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What Defines Success in Your Writing Life ? #IWSG

Success in writing life is focusing on  the journey as much as the destination.

My writing life has continued apace, but Daily (w)rite has gone through a long spell of silence. I took a two-month hiatus from online existence, and in some ways, it has felt like a vacation. I missed you all, my online friends, but I also realized the cost of social media to my mental health.

I’ve always been overwhelmed by the kindness of blogging and social media friends, and striven (inadequately) to return the favor. June this year, covid had already taken its toll amongst family and friends, and amidst unexpected losses, I decided that I needed some time to heal and recoup. It has been two months of editing, writing, long walks, reading, yoga, cooking, and cartoons on Netflix. I’m now back to online life, but I think I need to make some changes. I used to be online every day other than Sundays, but that will change. I’ll  now keep away from Saturday to Monday, and on other days, I’ll be even more mindful of what hours I stay online, switching off the phone for all but 2-3 hours a day.

I was discussing this curtailed social media existence with a friend yesterday and she said, well, don’t you need to stay on social media for your writing career? Which brings me to the September 1 question for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group – How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

To me, all of the above is a corollary to writing success.

My Recipe for Success in the Writing Life

If I write often, making time for writing in my life and giving it priority, continue to learn to write better, strive to be a better craftswoman and storyteller, and do not give up in the face of the usual barrage of rejections, that’s success. Too often, in our writing life, we give in to self-doubt. Let ourselves get distracted and then feeling guilty, self-flagellate. To me, guilt has no place in the writing life, nor does self-blame. All of us get distracted, and given the covid times, all of us are going through collective and personal trauma. We need to forgive ourselves and each other more.

Success is continuing to write–whether we manage to get books and stories out or not. Yes, of course we need to make money and each of us decides the paths we take towards that. Success in writing life is focusing on  the journey as much as the destination. If we feel bitter and frustrated, that’s natural. But after a good vent (preferably in a private journal), it is time to try and fix what we can in our stories. Figure out why some things worked, while others didn’t. One of the things I do not miss about social media is the incessant bickering, the public venting, the toxicity. I get it. I get mad, sometimes, too. For some people, it helps to work out their anger, frustrations, disappointments and success all in the public sphere.

Personally, I’ve figured out that the introvert in me needs more silence. It craves retreat.  My subconscious is at peace when left alone. This hiatus wasn’t my first and won’t be my last, though I’m not yet ready for the monastic life. Success is also about cheering others on, taking joy in their successes, and one of the aspects of social media I’ve missed in the past eight weeks is shouting out about the books and panels and awards my friends have surely been involved in. i did a bit of it on twitter today, so in case you’re looking for interesting reads, take a look.

So here’s what the rest of this year will look like: less appearances on social media, mostly to share good news from others, reading experiences, and any writing advice I pick up on the way. A deeper engagement with my writing life. Not chasing external success (letting it chase me, instead? ). Success in the writing life for me is: writing as often as I can, getting better all the time, and shouting about my writing peers.

If you’re a writer, what does success mean in your writing life? If you’re not concerned with the writing life, what does success in general mean to you? What have you been up to in the past two months?


Today is the first Wednesday of the month post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Founded by the Ninja writing female charactersCap’n Alex J. Cavanaugh, the purpose of the group is to offer a safe space where writers can share their fears and insecurities without being judged. This is a wonderful group–if you aren’t a part of it, I urge you to join in!

The awesome co-hosts for the September 1 posting of the IWSG are Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

 


Are you part of nay online or offline book groups? Founded any? What is the experience like? Do you think online book groups are similar to those offline?My debut literary crime novel,”You Beneath Your Skin,” published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.

It is available in India here.

Worldwide, here.

Reviews are appreciated–please get in touch if you’d like a review copy.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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58 Comments

  • lgopinath says:

    HI Damyanti,
    Reading your post on the ups and downs of writing was indeede inspirational for me.
    I am a novice blogger…so it meant a lot to me…echoed some of my feelings

  • A wonderful post, Damyanti, not only about how you describe success, but how you honor your needs as a writer and allow more time and space to be creative. It’s a good thing for writers to think about now and then as our careers evolve. A great share.

  • Audrey Chin says:

    I love that quote – ‘I’ll let success chase me instead’. Thank you.

