How do we measure success? Sounds like a no-brainer, right? We measure success by reward. For many, that reward means greater wealth. If we do a good job and work hard, the money will come. For others, they measure the worth of their achievements in recognition by peers, or in a bigger picture, by accomplishing a wider acknowledgment known as fame.
But not every writer makes a lot of money from the fruits of their labors. In truth, most of them do not. And most writers will not gain great notoriety.
According to some estimates, the average independent author who writes a book (and that’s for any genre) only sells about 100 books. Ever.
Some would say those writers are not a success. If your writing doesn’t make you rich, or make you the next Stephen King, that diminishes their worth. Some would say that would be a waste of time. The problem with this is many who wish to writer buy into this, and they simply stop writing if they can’t have “the brass ring.”
But let’s look at another yardstick to measure writer success. What about legacy?
Writing to build a legacy doesn’t mean just writing a memoir, or an autobiography. It can mean writing anything the writer wishes. Writing, at its purest form, is artist expression. It is a mirror of the author’s memory, experience, interests, and view of the world. It has an intrinsic value far beyond the physical and the tangible.
It has this special value because it survives, even after the person who writes it is gone. Copyright law in the United States dictates that a work is protected 50 years after the artist’s death, meaning that if your work is still in distribution, your heirs will reap any monetary benefits that could occur for quite a while.
But I believe, even more important, is those you loved and that loved you will have a part of you that will survive at least for a few generations, if not more.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that before my time I wouldn’t like a little recognition from the wider world. Who doesn’t? But it’s certainly not my main purpose. When I’m gone, I like the idea that a part of myself will still be here. Creativity conveys the essence of our humanity. Through my words, I am glad mine will remain.