According to a romance writers' loop I'm on, a recent issue of RWR (the Romance Writers Report magazine from RWA ) asked authors to define what success means to them. Though I have yet to see the article and don't know the context in which the question was asked, I believe that some of the choices included: finishing a manuscript, submitting to an agent, sales numbers and more. It's an interesting question, the idea of success. It would be so easy to say that in order to be successful one must have sold their books, but while that is definitely a measure of success it shouldn't be the only measure of success.
Writing is a tough and lonely business. Many authors spend their days (or nights) toiling in a room by themselves creating images and people out of thin air. How would those people talk? What do they look like? What do they do in their spare time? What are they doing in this book? Then comes the actual writing and crafting of word after word of dialogue and the description with the sole purpose of getting the reader to keep going. To find a mix of words that is so compelling you won't want to put the book down. And they do this for thousands upon thousands of words. Sometimes they can turn to colleagues (follow authors) for advice, but in the end the book is entirely their world, their creation, which they've opened up to you.
And because of most authors there is no contract before a book is complete -- and even then there's no guarantee a book will be published -- it would be so easy for the author to throw in the towel and give up and not finish that story.
Which brings me back to the definition of success for a writer. I think any writer who has created a story, who has spent month after month writing and revising and putting words to paper, whether than have sold their book or not, should consider themselves a success. They have achieved a milestone many aspire to, but few reach. (Cause you know, everyone wants to be a writer, if only ... )
So today pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you've finished a book, you are a success! You've worked hard and you deserve that recognition. But don't get too comfy. There are more successes to be had and more work to do. So get busy, and at each and every stage of your career, make sure you stop to mark your new success while reaching for the next level.