My Journey to Success


No, this is not a post about a successful person explaining how they achieved success whether it be a multi-million dollar career or a post of great power. I’m talking about the journey to success, which is highly personal. The getting there.


One of the many things I’ve learned professionally that applies directly to writing is “managing expectations”. It’s easy to be starry eyed like I was in high school. I remember writing a “where would I be in 20 years” essay. I was basically CEO of Procter and Gamble with two school-aged children. The reality, I’m a mid-level professional, working part-time, and at my 20-year reunion I had a three-year-old and first-grader. My new definition of success is having a dream job that allows me to balance work and life so both are rewarding.

Like probably every other writer out there, we dream of the best-seller and 6-figure advances for our sequel. But the reality is that most writers don’t make a living on writing fiction alone. My new definition of success is publishing full-length novels that resonate with my readers. And that I have four published short stories as well as a couple of flash fiction pieces.


Few things have torqued me off more than the backlash from people who are “out-of-shape” being offended by “in-shape” people offering words of encouragement as they exercise. Granted, the blog post that started it was something to the effect of “hey fatty”, which is totally not cool. However, I posted one written by an “out-of-shape” person saying something like, “please do encourage me”. And got critical comments about it.

Not that it matters. Whether you’re posting about 1-mile walks or the progress on your first fun run, or you’re a Top 20 triathlete completing your annual full Iron Man race, I’m going to be encouraging you. That’s what I do. This year when I was training for my third half-marathon, I cherished likes and comments on my workout posts and was grateful for the encouragement I received. I’m a somewhere in the middle, a quasi-distance runner with a muffin top.

Same goes for my friends in the writing world. Whether it’s your first contest win or short story publication or your an experience author winning a major writing award or ranking on a Best Seller list, I’m there cheering you on! Because I so loved getting congratulations when I had my stories published!


It’s easy for me to be discouraged meeting writers who are younger than me achieving success. Whether it’s an author who’s young enough to be my child or someone my age who has a decade or two of publishing credits. Extrapolate that in proportion for successful older writers. There are also those who started the writing journey with me who’ve already been published, won awards, and/or hit best-seller lists.

When the curtain is pulled back, I more often than not, find out that they really had a head start. Writing is a new journey for me. If I laid it next to my engineering career, I’m doing great. Six years into my engineering career, I was just starting. I was a level 2 engineer. Twenty years into my career, I’m registered in two states as a Professional Engineer. However, to achieve that status, I had to have a four-year degree in engineering and four more years of experience. Never mind the two grueling exams. As a writer, I’m a high school graduate with four years’ experience. You can get a P.E. that route too, but it takes ten years’ experience. I just saw a post that behind an “overnight success” is ten years’ of obscurity getting there.

Life is a journey. And as with any form of travel, it’s not worth taking the road unless you enjoy each sight along the way.

What is your definition of success?

About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

3 comments on “My Journey to Success

  1. I think about this a lot. I started writing in 1997, so technically I have 20 years of experience. And I’m still excited when I make 10 bucks in book sales. WOO I can buy a pizza! But I’ve only been published for three years, going on four. Being published is a whole different ballgame from writing fanfiction. Standards are a lot, lot higher, and competition is fierce. I’ve had to really step back and redefine my idea of success. I mean, if I want overnight success, I’d write erotica. But I can’t bear to sell my soul that way. I’ve also seen erotica authors swear it off, to the point that they won’t even read dirty books anymore, because it’s damaged them so badly. So yeah, money isn’t everything, and neither is fame.

  2. That’s sad that people reject the idea of encouraging someone just because.

    I like your current idea of writing success. I feel the same way, but I think I’d like to help others achieve their goals as well. So far I’ve come up short in this area, and I’ve been trying to do it at no cost. Oh well, can’t win them all, but I’ll keep trying.

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