How do you define success? That is such a loaded question with so many different answers depending on which profession you apply it to. I'm an author (among other things) so let's look at it from that perspective.
So, how do you know you're a successful author? Is it when you sell your first book? When you get that first real royalty check? When you realize you have legions of fans? When you land a contract with a major publisher? When you make enough to quit your day job and support yourself on your royalties alone? When you win tons of awards?
To be honest, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to the question of how you measure success. I'm sure it's different for everyone. To my friends and family, I'm a success because I have five books published. It doesn't matter that I make practically nothing right now, I did something many wouldn't have the guts to do. To others, I'm a success because I'm signed with an indie publisher. For a while, that's how I measured my success: whether or not I landed a contract. When it happened, I was ecstatic and I LOVE my pub family, but I didn't feel like a success.
Next I thought I would consider myself a successful author when I won awards. Well, a few weeks ago, I did. Technically, a few months ago I did. Breaking the Nexus is now a two time award winner (Silver in the 2015 eLit awards for Sci-fi/Fantasy and Gold in the 2015 Readers' Favorite awards for Urban Fantasy) and Hidden Battles also won an award (Silver in the 2015 Readers' Favorite awards). I felt successful for a few moments, but it didn't last. Don't get me wrong, I can't tell you how humbled I am to have won and the confidence boost has been amazing, but it didn't magically make me feel successful.
Something has changed recently, however. Something that makes me start to realize that elusive feeling isn't so far off. It isn't a sudden skyrocket in sales (though damn, that would have been amazing lol) nor is it winning some other award. It hasn't been landing a contract or any of those other ways I thought I'd define success.
No, I began feeling successful when I realized I needed to stop worrying about being successful. You're probably confused by that, and I don't blame you. I was so focused on labeling myself that I was losing sight of the reason I started writing forever ago: I love telling a story. When I first started with self-publishing, my goal was to sell 100 books. I accomplished that pretty quickly, but I ultimately burned myself out trying to do too much. When I returned to writing, it was hard. When you're away from it for so long, you feel lost. Then life happened again and I had to take another break (tragedies, health issues, and serious stress all hit around the same time). Along came another hiatus.
This second hiatus was a blessing in disguise, however. It made me sit down and analyze why I was so terrified to start up where I'd left off on my book. Turns out, it was because I could remember having direction with my plot but couldn't remember what it was so I got discouraged. I pride myself to never really having a defined plot and when I reminded myself of that, I realized I was being silly. My style involves a stream of consciousness word dump on someone who just asks me occasional questions like "What happens next?" Who cares if I don't remember what I had planned forever ago? If it was good, it'll come back to me. Sitting here scared to put words on a page was going to get me nowhere.
So for me, that makes me successful. I'm doing something that used to terrify me: reading my own work (don't ask, I truly hated it). I'm forcing myself to sit down and write even when it scares me. I'm slowly conquering that nagging insecurity and anxiety that tells me I'm never going to make it with this. If I get only one sentence accomplished, that's one sentence more than I had.
Selling thousands of books in a month would be amazing, but it won't make me personally feel successful. Being comfortable with myself and loving writing for the sake of telling a story, that's how I find my success.