Last week my writing group tossed around an interesting question: how do you define success as a writer? We discussed this question in light of this quote from Danell Jones, author of The Virginia Woolf Writer’s Workshop, the book we’re currently reading. “Simply moving through the world with a writer’s eye, she [Virginia Woolf] would contend, gives us a richer human experience, a more expansive life, whether we ever succeed at communicating our experiences in words or not.” (p. 7 of The Virginia Woolf Writer’s Workshop.)
Here’s the question we boiled it down to: If writers are in the business of communication, but we fail to communicate the message we intended, yet still communicate a message (however far removed from our original idea), can we count that as success? I would offer that perhaps it’s all about the degree of interpretive accuracy. The further away our readers are from our intended message, I believe the less successful we are. However, with that said, I think that just getting the words onto paper in any form that resembles what we imagined is a success. When our work goes out to meet the world, we relinquish control over it, but first we must have something to send out. The simple act of writing is a success all by itself.
“Nothing you write, if you hope to be good, will ever come out as you first hoped.” –Lillian Hellman