Friday, 30 March 2012

What Defines Success As A Writer?

A few years ago I was on a walk with an artist friend who stopped to sketch the view. I sat down too, but instead of writing a descriptive piece, I decided to draw the view too. I hadn’t done any drawing since school, but it was a pretty fine sketch, though I say it myself. My artist friend was very polite, made a few kind comments about the charmingly na├»ve perspective and interesting use of shading and offered some suggestions which, should I ever sketch a view again, I fully intend to use.

I enjoyed myself doing that drawing. Success was about my enjoyment in the process, and satisfaction with the end result, however much the perspective was all over the place. It was absolutely nothing to do with whether anyone would give me some money for it.

Thousands of art classes take place every day and while a few of the artists may be wistfully thinking of selling their work for ££££, I bet most of them are just pleased to be spending time being creative. Why should writing be any different? Why does market place success matter so much to writers? Isn't it enough to enjoy the process?

I don't think using market place success is the right way to judge the success of your writing. What makes a published writer is a combination of many elements - determination, persistence, talent, luck, skill, hard work, imagination - but all published writers have one thing in common: they're writing what they believe in, not what they think will sell.

Sometimes, publication is a question of being lucky in writing the right thing for that particular moment. After the success of Twilight, there was a rash of young adult novels covering similar ground, currently dystopian novels are top of the YA best seller lists with The Hunger Games. But the market has already moved on. At Bologna - the international children's book publishing fair - last month, apparently no one was buying dystopia; instead they wanted adventure stories.

Enjoy the writing, and write from the heart. So long as you're writing what you really believe in and are enjoying the process (difficult and heartbreaking as it can be), you're a success.


Giles Diggle said...

When I was 21 a friend said to me, "Giles, you are a success, because you write. Money doesn't matter."

He was correct, but of course we need money too, to live. That's why it is a good idea not to give up the day job... too soon at any rate. :-)

Jean Bull said...

I've always thought that about painting. I have a few watercolours that I did twenty years ago hanging on my walls. They're not fine art, but I can enjoy them. Similarly, people can paint pictures and sell them successfully in local art galleries. I wish it was that easy with writing. We have to pass through such tortuous hoops to get published. Even though I have self-published and sold my books, it's not the same as having a mainstream publisher take you on.

Liz Fielding said...

What is it they say about a bandwagon? If you can see it, you've missed it...

Diane Fordham said...

This is such a lovely post Sarah. Thank you :-)