Being a writer is hard for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that the only measure of success is whether you're published or not. But there's so much more to being a good writer than getting published. Though I'm a definite fan of working toward publication, it can't be the only goal.
If I've learned one thing as a mom, it's that self esteem has to come from within and not from some outside source. People don't typically tell you that you're doing a good job as a mom. Your kids certainly don't. And strangers only comment when you're doing a bad job. Like when your kids are screaming and hitting each other while you tear through the grocery store at record-breaking speed, because if you don't get everything on your list then you'll just have to repeat the whole nightmare again tomorrow.
So how do you keep from throwing in the towel, convinced you are a horrible parent? You watch your kids while they're sleeping. You pay attention when they're playing nice with others. You take note when they do something kind. Most of us won't get Mother-of-the-Year award (which, apparently, is a real thing--my cousin won it last year). But that doesn't mean we suck as moms.
Similarly, we can measure our growth as writers by paying attention to the little things along the way. We can take delight in a well-turned phrase. Gain confidence when a passage we've wrestled with finally comes together in an amazing way. When we open our WIP for some edits and find the tone and feel similar to that of the bestseller we were just reading. These are the moments that strengthen us. That tell us we are doing a good job, even if no one is saying it.
Just because we are still working toward publication, doesn't mean we are crap storytellers. And our goal should not be to get better just so we can get published. Our goal should be to get better so we can write stories that change people. Stories that will make them better for having read them. Stories that will offer a much needed break from the stress of real life.
To be a storyteller like this takes dedication and talent. Writing emotional, moving characters takes practice. Writing a story that changes someone is not something that can be done overnight. But if I am able to write stories like that, then I will consider myself a success regardless of where my publishing journey takes me.
My goal of being published is what drives me to become better. To learn from others who've walked the path before me. To beat my story to a bloody pulp, then pick it up and nurse it back to health until it's even better than before. But being published should never be the only measure of my success or personal worth. As with being a mom, there is so much more to consider. The intangible. The unmeasurable moments. Those are what make us great.