Bloganuary 11: Defining Success

Today’s Bloganuary prompt asks a hard question for me to answer: “How do you define success?” 

In yesterday’s post, I discussed how an unlikely book, Fifty Shades of Grey, inspired me to go to college. Its young heroine, Anastasia Steele, with her aspirations to enter the publishing industry, became something of a role model for me as I too pursued an English degree, and ambitions to be a novelist and editor. I began pursuing this goal while I was still in college. The Kindle and Nook Ereaders debuted around that time, shaking up the publishing world with the advent of ebooks, many of them independently published by the authors themselves. 

I was in my early 20s, therefore too young to have experienced or heard much about the days when self-publishing was taboo. I was coming of age in a brave new world in which authors had the potential to carve DIY success for themselves armed with-of course, and foremost-a good book, and social media marketing tools. I read about authors like Amanda Hocking, who began self-publishing on and eventually landed a major publishing deal. I joined Goodreads and Facebook groups for self published authors, mostly in the romance genre, and soaked up tips about networking and promoting. I became a beta reader, a volunteer proofreader who helps authors spot holes in their manuscript before publication. I figured that it was such an open-ended task it could help me hone the skills I would need as either a line or content editor, as well as a proof or copyeditor, since beta readers keep a broad lookout for errors in spelling, grammar, ebook formatting, as well as plot inconsistencies. 

I even booked a paid editing job shortly after I graduated from college, and was offered an opportunity to become a romance novel ghostwriter. I self published a book of my own. However, after years of plugging away at the indie romance scene, and accomplishing some of my goals, I didn’t feel successful. I felt burnt out, and lonely.

The world had changed a lot in the years I was pursuing this particular goal. The social media scene of indie romance novelists I had joined often felt like a lively dinner party. It was a close-knit, warm community of people passionate about what they were doing. But, as the years wore on social media became populated with toxic influences that stole the life from the party time and time again. The self publishing platforms, and avenues to promote them, changed over the years, and like all bull markets projected growth did not keep pace in reality with the gold rush promises of the early days. I had to accept that sometimes, the idea of success we are chasing is not coming true not because of any failure on our part, but because hopes are inflated at the onset of a new market trend.

I am old enough now to accept that bubbles burst in business, and while writing is an art publishing is, most certainly, a business. I’m not going to beat myself up about what I didn’t accomplish during a finite window of the past, because I did accomplish a lot. I have a college degree and a lot of professional writing experience, and even some editing experience, under my belt. I don’t know how I define success, yet, because I am not even sure what my next goals are. After years of strategizing for success, I am allowing myself the freedom to enjoy the process. 

As Miley Cyrus said, after all, “It ain’t about how fast I get there…or about what’s waiting on the other side: it’s the climb.”

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