Fame, readership, sales, wealth… what constitutes success for a writer?
I’ve been writing for many years, but although I had had a fair amount of work of different types published, I didn’t really start to refer to myself as a writer until ten or a dozen years ago. Even now, it’s sometimes hard to justify the label when most of the words I write are destined to be uncredited – copy writing for clients and commercial translations – or are creative translations based on someone else’s original, but since the clients come back again and again, I suppose I have at least achieved a certain reputation. (Hopefully not as short-lived as the bubble in the photo.)
Of all the work I’ve had published under my own name, I think the most successful – so far – must be the article “Critiquing Poetry“, originally published in 2001. It was fun and easy to write, it was accepted, published and paid for quickly and efficiently, and it still ranks very highly on Google. But the main reason I say it’s been successful is because of how often it has been copied and linked to.
Linking through to the Writing World page, where I am clearly credited as the author, is fine, although it’d be even nicer if people made the effort to try and track me down to say they had found the piece useful.
And even though it’s not strictly legitimate, I don’t really mind too much about all the times the piece has been quoted on writers’ forums and websites or used as a basis for workshop sessions – as long as it’s been attributed to me.
But there have been far too many times the text has turned up without my name, without any reference to where it was found, and without any indication that it was not written by the person who is using it. To my knowledge, it’s been used without attribution by school and university teachers in their course handouts, it’s been very superficially disguised and published as an original essay by another poet, and it’s been referred to as a lecture delivered by some woman I’ve never heard of and then posted online with her name attached.
After 15 years, the piece is still popular enough to be plagiarised, which I guess must be a mark of some success.
Recently, I included it in my book Writing in Circles: a writers’ group handbook as I think it’s likely to be particularly useful for non-poets who attend mixed-genre groups and are expected to make comments on poetry.
The fact that it’s available in lots of other places might be seen to reduce its value somewhat, but its continuing popularity must say something about its worth and there’s plenty of other information in the book, so I hope that will make up for it.