Creative Nonfiction, Essays, Publishing

How to know when you’ve “made it” as a writer

Hitting a writing milestone is one of the greatest feelings for a writer, especially when you meet your own self-imposed deadlines early. This week, I finished writing book two of my Valley of the Bees novel series and am now working on my second draft (my goal was to finish the rough draft by the end of March). I also just ordered the second proof of an essay collection that I am editing, titled, As Good as a Feast: Essays on Enough. Once I have reviewed this second proof, the book should be ready to go to print!

As Good as a Feast - Print Cover Image

Yesterday, an article popped up in my newsfeed. The title caught my eye, but I decided not to read it. The topic was on how to know when you’ve “made it” as a writer. I didn’t need to read it because I feel like I have already made it.

No, I’m not writing full-time. In fact, I’m not completely sure that’s something I will ever want. I seem to do my best writing when I am busy with a regular, full-time job. Not only that, but after nine more years of working as a civil servant, a large chunk of my student loans will be forgiven. AND, I have excellent health insurance. I’d have to be making a LOT of money writing to walk away from that!

I work a set number of hours every week, and my responsibilities are such that I can leave my office at the end of every day and forget that my job exists. It doesn’t keep me awake at night. I don’t bring home extra work to do at home like I did when I was teaching. I put in my time, pick up my paycheck, and still have plenty of time for writing and editing.

I’m also not getting rich from writing. If anything, my various writing and editing projects have cost me more money than they’ve made me. And I’m okay with that. For the time being, I consider my writing expenses as hobby expenses rather than investments. It might one day turn out that the bit of money I’ve spent here and there was a good investment. But if it doesn’t, I’ll just look at it like this: I needed to spend the money to continue to engage in my hobby, and it costs a LOT less money than building and flying model airplanes.

I choose to look at my writing expenses as an investment in my own wellbeing rather than as a potential “bad investment” in a business venture that may never take off.

writing investment in wellbeing

I’ve heard other writers say things like, “If I haven’t made it as a writer by the time I’m forty, then I’m going to quit.”

And I think, “What a shame!” The idea that you would quit doing something that you love just because it isn’t making you a ton of money and isn’t making you famous seems ridiculous to me. If your goal in life is to be rich and famous, there are many easier ways to do it than by writing. If fame and wealth are your main goals, then by all means, quit writing and find a more constructive hobby.

But if you love writing and will do it forever regardless of whether it will ever make you rich and famous, then I say, NEVER QUIT. Even if you’re terrible at it – and I think the only “terrible writer” is a writer who doesn’t practice regularly and refuses to continue to learn and improve in the craft – keep it up.

If you’re a writer, you write. If you want to continue to be a writer, you keep writing. Stop waiting for some arbitrary external reward to justify your existence as a writer. Instead, enjoy the journey. Love where you are today. You’ve already “made it.”

Call for submissions

I am currently accepting submissions for my next anthology project, Odes to Shirley Jackson. Visit Elderfly Press to submit your short stories for publication in my latest book.

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