Measuring Success

by rossnewberry

a_winner_is_youSomething happened yesterday that made me really happy. A friend who does lots of reading messaged me on Facebook after having my recent story, The Third Wish, drift through her thoughts. It confused her, because she couldn’t initially place where she’d seen it. She told me, “Oh, this was Ross’s story, not one of the Hugo stories I read last year. Well, I’m glad it didn’t lose an award after all, because it’s way better than most of those were.” This made me really happy, and also caused me to think about how I gauge success in my writing.

I’m not really looking for this writing thing to pay off financially. I certainly wouldn’t turn down fat stacks of cash if they were offered, of course, but the traditional metric of “making a living” by writing doesn’t fit me. So, if I’m not looking to make a mint, how am I going to know when I’ve succeeded in becoming the writer I want to be?

Back in the middle of 2012, I started having dreams about a gang of meth-addicted gorillas being used as an assault force by some evil super-villain. I had tons of variations of the same dream, day after day, and I remembered them. I know I dream a good bit, but I hardly ever remember my dreams for more than 30 seconds after waking. These gorillas, though, wouldn’t go away! That’s when I heard that my friend Manda was going to be participating in National Novel Writing Month. On a whim, I decided to use NaNoWriMo as an excuse to see if I could make something out of the story. It worked! I didn’t make the goal of 50,000 words in a month, but after I got those ideas down on paper, the dreams went away. Clearing my head was my first writing success.

After that, a couple of friends told me they liked the story, and that was the second. My parents read it, and, though it wasn’t their kind of story, they told me how impressed they were that I’d put something like that together. I’ve now had two people claim that my work is better than Hugo-nominated material. That’s a win. But what’s next? My list is below. I’ll update it as I go along. I know I’ll never hit them all, but I want to have fun seeing how far down the list I can get.

How do you measure success, other than accumulation of wealth?

  • Clear my head
  • Impress my parents
  • Impress my friends
  • Advance to the second round of this year’s NYCMidnight Short Story Challenge.
  • Get into the final round…
  • Finish my first novel.
  • Get my novel published.
  • Get something published by Tor Books, my favorite imprint.
  • Have somebody find my blog or contact me socially after seeing my published work.
  • Have somebody pirate my work.
  • Get a five-star review for my work from someone I don’t know.
  • Win a writing contest.
  • Win an award for my writing.
  • Get a blurb from a famous author on my work.