Stage 4: Drilling Down
You read more books on writing, maybe take some classes, maybe go to Clarion. You learn about plot and point of view and theme. You begin to analyze everything. You read more in the field and realize that some people are brilliant, and that you're not one of them.
Stage 5: Chrysalis
You hibernate, maybe even for years, mulling over all that you've absorbed. You get depressed as your peers make sales and advance their careers, even though you are happy for them. You feel like you're standing still while the industry races by you. Locus goes unread. You become paralyzed at the thought of writing a new story, convinced an important element is wrong or missing. Story ideas, once so numerous, have dwindled, and most you discard before even giving them a chance. Your mind is full of reasons why something won't work.
Stage 6: Awakening
The jumble of lessons filling your brain begins to arrange itself into craft. You begin writing again, slowly. You're so much better than before. No, not brilliant. Not yet. But better. And now armed with the tools to continue improving. Writing is still slow and you're far more critical of your work than when you started. But you're better, and you're still writing.
Stage 7: Confidence
It's not that you weren't confident before, it's that you had no reason to be. Now when you think one of your stories is good, it probably is. Editors agree and you start making sales. Not everything you write is stellar, but that's okay. A rejection doesn't break you now. You understand the game and you want to keep playing. Brilliance is still in the distance, but competence feels pretty darn good.
Stage 8 and Beyond: Professional
However well you do, there are always greater goals ahead. Story sales lead to industry recognition, more story sales, maybe interest from an agent. You sell novels for modest advances. You sell more novels. You get bigger advances. You dream of being as big as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Ursula LeGuin. Maybe someday you will be.
Well I haven't hit stage 8 yet, but I have been bouncing all over 1-6....maybe I can get further...maybe....