as we're moving forward in some way ... learning, improving, creating, publishing, blogging ... that in itself is a success. There are many along the way. I guess the only other thing I'd add to your list of things I've learned, is Don't Give Up!

  2. I think we always think, hope, pray we will be the exception--the one who gets lucky, who gets the paved path to success. But how painful it can be to learn otherwise, no matter how unrealistic our expectations had been. So, well said, Miriam. It's a beautiful reminder to find contentment where you are. Thanks for that.

    By the way, love the title of your blog! Definitely drew me in. Now a follower ;)

  3. Loved this post, Miriam. It's easy to feel disheartened on this writing journey. Thanks for reminding me that any progress is a success and to enjoy each moment.

  4. Oh, now you're reminding me I need to exercise.

  5. Joanne- You know, I think "don't give up" might be the most important part! :)

    Carolina- Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Feel free to poke around all you like. :)

    Laura- You're very welcome! I feel disheartened quite a bit, so I know where you're coming from. Keep going!

    PJ- Bwahahaha! That was my evil plan, of course! *grin*

  6. What a great quote and so true. I am really trying to focus less on getting an agent or being published as defining success and focusing more on my writing improving. I can control what I do but not what anyone else does or thinks about my stories and I don't want to base my worth on it. Thanks for the great post.

  7. Natalie- That has been the hardest lesson for me, I think. That I can control only myself. I just have to write consistently and seek to get better. The rest is out of my hands. *sigh*

  8. I like the last one in particular...although that does mean that I'm basically my own worst stumbling block towards success...

  9. Beth- I think to a certain extent, we are always our own worst enemies when it comes to this. I know I fall into that category a lot. :) You're not alone!


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