For the first time in nearly six years, since my son (age five) was born, we took a “real” vacation to a tropical island. A notorious “do-er” I was a little concerned about my ability to spend 5 days doing nothing but swimming and sunning and eating. I brought no work, just my e-reader loaded with books and hoped for the best.
At first I was twitchy, antsy, kept looking for something to do, for without doing am I successful? But within 24 hours my usually busy mind began to quiet. It didn’t project anxiously into the future or linger heavily on the past. It floated much like my body in the buoyant ocean, with no agenda.
It got me to thinking about the notion of “success”, how it gets equated with “doing and achieving” and particularly for writers in this ever-changing publishing climate. American culture perpetuates a myth of entitlement that we can rise from anonymity to mega-success that should, ideally, bring fame, wealth and critical validation. Success is defined as a set of achievements, seen as greater when they come with large public acknowledgement and big sales dollars behind them.
What I know after three decades of writing and nearly four decades of life, is that when I write from that place, with the intention of “striking it big” I always meet with failure. And I know lots of writers—those with big figure advances and bestseller status, and those with small presses and indie power behind them—and the story continues to be the same: if success is the destination, you may be missing out on the moment, not being present for your life and not writing from a deep place.
10 “re-definitions” of success for writers:
- Write to tap into the miraculous creative soup of consciousness you are gifted with as a human being
- Write to deepen your understanding of: yourself, a topic, the world, language
- Write to connect with others
- Write to keep your brain sharp and supple
- Write because you love to twist and taste words between your mind and fingers
- Write instead of watching TV
- Write to bring internal stillness to your heart and mind
- Write for catharsis
- Write what you cannot say aloud
- Write because you have a complex human mind that can make worlds any time you choose
If you do any of these things, you are a successful writer, in my book.