Defining Writing Success

Finish the Race

Now that I’ve been active in the pursuit of writing and publishing, I’ve had some friends approach me about helping them write some significant aspect of their life. Since I believe everyone has a story to tell, I’m always ready with an enthusiastic, “Sure!” But then the punch to the gut follows when they preface the rest of their request with: “Well, when you become a real writer…”

What’s THAT supposed to mean?

I’ve written a novel…an actual full-length novel. It’s not published and it’s gone through the requisite rejection process (yay, I’m in the club!), but still, I WROTE A NOVEL.

Doesn’t that make me a real writer?

I’ve had short stories published online and in print magazines. Very few of my family and friends have actually read those publications. My writer friends haven’t even heard of the publications. I guess it’s like the tree falling in the forest when no one’s around– it still makes a sound. So yes, I PUBLISHED SHORT STORIES.

Doesn’t that make me a real writer?

I’ve attended a number of writing conferences and workshops since I’ve started this journey five years ago. I believe in actively learning as much as I can about the craft of writing. I’ve gone to so many that I’m starting to recognize other conference attendees and they recognize me (or my name). I’ve even had a best-selling author read a sample of my work and comment that I MUST HAVE STUDIED THE CRAFT.

Doesn’t that make me a real writer?

In the end, I think the measure of a writer’s success depends on what he or she sets out to accomplish. My primary objective was to have something I’ve written published. I’ve achieved that. But I don’t think that just because I haven’t published a novel (yet) that I’m not a real writer. Writers write, whether it is on a blog, writing and submitting book reviews, or penning short stories that make it onto online sites. And since I do all of those things, that makes me a real writer, right?

Writers must develop thick skins to handle critiques of their work. I’m learning that, as a writer, I need a thick skin against my own self-doubt by not allowing others to define my success.

I need to proclaim that I AM A WRITER.

Above photo …And in Last Place by Tim Norris from Flickr



About Michelle McGill-Vargas

Michelle hails from Gary, Indiana where she enjoys writing historical fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. Her writings have appeared in "Lutheran Witness", "Splickety Magazine", "The Copperfield Review", and "Typehouse Literary Magazine." She served as vice-president of the Indiana Writers' Consortium. Until the day her historical fiction manuscripts get published, she pays the bills as a special education administrator with a background in deaf education. In October 2018, she will be a contributor to Concordia Publishing House's quarterly devotional series "Portals of Prayer." Visit her blog at
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3 Responses to Defining Writing Success

  1. Helen Brandt says:

    Michelle, Never doubt that you are a writer! I admire your pursuit of your dreams. Keep on writing and I’m sure one day your novel will be published and I expect to receive an autographed copy. With love from your Godmother Helen.

  2. Sandra Galati says:


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