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What does success look like to you?

Another author posted a question in a Facebook group the other day. “What does success look like to you?”

Almost all of the responses echoed the same tune.

“I want to earn enough to support myself/send my kids to college/travel.”

“I want to see my books in bookstores.”

Before I continue, I want to say that those are valid answers. This is a very personal question. I’m not sure many authors can get there, but if that’s what success looks like to you, then I respect that. However, when I started to type out my answer, something unexpected happened.

“Success looks like today.”

Yes. I am successful. This doesn’t mean I’m making enough to support my family. Hell, some months I barely make enough to take my husband out for a nice dinner with wine and dessert. Some months are better, but I’m a very long way away from quitting my day job. My books aren’t in bookstores. Though that has a lot to do with my own lack of free time than anything else. There are tricks for indie authors to get bookstores to carry their books (at least occasionally), and one day, I’ll spend more time there.

I don’t define success by a number. Not anymore. A year ago, I probably would have echoed the other group members’ responses. Not now. This is how I define success.

I want to write books that mean something to me and to my readers. No, my books won’t cure cancer. They won’t end domestic violence or stop discrimination against the disabled or veterans or people of color. They probably won’t drag anyone out of a major depressive event or save a life. But do you know what they can do? They can help readers see that we’re all worthy of love. They can raise awareness of social issues in a way that isn’t heavy-handed and feels natural. And they can bring lovers of all types of romance joy.

I want to continually improve my craft. There will be no resting on laurels here. I want to learn, explore, try new things. I won’t always be happy with the results, but as long as I’m still learning, I’ll consider myself successful.

I want to help foster a writing community. As part of the Cerulean Project, I’m sharing my experiences, encouraging others to do the same, and hopefully supporting new (and veteran) writers in ways they’ve never experienced before. I want to mentor other writers, help them avoid some of the mistakes I made when I started out, and maybe shape the indie community for the better.

I am successful. I will continue to be successful as long as I keep doing all of those things. And you know what? Once I stopped tying success to a number or a date (like the date I wanted to quit the day job), I fell in love with writing again.

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