A few years ago, I went to an erotic writing class taught by Kate
Dominic. At the time, I had all of two stories published, but still
feltreasonably successful (by my standards). As Kate and I chatted
afterwards, a gentleman asked us if we made good money selling erotic
stories. Kate and I exchanged a resigned smile. She's sold a lot of
stories, and it's her primary source of income. Combined, my earnings
barely covered the cost of the class and the parking ticket I found on
my windshield when I got back to my car. We both said no. He mumbled
something about not bothering then.
Most writers wish they could earn a living off their work, but the truth is that few do. I know a few mid-list writers who have a dedicated fan base and are able to churn out enough books in a year to make a modest living at it. The rest of us have day jobs.
I don't think I'll ever be in a position to eke out a living as a writer. I'll never be able to churn out stories at the pace Brenna Lyons or MorganHawke do. I'll never be able to write the kinds of stories they do. It's not my style. But to keep from getting frustrated, I have to have a different measure of success. That's hard to do in our culture. The way we measure worth - wrong or right - is with money. So from time to time, especially when I'm in a blue funk over my writing, I wrestle with my definition of success.
At first it was simply having the guts to put my work in front of a reader.
Next it was finishing a novel.
Then it was getting published.
Now, it isn't so clear.
Fame doesn't have a lot of appeal. I'd like for readers to recognize my name, and I enjoy the occasional nice note from someone who enjoyed a story, but I'm not sure if I care for it to grow beyond that. Fans of my work? Yes. Fans of me? No thanks.
I've given up on money.
Improving my craft is my main goal, I suppose. I look back at stories that were
published a couple years ago and I cringe at the mistakes and weaknesses, but hopefully that means I'm better now then I was then.
Once upon a time, I told a writer's group that what I really wanted from my
writing was to develop deep edges. That's an ice skating term I learned years ago when Mom had delusions of Olympic grandeur for me ala Peggy Fleming. I never could twirl, I never made a decent figure 8, but I did learn to respect someone who had deep edges - the ability to move across the ice with power and assurance. I want my words to glide on the page with power and assurance. I'm past the wobbly ankles point. Every time I write, my edges get a little deeper.
Writing is an innate talent, but it's also a craft. It's something that is honed and polished over time with practice. The upside is that I've only been writing "seriously" - meaning for publication - for four years, and I know I've made huge strides. The happy thought is that (given I live that long) I'll probably be writing for another thirty years. Maybe the coming years won't bring as much obvious progress, but as long as I'm moving forward, I'm okay with that. And being okay with where I'm at and where I'm headed is, by any measure, success.