Defining Success

daffodils3Because I want to be honest here on the blog (and it’s not a secret anyway), I’ll tell you that I feel like I’ve been flailing around quite a bit for the last year or so, especially when it comes to my writing career.  I’ve been thinking about that fact a lot lately.  Also, since I feel like something of a failure, I’ve been trying to understand what the concept of “success” means to me.  How do I define success?  How will I know when I am succeeding?  Is it money?  Power?  World domination?  What?

As so often happens in this crazy life, the key appeared at exactly the time I was looking for it.  In this case, it was in the form of a wonderful podcast from Joanna Penn at  It’s an interview she did with Charlie Gilkey,talking about  goals and using business strategies in connection with your creative pursuits.  It’s all terrific stuff, but what really hit me upside the head was something Joanna said in the course of their discussion.  When she was making the switch from business consultant to author, she put up a sign in her office saying simply “I am an author.” All of her decisions from that point on were made with that goal in mind.

This struck me, because I don’t know if I’ve ever actually said “I am an author” and MEANT it.

Maybe defining success starts first with defining yourself.  Not in a restrictive way, but in a targeting way.  In a follow-the-star type way.  If I say “I am an author”, if I MEAN it and believe it – really believe it – then it is a fact that gains importance and focus in my life because it is a definition of me.  I am many things other than an author.  But I AM an author.

The question then becomes, what does it mean to say “I am an author”?  What do I want to get out of it?  Because that’s part of the definition of success too.  I don’t think “success” can be identified by a single task, like the publication of a book.  Success has to be a journey lasting your whole life.  You are successful because you are walking the path you’ve set out for yourself, because you are striding towards your definition, instead of running away from it.  

I want to write stories and publish them and have other people read them.

Okay, then I am not successful at the moment because I am not doing that.  I have not given writing true importance.  When other things crop up in my life, I have easily pushed the writing aside.  I have been acting like a hobbyist, not a professional.  How can I be on the path in a focused way?

I have to plan.  I have to be disciplined.  And I have to write.

Because I am an author.



  1. Hi Betsy – I’m thrilled you found the podcast useful 🙂 I have to revisit strategy all the time, so don’t worry, we’re all flailing around! We just have to focus on flailing in the right direction! Thanks, Joanna

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