Does it mean a publication deal?
One with an advance?
Earning enough to survive on my own?
Earning as much as I did in teaching?
Becoming the next Matthew Reilly?
If it's the last one, or indeed any of the last three, my odds of doing this full time are pretty terrible. A study conducted by Macquarie University in Sydney showed that the average income of an Australian author from writing is AU$12 900 per year. To put this in perspective, I would have to work just one day per week as a casual relief teacher to equal that. Just 5% of the writers in the study were able to earn above the national average from their creative practice alone. Most supplement their income with additional work, both related to their writing (such as school visits) and unrelated. Nearly 45% said they relied on a partner's income or loans from a friend or family member to make ends meet. And these findings include scholarly or education writers, who earn more, on average, than fiction writers.
For shorter work, the website Duotrope tracks thousands of publishers (literary journals, websites, contests, newspapers, magazines etc) around the world for response times, pay rates and acceptance/rejection/withdrawals. Markets are listed as paying professional rates (5c/word or more), semi-professional rates (1c/word to 5c/word), token rates (less than 1c/word) or as no monetary payment. There are more token paying journals than semi-pro, more semi-pro than pro etc, because these endeavours are expensive and time consuming for the publishers and rarely bring in much money themselves. Most are funded by grants or patreon-type arrangements. About 25% charge fees to submit. And then there's the likelihood of selling your work to them at all. Overall, from over 86 000 reports for all fiction markets (including non-paying), only 4.8% of responses are acceptances. The pro-paying markets accept less than 1% of submissions. So to eke out a living as a writer of short fiction, rather than novels, certainly takes just as much work.
Suffice it to say, if you're thinking of becoming a writer, don't expect to be raking in millions.
Evidently, my husband's idea of success was about income. This of course led to a new discussion about our expectations and budgets, but it didn't change my dream, or the effort I'm putting in to achieve it. For me, "making it" has never been about earnings. I'm a realist. I know that this is an incredibly difficult industry to break in to, and I know it's by no means a lucrative one. Making it as a writer is about becoming like the people I admire most.
When I read a good book, I feel something. I think differently. I walk around in a "book-drunk" haze for a little while afterwards. I want to talk to someone about the story and the characters. I want to go back and rest in the fictional world somehow, see things through the character's eyes again. I empathise more readily with others and I think harder about things I might not have cared to question before.
I want to make someone feel that. For me, the day I will call myself successful is the day I get to sit in a bookshop and sign one of my own books for someone who calls themselves a fan.
So, I'll keep writing and I hope you keep reading ;)