Everyday Success

Have you ever wallowed in your own success or, rather, lack of? We’ve all attempted things in the past only to be disappointed when the outcome we received failed to take the form we hoped for. We’ve all felt like a failure at some time or other. But the truth is many of us don’t even recognize what success is. Success, we reason, has to be some grand, spectacular thing we’ve accomplished in order for it to count. But life is made up of many smaller successes, successes we encounter every day and shrug off because they seem too small, too insignificant. (I haven’t saved a life, or brought about world peace, I haven’t climbed any mountains–you know how it goes.)

If only we’d change the way we think.

Success doesn’t need to be some grandiose thing–the making of a million dollars or the purchase of a seaside home worth millions. Success can be as simple as getting out of bed in the morning—maybe not for you or me, but for some people I’m sure it is.

Today, I challenged myself to write down 100 of my successes. FYI I’m reading, The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. I figured if it was good enough for Jack Canfield, it was good enough for me. I mean, even if you’ve never read a single “Chicken Soup” book, you’ve got to admire this man for what he has accomplished. So when Jack suggests making a list, I make a list. What can it hurt?

So with pen and paper in hand I set out, wondering if I even had 100 successes to write down. 100 is a lot, I mean a LOT. I started out with the important ones—the birth of my children, thirty-six years of marriage, the publication of two books and my many other writing accomplishments. I quickly wrote down the award my first book was short-listed for. I whizzed through all these things with plenty of steam to spare.

But then it got a little more challenging. Hey, I’m not all that interesting. I haven’t done that many things. At least that’s what I thought! I dug back into my childhood and added things like learning to swim, to print, to read, and to write—all very important accomplishments. I’ve never won any big awards but I got my drivers license at twenty-five even though (and many of my friends can confirm this) I don’t really like driving. I taught Sunday school—bet you didn’t know that. I was even a 4-H leader at one time. I added friends to the list because to have friends is to have success, and I’ve got some pretty awesome friends. (Please take a bow if you’re one of them reading this now!) I listed the fact that after six years I’m still blogging and hey, I even have some followers, some of you even check out my posts when I publish them! I added learning how to can vegetables the year I was married. And even learning to play the recorder in grade five (shivers to this day.) I was a choir member in elementary and wrote and presented several speeches to the Home and School Association even though my heart was pounding in my ears. I wrote my first play at ten and bribed persuaded my friends into act in it with promises of fame and fortune. (Okay, so the promised fame and fortune part never happened. Who knew what fame and fortune was back in the fifth grade anyway?)

The more things I thought about the more successful I felt
which I suppose is the point of the whole exercise. I’m only half-way through the list but I’m confident I’ll reach 100 before the evening is out. I’ll be on top of the world!

No matter what your definition of success it, the one thing we can all agree upon is that success is always a positive thing. And if you think you haven’t been very successful in life maybe you need to rethink you definition of success. Maybe we could all benefit by taking a step back and deciding just what success looks like. Does it mean you have to lower your standards? I don’t think so. We can still set goals, in fact there’s nothing wrong in that, but we should still take time to acknowledge all those everyday successes that come our way while we’re waiting for that goal we’ve set to become a reality.

For the writer waiting for that first piece to be published, maybe success is the writing of a publishable short story, poem, novel or article. Maybe it’s making a commitment to creating a blog and writing regular blog posts. Or maybe it’s taking the time to write a letter to someone you know would appreciate a hand-written note. We won’t all sell thousands of copies of our books, we won’t all win awards, we won’t all retire from the royalties we earn, and we won’t all be published in book form—but we can still be successful.

So if you’re not feeling very successful at the moment I’d suggest you start making a list of your own, and I challenge you NOT to feel successful by the time you reach 100.

Ready…set…go!

Letting Go

There’s an important difference between giving up and letting go.” ~Jessica Hatchigan~

Have you ever asked yourself,  when is a good time to give up?  At what point do I call it a day? When do I walk away and just let go?

 I asked myself these questions about a novel I wrote a few years back. I’d submitted it to a few places but ultimately it was rejected. At the time I was disappointed, not crushed –I’ve had my share of rejections in the past– but disappointed nonetheless. Using one editor’s suggestions I decided to revise the story which took many, many hours. I felt the story idea was good and it was a story I wanted to tell. I soon found out that good ideas don’t always turn into good stories. I resubmitted it only to have it rejected again with the suggestion that I allow to the story to set for a time or else abandon it permanently since it seemed that the best part of the manuscript was the idea behind it. Ouch!  I’m being honest here. That one stung.

Writers learn to make rejection a part of our lives. We send things out, they come back, we send them out again, and again. We try and take suggestions from editors if they make sense to us. We resubmit if the editor asks us to.

So I let the story set for a time. I wrote another novel in between. No doubt I learned a bit more about writing. Having one novel under my belt certainly didn’t prove I knew everything there was to know about writing. But that other novel kept niggling away at me, staying in my thoughts.