  • denizb33 says:

    “Success is continuing to write” I love that! It’s so true, breaks may come and go, and are necessary for filling the well, but we always come back our stories 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, Deniz. So very important to keep coming back to our stories.

  • Suyog Ketkar says:

    You summed it up for me in one line when you said, “Success is continuing to write–whether we manage to get books and stories out or not.”

  • Good for you. I too am cutting back on social media. Takes away from my creative juices and puts my focus where it doesn’t need to be. Making a conscious effort to live smaller, more in the moments, to be less concerned with all that’s happening in the world.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      “Making a conscious effort to live smaller, more in the moments, to be less concerned with all that’s happening in the world.”

      SO MUCH yes to this.

  • Pam Lazos says:

    We all need more silence, Damyanti. I crave it, but don’t make enough time for it. Definitely need to rethink my approach. xo

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – great to see you back … and I totally understand the dislike of social media with its negative overtones … doesn’t social mean being diplomatic … way too much shouting being done – which is why I don’t need any but my blog. My success is not monetary … but providing interesting reads and helping us all think beyond our own boxes is enough for me … any negative can easily be dealt with, thankfully there isn’t much. Please continue writing – your books are wonderful, as too the articles here … the community here is special … wtih thoughts – and see you when we see you – Hilary

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Your success is the beautiful community you’ve created around your blog, Hilary. I’m so grateful to be part of it. You and I have been speaking to each other from 2012 at least via our blogs, and I’m very grateful.

  • You’re asking such great questions. I find I fall into an online habit, where I don’t even ask: why am I still chasing these invisible social media quotas? So far, it’s done really very little for my writing life, so I don’t know why I still fall into the trap. One caveat, I really enjoy sharing the work of others, online. Balance is key, I guess. And I do like the silence of being offline. I need that, too. Success for me, as far as my writing life: that I can keep writing and making money off writing. Slowly, I want to move the needle, so that I make more money off my own writing than the writing I do for nonprofits. But, so long as I’m writing, I’m generally happy. I find it all feeds the craft.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca.

      “why am I still chasing these invisible social media quotas?” is a question I asked myself early and often, and the answer has been simple–friendship with talented souls like you.

      As to success, I say yes to moving the needle, but also agree that happiness and feeding the craft is what counts in the end.

  • Debbie D. says:

    Welcome back, Damyanti! Most of us need to take regular breaks from online pursuits; otherwise, burnout strikes. I hope your time off has refreshed your spirit! Somebody once said, “Do what you love, and the money will follow,” but that’s not always the case. You have certainly achieved remarkable success in your writing career, and may I say, it’s well-deserved. All the best for the future!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Debbie. Yes, the break was refreshing, and has reinforced the need for more such breaks. I’m trying to cut down on online time, but it is always a balance between all my friends I want to remain in touch with, and the amount of time I can afford to spend to do it. It often gets overwhelming.

      Thanks for the kind words–if I have any success at all, it is in gathering friends like you around me. You and I met during the A to Z Challenge in 2014, and it has been an absolutely worthwhile relationship.

  • DutchIl says:

    Glad to see you again and thank you for sharing and hope that life was all that you wish for it to be while on vacation from internet…. I am not an author, obviously, but I do like to share thoughts and ideas with others in hopes that it will help make this world a better place, so I let my fingers do the walking and heart do the talking when ready.. I just get online when needed, because there is a world and adventures out there and I do not wish to miss it… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May the sun shine all day long
    Everything go right, nothing go wrong
    May those you love bring love back to you
    May all the wishes you wish come true
    May peace be within you
    May your heart be strong
    May you find whatever you’re seeking
    Wherever you may roam
                      (Irish Saying)

    • DutchIl says:

      When it comes to being online and social media, the words of Rose Milligan comes to mind.. 🙂

      Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
      to paint a picture, or write a letter,
      bake a cake, or plant a seed.
      Ponder the difference between want and need.

      Dust if you must, but there is not much time,
      with rivers to swim and mountains to climb!
      Music to hear, and books to read,
      friends to cherish and life to lead.

      Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
      with the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
      a flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
      this day will not come round again.

      Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
      old age will come and it’s not kind.
      And when you go, and go you must,
      you, yourself, will make more dust!
      (Rose Milligan)

  • Jemima Pett says:

    Great post and lovely to have you back. I took a week off blogging. Nobody noticed except me. Maybe I should try harder to be quiet.
    I think we’ve been sold a pup about this online presence as a writer. Yes, it’s good to have our names out there, because who’s going to promote us other than ourselves. But the effort is not paying off – for the vast majority.
    Can we do this social media stuff smarter? Maybe ration it?

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for dropping in, Jemima. I don’t know if our online presence helps us as writers in any other way than community. If not for my blog and yours, I’d never know you, and that would be my loss.

      I met you in AtoZ 2015, I think, and over the last 6 years, we have kind of been there for each other online. In the end, that’s what counts, I think.

  • vishnupria says:

    Does nano write up counts? But I am not making monetary benefits though! I just contribute without expectations and give all I can. In fact shutting away from social media helps to refine the thoughts. That’s how I detoxify my life and success is not everything in life. It is about growing up with the challenges in life. Hope this helps. 😌

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Every little bit counts, Vishnupria. Kudos to your for focusing on what’s important.

  • 3mpodcast says:

    I have trouble figuring out how I want to use social media. The pressure is on to be present there in order to sell books, but I wonder how much it really helps me sell them. Not much, certainly. I’m overwhelmed by the vitriol online. But I so enjoy the good. So, yes, it’s tricky. Add to that, it’s a completely new thing that we’ve all been collectively pioneering and steering our ways through. (Shannon @thewarriormuse dot com)

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I’m on social media for the connections–I don’t think they sell books at all in the short term, but in the long term, if we make friends, that helps out in many ways, and sometimes the ability to just share is reward in itself. Sending you hugs–it is good to see you here!

  • soniadogra says:

    Hi Damyanti. Nice to have you back. I missed out posting this month with a lot more in hand. All I will say is you echo all my thoughts. I’ve been away from fb and insta and have occasionally been visiting Twitter. At this moment I am not ready to handle SM at all. Im reading and writing and that’s what I want to do. Maybe that is success for me. Getting discovered randomly by a reader and sometimes feeling okay about not even announcing about my body of work. This may change but for now it works. Best wishes to you. Look forward to learning once again through your writing and blogs.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Getting discovered randomly by a reader and sometimes feeling okay about not even announcing about my body of work–that’s a wonderful approach, Sonia. I update my pages, but other than that I mostly promote other peoples’ work. Good to be back in touch with you.

  • msw blog says:

    What a great question. It varies over time, but right now it is writing and/or editing daily.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Same. It is writing and editing with consistency, perseverance, and continuous improvement.

  • rxena77 says:

    I, too, have missed you. Success in writing for me was continuing to write though made homeless for 7 months by two hurricanes. Success also was that, despite writing in a cramped corner of my work place where I also slept on a tiny cot, I managed to finish my latest book NIGHT SEASONS. HOORAY! Wish me high sales. 🙂 Take a look at my own IWSG post about choosing keywords for your book on Amazon. https://rolandyeomans.blogspot.com/2021/08/essential-keywords-you-need-to-knowiwsg.html

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I enjoyed your post about keywords, Roland. Off to check out your book!

  • shilpagupte says:

    Hey, D, so good to see you back here. Yes, I missed you! <3
    I am sure the vacation did a lot of good to your mental and emotional health. Over these past few months, I too have realised the importance and the benefits of being away from SM. For me, staying away from SM, esp Instagram, means not scrolling through the endless feed, and straining my eyes less and less, allowing them some relief from screen time. It also means using that time to work on my writing and art, even if it means reading other's works or studying the intricacies of writing and grammar and trying to implement those in my writing. Apart from that, I have been (finally) doing some good freelance writing work in my favourite niche—health and wellness. It feels so good to see my dreams getting fulfilled. Touchwood!
    So that's what success means in my writing life. 🙂 Taking baby steps and getting better, day by day.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks for all your love and support, Shilpa. So good to hear that your work is going well. Baby steps every day is a fine recipe for success. Sending you hugs.

