A Writer’s Guide To Handling Success

By on December 14, 2015
A Writer's Guide To Handling Success - Writer's Life.org

As writers, we frequently deal with the sting of rejection, from agents (sometimes by the dozens) who politely—or not so politely—decline our query letters to 1-star reviews or negative commentary in blogs or social media. When we finally achieve some measure of success—be it wild beyond imagining, or merely sufficient to pay the bills for a while—it can be difficult to deal with! Today, I’d like to give you some tips, a writer’s guide to handling success, when this happens to you.

  1. Continue to write! Success in a writing endeavor is the reward for the hard work you’ve put in, and by maintaining your efforts to work on the writing projects that may not have had success yet, you can keep the momentum going forward. It may also pave the way for additional, continued success! In addition, it will give you something to continue to focus on, something over which you will have control. Sometimes, when success comes a writer (or anyone) may feel overwhelmed with some of their new obligations, and sticking your nose back into your word processor may help keep you sane and level headed.
  2. You get to define what success means to you, but don’t let it define you back. Every artistic endeavor humans have ever created is filled to the brim with the spat-out pelletized remains of one-hit wonders, many of whom were consumed by the seemingly sudden success of their craft. The overwhelming desire to capitalize on it—to wring out every stale crumb of publicity, fame, and fortune—can consume even the best of people. It can also turn them into egotistical shells of their former selves. Definitely enjoy the perks of success, however you define it. Celebrate when the long struggle finally bears that sweet, juicy fruit. Just don’t let it devour you, and don’t forget you were awesome before you became successful. Maintain your cool head in success, just as you did when rejections came knocking.
  3. The temptation to blare your success from the rooftops can be overwhelming, and there is a time to trumpet it. Before you do that, however, anyone who has been there for your rejections should get a personal thank you and a first-hand account of your happy news. Sometimes this is just your husband or wife, partner, best friend, or a family member or two. It may also include people like beta readers or “let me run this idea by you” friends, as well. Once you’ve taken the time to inform them personally of your good fortune and thanked them for their help you can go right ahead and make tasteful announcements, if needed. This is where Twitter’s character limits might be a blessing: fit the announcement into a Tweet. That will keep it “short and sweet,” so as not to go overboard. There may be a desire to strike back at the haters, but I would caution you to treat them like you should angry or poor reviews: don't engage them, there is no upside for you. Your success speaks for itself.
  4. If the success you have attained comes with financial gains, it is wise to stash some of them for the downturn that nearly always happens at some point. Only one in a few tens of millions of us writers will reach a point where she or he is so constantly successful it is literally possible retire on that success. Put some of those newly minted Jacksons or Hamiltons (or Benjamins!) in savings or something you can keep stashed for the leaner times. At the same time, do reward yourself. You suffered through the rejections, celebrate your successes as well.

Success in writing, in whatever way you define it, is certainly worth celebrating and sharing. Hopefully, by taking some of the advice in this writer’s guide to handling success, you’ll be able to not only have and enjoy some but reap additional future success as well! As always, if you have comments or questions, put them in the comments box below, and may your success in writing be soon and frequent!

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