The other day some writer friends posed the question, "How will you know when you've made it?"
Only partly joking, I said, "What do you mean? I haven't made it yet???"
I was only partly joking because I know at one point, I said to myself that I'd be happy if only I could sell one book. And I have a book contracted with a small press! And yes, I'm really happy about it.
Some of the writers asking the question are objectively more successful than I am -- multiple books published by big presses. To me, they seem to have made it. It doesn't feel that way to them -- there are literary, personal, and financial goals they haven't accomplished yet, and many other writers are achieving greater success.
This reminded me of a study I read of Olympic medal winners that found that bronze medalists tend to be happier than silver medalists. It turns out that bronze medalists focused on the alternative of winning no medal, whereas silver medalists focused on the alternative of winning a gold medal (Medvec, Madey, & Gilovich, 1995). It turns out that the expression is partly true: You don't win silver. You lose goal. But you win bronze.
So I'm a bronze medalist! Yay!
I'm realistic about what being published means: my book will have an opportunity to reach readers. I also know what it doesn't mean: I'll be in the major chains, bestseller lists, mobbed by fans at cons. Maybe next time!
Because yes, goal posts move. I'm still writing, still trying to sell more books. The idea that I'd be happy with one contract ever wasn't true. But I'm right now, I'm standing on a podium, smiling and waving with a bronze medal around my neck.
How will you know when you've made it? What are your goal posts and milestone markers?