Monday, September 6, 2021

How Do I Define Writing Success in a Comparison Driven World?

by Kristin Hogrefe Parnell @khogrefeparnell

Are you a writing success? If you’ve ever been asked that question, you know there are dozens of ways to answer it. All of them depend on a definition of success that is a moving target at best and a comparison trap at worst.


Should we set goals, dream dreams, make plans, and faithfully practice the calling God has given us? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.


But what happens when doors close or plans change or God redirects? Are you therefore a “failure” because you didn’t achieve overnight success, or your story looks different than the writer next door? 


A Biblical Perspective on Success


One of my favorite stories in Scripture is Joseph’s. You can read his full account starting in Genesis 37. The Cliff Notes version is that he went from favorite son to slave to prisoner to Pharoah’s right-hand man.


What made him a success was not his ultimate elevation to second in command of Egypt. Joseph was successful wherever he went—from the darkest prison to Pharoah’s throne room—because God was with him. 


Four times in Genesis 39, Scripture records that the Lord was with Joseph in his lowest moments and made him to prosper even there.

  • The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian” (Genesis 39:2 NKJV).
  • And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand” (Genesis 39:3 NKJV).
  • But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:21 NKJV).
  • The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper” (Genesis 39:23 NKJV).

Some of us need repetition to learn, and Scripture certainly provides it here. Joseph’s success didn’t depend on his location, his status, or his position. It depended on the Lord’s presence in His life.


A Different Definition of Success


The world might define success by how you answer these questions:

  • Is your income in the six digits?
  • Are you a best-selling author?
  • Is your contract with the largest publishing house?
  • Have you won the most coveted awards?

Just to be clear, none of those achievements are wrong. (Remember the goals and dreams we mentioned earlier?) If God blesses you in these ways, you should certainly celebrate and give Him the glory. However, material gains and personal victories are not the end-all for success.


The Bible says that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Timothy 6:6 NKJV). Great gain sounds a lot like success to me. Instead of focusing on the questions above, let’s consider a second set of questions. 

  • Are you exercising your gifts and asking God to make room for them where He sees fit?
  • Are you pursuing the opportunities God has given you?
  • Are you content with God’s approval regardless of what people say?
  • Do you invite God into your day and seek His face in both the important and mundane activities on your calendar?  

All of these qualities were true of Joseph. If they are true of you as well, my friend, then you too are a success. 


How Do I Define Writing Success in a Comparison Driven World? - @KHogrefeParnell on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes novels, learns something new every day, and runs for pizza. An educator and mentor, she teaches English online and is an inspirational speaker for schools, churches, and podcasts. Her young adult dystopian novels, The Revisionary and The Reactionary, both won the Selah for speculative fiction, and she signed with Mountain Brook Ink for a new romantic suspense series, coming December 2022. Kristen and her husband live in Florida and enjoy sharing their lake home with family and friends. She blogs at where she challenges readers to find faith in life’s everyday adventures. 


  1. After a very long time of not writing, I have begun writing again. I am praying God will direct my words and thoughts as I write and will open opportunities for me to share my writing. Thanks for sharing this excellent post!

  2. Hi Edwina, thanks for your comment. I'm glad you are writing again! May God guide you and open the right doors in His perfect time. Blessings to you!