How does a writer spell “success”?
Over the years I’ve learned that there’s always somebody ready, willing and able to define “success” for a writer.
For some, success means making bestseller lists and/or having several books or novellas out at a time or signing a big deal with one of the Major Publishers. Writers with this sort of success as their primary goal pay attention to what's selling and what's not, and then write books designed to have the broadest popular appeal. They’re proud of the obvious rewards earned by their hard work and focus.
On the other end of the scale are what I'd call the "artistic purists." They would never, ever consider writing anything other than "a work of the heart." If it sells only 200 copies, that's okay, because those are very discerning, intelligent readers. Such writers absolutely resist any commercial consideration when it comes to their work. They are artists, and proud of it.
The "artistic purists" condemn commercial writers as money-grubbing hacks; to the purists, they are failures. The commercial writers believe the artists are simply excusing their failure to make it big.
However, shouldn’t we, as writers who aim to create individual, unique characters, be among the first to realize that there is not, nor should there be, only one yardstick to measure success?
We simply don’t know another author's backstory, so who are we to define “success” for them?
Each author, and each author alone, should decide what his or her definition of success as a writer is -- whether it's making a list, making lots of money, writing only "books of the heart" or something in between. To do otherwise can be stressful and ultimately, self-defeating. Haven't we got enough to contend with in this business without that?