Saturday, August 15, 2015

Defining Success

Some weeks there are times when others around the blogosphere seem to be writing just what I need.  This week I've felt a bit of despair at all the things I haven't accomplished yet, both writing and otherwise.  I remind myself I'm not dead yet.  I could have several productive decades ahead of me.

Yet I still feel Time's Winged Chariot hurrying near (as Marvell put it)--I always have, but now I feel the breath of the charioteer on me.

So it was wonderful to come across Kelli's blog post that shows us that there are many ways to define our success as a writer:  "Success as a writer or artist is creating something from nothing. It’s adding a little beauty to the world or being part of a larger conversation. Sometimes success is beginning a project. Sometimes it’s finishing. Sometimes success is losing track of the hours you spent revising a poem or teaching someone else how to paint."

Of course, some of us will always equate success with the amount of money in our bank account.  She reminds us, "Money seems to be the easiest way to measure success for many people, but it’s not accurate. Freelance writer, Kristin Wong wrote, Money is a tool, not an ideal. Money is a tool we can use to buy things we need or want, but having more of it than another person doesn’t mean someone is successful, perhaps it just means they are better at hoarding."

Our ego is so wrapped up with money and success, and in this blog piece, Sandy shares the best piece of writing advice she ever got: 

"All of this recalls to mind some advice I received in the late spring of 1999. Lo those many years ago, I traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to check out the MFA program there. On that visit, I met the amazing poet Alison Pelegrin. As we chatted over drinks, I must have asked her for some advice about entering the program. She turned to me and said, 'Invest your ego elsewhere.'

What followed from there was a discussion on group dynamics and competitive natures in workshop, but we also talked about writing and publishing in general. The truth is, as it ever was, there will always be someone out there publishing in your "dream" journal when you get rejected, receiving the award you were just sure you would receive, getting the slick 2/2 teaching gig at one of the top 5 grad schools, and etc. Sadly, there will also always be people who need to talk down the work of others in order to feel better about their own writing. This is human nature."

Susan sums up the whole issue neatly in her blog post:  "When I receive a note from a stranger to tell me they were moved by a specific poem or they are in need of a poem they heard me read years ago in a different country --- this is the biggest success. My words reached into another person’s life and took-up residence. What could be better? A trophy? A fat check? Maybe. Or maybe not."

Let me record a note that I got this week, so that I will remember.  My writer-colleague-friend wrote, "You inspire me to aspire to be organized about my writing. I would not be a quarter of a writer, had it not been for you."

Yes, that's my definition of success!

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