  • Facebook and its companions can be a means of communicating with families and friends or it can be a gigantic time wasting exercise so as you’ve pointed out it needs balance. You describe yourself as a chosen introvert and that would be my preference too. Unfortunately in this life we are mostly denied that space as work and position in society sees us surrounded by people and a constant round of situations that require interface with others and rapid fire decision making. So peace and quiet are a rare luxury. But I want you to know that your writing and personality expression have been a blessing to many of us and we hope you can continue to include us in your life as you seek happiness and peace. 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, as always, for your kind words, Ian. Like everyone else, I’m attempting to find balance.

  • Definitely take a hiatus, now and then… or dare I say? A vacation? Something to really get away from it all. I was shocked a while back to realize how long it had been since I took a day off.

  • Love your definitions of writing success. Your success involves growth, rather than money/fame which speaks very loudly to me. I also hope that your hiatus was healing.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      The hiatus was wonderful. It’s taught me to pace myself. And yes, continuous learning and improvement is the best kind of success.

  • I’ve enjoyed a few breaks from the computer this year, and have enjoyed them all. Sometimes all the blogging and writing just becomes too much.

  • Mick Canning says:

    Very important to keep a balance between your social media life and your real life, although it can sometimes be very difficult to see where the line should be drawn.

    And success in your writing life? Satisfaction with your finished work, regardless of sales.

  • Hi, Damyanti! I read your post with great interest, because I certainly consider you a successful writer. Your book was compelling, and I just gave it to my Indian esthetician to read a few weeks ago. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say. I really liked your definition of success. I’m an introvert too, and I try to carve solitude out for myself daily. I need that for my sanity. Wishing you peace as you engage more deeply in your writing life. Happy IWSG Day!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks so much for reading, and the kind words, Louise.

      We introverts need our downtime, don’t we?

  • Glad you’re back! I went down to once a month during the summer, taking some days off, and it was refreshing. I’m sorry for the losses in the life and pray you continue to heal.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Alex, it is good to be back. Glad you got to take breaks over the summer.

  • Great blog Damayanti. I do feel bad when I don’t receive any feedback on my writing on social media such as Facebook. This is something I have to try to ignore and keep writing.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      We’ve become a like-based society, somehow, but on the other hand, it is hard to write in absolute isolation. We just have to keep going, I guess.

  • fenlandphil says:

    If you have something to say, say it. You do not have to post on your blog every day, I try for about once every two weeks, sometimes it’s is more, sometimes less. I am more active on Facebook partly because I manage a group and the people within that group are older, often alone and many are isolated. It has become even harder for them during the Pandemic with lock downs and even greater social isolation.
    Success is getting the book or story written. The pleasure of success is people responding positively to what I have written, the like button or a decent review or even an email, text message, conversation or phone call.
    Giving people something to enjoy, to laugh at or even to move them is something I hold dear.
    I am not a professional writer but I enjoy it.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Each word of your response resonates, Philip. Thanks so much for dropping by and chiming in.

  • Meka James says:

    Glad your hiatus helped. Social media is how many stay connected, but it can also be so mentally draining. Finding a balance is important.

  • bikerchick57 says:

    Damyanti, I’m glad you were able to shut off social media for two months and enjoy simply writing and taking part in everything else that makes up your life. I thought I would be writing and blogging and visiting other blogs more in retirement, but I have found other activities, friends and community to take up my time. Summer wants me to be outdoors, not in front of a computer, but I’m getting the itch to write better content again and socialize a bit more online. Colder weather is coming in a couple months, so there’s always opportunity with being indoors and hibernating. Have a wonderful remainder of the week!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Time does fly away, doesn’t it? Wish you a productive rest of the year, Mary, though I really see the value in participating in life real-time, and not just online!

  • Marie Sexton says:

    I’ve also had occasional hiatuses from social media. I’ve definitely noticed over the years how much it poisons my well. And yet, like you said, you also kind of need the connection to other authors. And as an author, it’s hard to promote without it. It’s a frustrating catch 22.

    • Damyanti says:

      Marie, I shut down in December each year. As to promotion, I’ve never looked at it that way. I support others as much as I can and create communities where we support each other.

      Other than that, I try and add value to others through my posts and newsletters.

      This allows me to keep quiet when I must and speak when I’m moved to do that.

      I hope you find your own way to balance things out soon.

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