Maybe I simply like beating a dead horse to death. Maybe I’m as stubborn as the day is long. Maybe, just maybe, I knew I had more in me to give.

Fast forward a few years. I’m hard at work rewriting that same novel I started out with several years back. I stripped it down to the bare bones and began again. Is it working this time around? I’ll let you know as soon as I can. I’ll give you a hint, don’t hold your breath. It may take some time for me to flesh it all out. What I can tell you is, that although the story has the same basic elements, it’s totally different this time around.

Now you might think I just don’t know when to give in, but I can assure you that I’ve left a trail of unfinished stories behind me, stories that I knew were just never going to make it. Sometimes the story we’re writing is just practice for the next one. I’ve had plenty of practice over the years, but I’ve also had plenty of success.

There are times, and situations in life, when the best thing to do is to simply let go, especially if we want some peace in our lives. I’m a believer in letting go, but only if letting go is the right thing to do. Other times we know deep down that giving up is not the answer no matter what others might tell us. Ultimately we know ourselves and what we are capable of. I knew I would never be happy if I let this particular story go. The editor who said that the idea is good was right. It is a good idea. So I’m back at it, giving it one more shot, one final go round before I finally willing to let it go.

At what point do you decide to let something go? Do you believe in sticking with something and seeing it through to the end? Perhaps you have a personal story to share where you were told to let something go but you then went on to succeed.

Laura’s Little List for Aspiring Writers

I was trying to think about some advice I might give to aspiring writers if say, my opinion was ever asked. No matter what we do if life, if we have any amount of success, we’ve probably learned some valuable lessons along the way. I’ve had some success. I’ve learned things. I thought I’d make a little list.

In the beginning I knew nothing about writing or publishing, had no idea what getting published entailed. I simply started writing. Then I bought a book: The Canadian Writer’s Market. I’ll never forget the day I bought that book, knowing those pages contained the very essence of my dream. Who knew there was actually a book out there that told you how and where to submit your work? Wheeeee…. I was going to be published!

See, I was pretty naive way back when.

But you learn. We all do. We do something one way and if that doesn’t work we do something else, again and again, until we get the desired results.

I’ll be honest. I’m not much of a list maker. I think I’ve mentioned that before on this blog. I blame it on being a middle child, cause we’ve got to blame our shortcomings on something. Right?

Sometimes I start out with good intentions, I set down a list of tasks I’d like to accomplish. I might even do that for a day or two, but then something goes terribly wrong. Mainly me. I lose interest and the whole idea of list making goes down the drain.

So pardon me if I make this list short. Since five seems like a nice rounded number to begin with, I’ll make this list short and sweet cause, if you’ve got to read through yet another list, I figure it should be short and easy to digest. Sometime later I’ll think of a few more things to add to the list, and maybe I will, cause surer than anything I’m going to learn a few more things as I continue to write.

So here it is.

Laura’s Little List for Aspiring Writers:

# 1. You are never as good as you think you are.
Keep this in mind when you’re first starting. In the beginning I thought I wrote some pretty clever, not to mention astounding, prose. Once that baby landed on some editor’s desk it was going to be published. I just knew it! It took me many rejections to realize that I had plenty more to learn about writing, that all these first efforts was simply practise. And that’s okay. When you learned to walk, you started out with baby steps.

# 2. Nothing you write is ever a waste of your time.
So some of us need more practise than others. That goes with all things in life. It doesn’t mean we won’t eventually master it. Of course not! You knew that. When discouragement sets in, and it surely will at some time, forget about lashing out and deleting that story you’ve worked so long and hard on.(You’re probably too old for temper tantrums.)You didn’t waste your time. I’m presently rewriting a story I wrote a few years back, bringing fresh new language, and a brand new beginning, to an already existing story. I’m happy to have that original story to look back on now. If I had deleted it in a fit of discouragement I’d be kicking my rear end about now.

# 3. While your use of words is important so is the story because every story need a good solid plot. Plot? You mean there actually needed to be a plot? A purpose to all those beautifully crafted words I was writing? A beginning, middle and an ending, plot? I thought I could wow some editor with my words alone. Nope. Something’s gotta happen. That’s just the way it is.

# 4 If you’re going to make it in the publishing world, you must learn patience. Once you have learned patience, you must relearn it, maybe even a few times until you absolutely get it. And once you’ve got it, you’ll be plagued at least one more time with impatience cause the Universe insists that you really get the lesson. I figure patience is a biggie so far as the Universe is concerned. Writing/publishing takes time. We send out our manuscripts and wait for a response, one that we’re sure will come any day. The Canadian Writer’s Market said wait three or four months before following up with a query on the status of your submission. Three or four months? I wish! Think a year, maybe longer. Editors are very busy people.

# 5. Be original. This doesn’t necessarily mean wild and crazy, unless of course you like wild and crazy. You can still write about things you know and love, but try to put a different spin on it. Tackle that subject in a way no other writer has. Come up with original turns of phrase. Remember that no one can tell that story the way you can. It’s your story, after all, and you are a distinct individual looking to discover your own unique voice in the world.

