Just to be clear, I don’t find “success” a particularly useful concept in the arts or life. Still, I admit the word sometimes crosses my mind on a cloudy day. We hear of a successful painter, actor, novelist, or musician. They tend to be the famous ones; that’s why we hear of them. Comparing oneself to them is probably unconstructive.
Success is the achievement of a goal. Whether you’re successful depends what you’re aiming for. That needn’t be fame and fortune. It needn’t be overt; some people like explicit goals, some don’t. For decades of freelancing, I aimed to earn a living by writing and succeeded in doing so. Now I aim to do what I love and improve my craft. My most useful measurable goals are the little ones: finish drafting a chapter by the end of next week, post a blog entry every Monday, pull weeds around the irises. Where it all may lead, I’m willing to wait and see.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.