BRT Success – A Definition

ADMIN NOTE: last edited on 26 MAY 2014

Kris Rusch has been doing a series of wonderful blog posts, specifically focusing on success: how we as writers define it, what it means to us, how everyone sees it differently, and so forth. As a result, I thought I’d take a moment to actually write out my definition for myself. Because it’s changed as I’ve gotten older. Become more clear. Dare I say, healthier? More in tune with who I am as a person? Less affected by a lust for fame — which I think all of us experience when we’re brand new — than a desire to be personally comfortable with my life and able to provide for my family without subjecting myself, or them, to undue hardship.

Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Every overnight success is ten years (or more) in the making — you have to drink the Slurpee of Success in sips, not gulps, lest you freeze your brain! Therefore my definition of success is graduated, from modest short-term goals to ultimate, long-term goals. Stuff I’ve managed to bring to pass, is updated with a check box. I imagine I’ll be revisiting this page and updating, as things progress.

Brad R. Torgersen will be a successful professional writer when….

(X) … He makes his first professional short fiction sale.

(X) … He makes his 2nd professional short fiction sale.

(X) … He makes his 3rd professional short fiction sale.

(X) … He makes his 5th professional short fiction sale.

(X) … He makes his 10th professional short fiction sale.

(X) … He makes his 25th professional short fiction sale.

(X) … He makes his first professional novel sale.

(_) … He makes his 2nd professional novel sale.

(_) … He makes his 3rd professional novel sale.

(_) … He makes his 5th professional novel sale.

(_) … He makes his 10th professional novel sale.

(_) … He makes his 25th professional novel sale.

(_) … He has the entire mortgage paid off, through fiction revenue.

(_) … He has the equivalent of the mortgage in savings, as a financial cushion.

(_) … He has half a million dollars in the bank, as a financial cushion.

(_) … He is able to quit his corporate day job and write full-time.

Notice that each of the above stages sort of leads into the next. Especially the lower down the list you go. For instance, I know in my heart I don’t want to quit my day job until I am absolutely positive that my family won’t be negatively affected by the fluctuations all pro writers experience, when it comes to income. For me, this means the mortgage has to be paid off entirely, and I have to have an equivalent amount of money in savings in the bank, ready and able to serve as a cushion during those times when I’m still writing, but the money might not be coming in as well as expected. My wife and child might support my dreams, but it’s not fair for me to drag them through hard times en route to my goals. Family comes first, always!

Now, you might be saying to yourself, how can you pay off the mortgage and save an equivalent amount, in an economy like this? Keep in mind, I’m a Utah resident. I have a nice house — though it needs work to bring it into the 21st century — with a reasonable mortgage. My wife and I didn’t buy a McMansion. We looked at our present needs, what we expected to need for our future with our one daughter, and we opted to buy conservatively. It won’t take millions to pay off the mortgage and save up an equivalent amount. I don’t need — nor do I plan to need — millions to feel like I am a success. Because my lifestyle and the requirements of my family are relatively conservative. Even if we plan ahead to a time when we’re living very posh, up in our little corner of the state.

Notice also that there are no awards anywhere on that list. Not that I wouldn’t appreciate an award, if given. I am in fact due an award as of the last updating of this page, albeit a modest award in the grand scheme of writing. I’m just not going to bank on them, nor am I going to integrate them into my definition of success. Because all writing awards that I know of are given subjectively, based on the opinions of other people, and I don’t like having my personal definition of success riding on the opinions of other people. Celebrities do this all the time, and look how wrecked they always are? I say, the further you can get from depending on someone else’s opinion being your key to happiness, the better! So I’m not factoring awards into my goal list at all. If they come, great, I won’t bitch. If they never come, also great, because I don’t need them to tell me I am succeeding.

I think that’s it, for now. I will, as noted above, check in from time to time to update this page, as need arises.

18 Responses to BRT Success – A Definition

  1. Kris is the bomb. She and Dean both. With how much they help us newvbies and aspirants. Wonderful people.

  2. Amanda McCarter says:

    Woohoo! I like it, and I love that Kris pimped the link.

  3. Yeah, getting a mention from Kris is all kinds of WARM’N’FUZZY!

    I think, for me, it just felt timely and important, at the very starting point of my professional exploits, to explain — for myself and everyone else — what it means to me to be successful. I don’t want to be somewhere in ten or fifteen years, still feeling butthurt about my writing because I don’t feel like I’ve been “successful” because I never figured out what “successful” means, or worse yet, let other people figure it out for me. I wanted to give myself some clear goals and benchmarks, so that regardless of how long it takes to hit each one, I am feeling like I am a solid path.

  4. Thanks for this, Brad. I’m always interested in goal-setting and here’s a good, concrete example.

  5. I wanted to be ambitious — yet modest — at the same time. Does that make sense? (grin)

  6. Pingback: Writing Goals, est. 2010 « Melissa Yuan-Innes, Writer

  7. Hey Brad, you and Kris inspired me to write my goals (much more social and less linear, but hey). So, thanks. Check them out at

  8. This is a fantastic set of goals. You’re one step closer to success than I am, and I hope to be running neck-and-neck with you for years to come.

  9. Just keep up the work, man. I’m convinced that this whole racket is just a persistence game. He or she who persists, wins the sales and gets the career. People who give up… Don’t. Fairly simple, really, once you wrap your brain around it. Very happy for you about WOTF. Huzzah!

  10. Max Salnikov says:

    >>I say, the further you can get from depending on someone else’s opinion being your key to happiness, the better!

    These are very wise words. I better start reading some of your stuff ASAP. :) And again, best of luck.

  11. Pingback: INTERVIEW: Talking Shop with Hugo-, Nebula-, and Campbell-Award nominee Brad R. Torgersen - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog

  12. That’s excellent. Great plan to have.
    In regards to a post you made recently, to which I didn’t have enough to say to comment, I love Larry Niven. Smoking on Pluto… I don’t know any other sci fi writer who captures the romance of space so wonderfully.

  13. Mike M. says:

    Does the check mark in the “He makes his first professional novel sale” refer to Lights in the Deep or is it some other upcoming release? I hope to see more in the future! Thanks.

  14. Mike: the check refers to The Chaplain’s War, which is due out from Baen Books in October 2014. Meanwhile, a second short fiction collection, Racers of the Night, is coming in September.

  15. Mike M. says:

    Fantastic… thanks.

  16. Pingback: Writing Goals and Dreams, est. 2010, modified 2014 – Melissa Yuan-Innes

  17. metwrite says:

    Brad this is an awesome list. You give good sense to goals for writing or life in general. May I in the near future link to this, from a modest I read this give it x stars and quick review blog I am working on?

    Be safe… and enjoy the Kindle!

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