It's strange how we people get used to anything.
In all regards 2016 has been a banner year for me: I've made a solid fistful of professional sales (more to come on that); stretched my literary fingers into fantasy, and horror, military sci-fi, and even magical realism; and learned I'm going to be a father.
I remember, just a few years ago (2012 or thereabouts), feeling sick to my stomach over the prospect of not having one of my flash pieces published in the, now sadly defunct, 10Flash Quarterly--a fine semi-pro ezine. They put out a themed issue every month, and every month I would write a flash story and collect my rejection. This went on for almost a year until, at last, I wore down the editors' resolve and they deigned to publish one of my stories.
I literally jumped up and down with joy, dancing through the house (and scaring the shit out of my poor dog)--that's it, I've made it.
A year or two later, I'm publishing flash and short stories in semi-pro markets with reasonable success, but instead of feeling confident, I'm looking to the SFWA requirements. Three pro sales.
THREE PRO SALES.
It became a mantra to me. I bought issues of Analog, F&SF, Apex, BCS, and a host of other markets on SFWA's pro list, the read them cover-to-cover in the hopes of mapping the geographies of editorial taste. I wrote and submitted dozens of stories, and eventually, three of them found homes.
I joined SFWA.
I thought I would feel different.
I wondered what was wrong with me.
Yes, I recognize how ungrateful I am. Yes, I am embarrassed. There are authors out there who would figuratively KILL for even the small measure of publishing success I've achieved. If it makes you feel any better, all the money I make writing goes back into the community--buying books directly from small-press publishers, helping to fund authors' kickstarters, donating to eZines or the SFWA medical fund. It's not much, but I like to think it helps.
Yes, I recognize that too smacks of tremendous privilege. I'm lucky enough to have a job that pays my bills so I can give all my writing money away instead of using it to make rent.
My point is, things that would've blown off the top of my head just a few years ago seem almost normal, now. Writing and publishing has become an addiction of sorts, I have published professionally, now I must publish professionally to prove I haven't lost what little talent I have.
It's a trap, and one I've walked into gladly. Talking to other authors at conventions and panels, I get a sense we're all chasing that high, but we've got publish more and more in better and better markets to recapture it. The older I get, the more I realize that's the way with pretty much everything. There is no amount of fame, success, money, happiness, etc. that we can't become used to. Still, it's this same ungrateful impulse that keeps us striving to be bigger, better, smarter, and--at least insofar as writing is concerned--that's a good thing.