A Story of Success and Failure

“You’ve been writing a bit, haven’t you?”

This is a question I get more and more and my answer is always a shy and slightly embarrassed “Yeah, a bit,” while thinking that it’s a tiny amount that won’t impress anyone. In answering the question I always worry the other person will listen and then say “What, that’s it?”

It’s both.

Failure?

I started writing because there was a book in my head I needed to get out. I’ve written the first four chapters about four times now. I’ve started two other books, and all three now rest on my hard drive, with about a third of each written. I wanted to finish one by the middle of last year. I won’t even have one finished by the middle of this one.

Only one of my stories in English is a qualifying “professional” sale (more than $0.06 per word) and I have no recent sales. So I might call myself a failure.

Success?

I’ve had five stories published in English (paying markets). Two of those are in print (rarer than you might think these days); one in a reprint anthology I actually owned previous editions, with writers I admired, and one in a recent horror anthology.

In Iceland I’ve had six stories in print magazines. The first story I wrote after getting serious sold to Iceland’s top literary magazine for $100. Last year I sold them a short story for $200.

I write for a very popular book site online.

So I might call myself a success.

Which is it?

A bit of both? The pessimist sometimes has the upper hand and thinks that I should stop playing around and just watch TV.

The optimist says “Hey man, you sold a story right from the start. A story of yours was in an anthology of the best genre writing in the world! There’s something there, just stick with it. Finish one of those books, any one of them. What else are you going to do, watch TV?”

I think it’s always going to be a bit of both, and I guess it is for everyone. Our failures just seem bigger than our success when you’re put on the spot. 

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