Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Success - what a strange concept!


It's another meeting of the IWSG!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the September 1 posting of the IWSG are Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

September 1 question - How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

Before I decided how I defined success as a writer I had to look it up in the dictionary. I looked it up in the online ones - always a pathetic trip down a stupid lane. Then I hauled out the second volume of the enormous Oxford dictionary we have with its attendant magnifying glass. Too tiny still and overly complicated. At last I went to where I should have gone first - my favourite dictionary The American Heritage Dictionary. It gives me four meanings:

1. The achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted.

2. a) The gaining of fame or prosperity. b) The extent of such gain.

3. One that is successful.

4. A result or outcome.

None of these satisfied me in terms of defining success as a writer. I think I'm going to be a renegade here and say that, for me, success is none of these things. When I was a teenager success would have meant having a small volume of poems published. As I got older I wanted to write the Great Canadian Novel. Or I wanted to be an award-winning journalist. Or have a play on Broadway. Year by year those things morphed and changed. I hung on to the idea of it but the heart changed. I thought that being a published writer would satisfy me, but now I know that isn't true. Don't get me wrong - I will be ecstatic next year when I hold a novel with my name on the cover. I still want those outcomes but my notion of success has dissolved. Now I know that being successful as a writer means to me that I have a thought and as I write it and work on that thought it becomes something another will understand upon reading it. Or perhaps not even another - but that I will understand what seemed incoherent and buried - that the act of writing it out will bring the idea to life. 

So that means that sometimes I succeed and sometimes I stumble. If I don't know what success means to me, I certainly know what failure would be - stopping. Giving up. Falling down and staying down. 

Further to that I believe the most dangerous notion of success I could hold would be 2 a. I would then be putting success in the hands of others. Only the market or public opinion would make me. Gah! Again that doesn't mean that I don't hope my book becomes a runaway best seller - it simply means that nice though that might be my armour of joy and contentment comes from satisfying myself.

I'm glad I wasn't a runaway success early on. It could have ruined me.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like your revised definition of success. :) Satisfying ourselves is the best!

Liza said...

Satisfying yourself...that's perfect and correct! Success is fluid. As soon as we succeed at one thing, we are (or should be) on to another. We just can't stop. That said, I'm still so tickled about your book! Can't wait to hold it in MY hands!

Margot Kinberg said...

What a thoughtful discussion on success, Jan! I think your definition is really healthy, too. It's far healthier not to let others determine your level of success, and your sense of success. And it makes writing a lot more satisfying!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, I like to keep what I consider success to those things I can control. I so agree with how you are now defining your own success.

Helen said...

Although I would like to have others read/enjoy what I write, that wasn't why I started writing, so yeah it is good to look at what/how one defines success from time to time.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Success needs to be in your hands, not others.

Pat Garcia said...

Yes, I have a thought or an idea that I work on that conveys to my readers what I am saying and sometimes even changes their perspective or the way they see things.
I enjoyed reading your thoughts.
Shalom aleichem,
Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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