I think one of the biggest reasons all writers want to publish is that publication is a sign of progress. For some people it's the arrival of the outside validation that they need. For others it's the moment when they feel like they've arrived ... or at least the moment they can tell their friends and acquaintances that they're writers because they can finally answer that follow up question "oh, what do you write?" without blushing and saying they're working on something.
Perhaps writers would be less neurotic about the prospect of publishing if it weren't for the fact that in the wilds between starting to write and publication, there are almost no other mile markets to use to note your progress. I found this great article by David H. Hendricks appearing here about how to (or whether you even can) measure your progress as a writer before you publish.
I'd heard both the 10,000 hour rule and the first million words rule, but Hendricks attributes these theories to Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers and John D. MacDonald respectively.
10,000 hours, coincidentally, is the amount of time most people spend on the Ph.D.s.
Hendricks' penny method might work for me. Of course, I have to want an indicator of progress enough to remember to put the penny in the bowl. Any other thoughts on how to reply to your inner child when it starts kicking the back of your seat and asking Are we there yet?