So there’s the end of my little list. Of course I have learned more that these five things. I’ve been writing for over twenty years for goodness sake, but these were the first five that came to mind. Now get out there and start practising.

 

If you’re a writer, I invite you to share your wisdom in the comment section and add something to my list.

 

Move Over J.K. Rowling Cause Here I come!!

Okay, so the title is a supposed to be a joke. But hey, it never hurts to dream big. Right?

Seriously, though we all know about the success of the Harry Potter books. I loved reading the story behind the success, how a modest 1000 copies were printed of the first book because the publisher wasn’t sure it would sell. I mean they were taking a chance on a first time author. Right?

Reading about the success of others can either inspire us or depress us.
I prefer to let it inspire me. The truth is most of us won’t write a novel that will meet or surpass the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter series. But so what!

Shari Green recently blogged about redefining success in our lives (you can read Shari’s post here.) I liked it when Shari asked the question: Might you benefit from redefining what constitutes success as a writer for you?

Before and after my first novel came out many of my friends made the suggestion that wouldn’t it be wonderful if it became the next Harry Potter. Well yah, and while I’m all for dreaming big and being open to endless possibilities, at some point we have to look at life realistically.

But does that mean our success must pale along those best selling authors like Rowling, King, Atwood, etc? Do we all have to have sales that go through the roof in order for that sweet taste of success to be ours? I don’t think so.

Completing a novel is a huge big deal. Having one published is an even bigger deal.

Many people will talk about writing a book, but many will discover along the way that they don’t have what it takes to sit and write every day until they come to ….THE END. Having the desire to do something will not bring our dreams to fruition if we are not ready or able to do the work involved in order to have that dream realized.

Shortly after my novel came out, my family had a get-together at my mother’s house and surprised me with a plaque. Congratulations on the success of your first novel, Bitter, Sweet, it reads. For a split second I thought, success? My book’s been out less than a month. How can they use the word success?

Months later, I now look at this from a totally different perspective. Of course my book is a success, I wrote it, it’s been published, people have read it. I’m not going to turn around now and attach stipulations to this. There are many degrees of success in this world. Why do we think we have to go for something that is SO off scale, so out of balance, something that only a very few will ever experience, before we are satisfied? For a toddler, success is that very first step, not the millions of steps that come after. I’m not sure what will come after Bitter, Sweet. I have no crystal ball. All I have is the knowledge that regardless of what the future holds my book is already a success.

Success/Failure—How Do We Measure It?

Two things inspired me to write a post on failure— or should say success? The first one was a post over at Unleash The Flying Monkeys Failure is Not an Option; It’s a Necessity, where Leah dismisses the notion that “we must succeed or else,” and the other arrived in the form of a little inspirational note in my inbox which read:

The standard of success in life isn’t the things. It isn’t the money or the stuff — it is absolutely the amount of joy you feel.”

I happen to agree with Leah in that failure is not the end of the world, nor is success a necessity for happiness. Her idea that many of us put ourselves under far too much pressure was spot on. We don’t want to end up sucking all the joy out of our lives which is exactly what can happen when we strive to reach certain goals and deadlines.

While Leah’s opinion is that failure isn’t the end of the world–which it isn’t– my little email message seemed to be saying that we should take a look at what success means. That got me thinking.

So, how does a writer measure success?

Some might say, that’s easy—publication is what all writers strive for, their way of measuring success, or perhaps the size of the advance they receive (not to mention royalty money, and possibly any awards that might come their way.)

I’m reminded of a post I wrote last November, So What’s it really about? that came about after a conversation with my daughter where I told her I didn’t want this experience of having a book published to be all about sales and money. I wanted to enjoy each precious moment, savour each pleasant memory along the way.

A writer’s life is filled with highs and lows. There is both disappointment and elation along the way. We feel disappointment when we receive yet another rejection and elation over some small bit of praise for our work.

But hopefully, as we create our stories we are doing it for the pure joy of it, and not for some measure of success that comes in the form of money or fame or awards. Hopefully, we are wrapped up in each word and syllable, sentence and paragraph that we put down on paper. Hopefully, as each day brings us further to an ending, we love the story we’re creating just as much at the end as we did in the very beginning. If there is no joy, no sense of fun, are we truly successful when and if that story is finally published?

How then, as writers, do we fail?

I thought about this question for a moment and the first thing that popped into my mind was quitting. For me, failure would come in the form of quitting. And then I wondered why would a writer quit? Failure to be published might be the answer. But if we quit, how can be sure that publication is not awaiting us further down the road? Lots of things to ponder.

We are often encouraged to set goals for ourselves and this can be helpful. It can motivate us to keep going or even serve as the catalyst to get us started. But what if we set a goal such as: I want to be published by a certain date and that date comes and goes. Are we then a failure for not reaching our goal by this self-imposed deadline?

I have occasionally set writing goals to help motivate myself, and only rarely do I set a deadline. Don’t get me wrong, for some writers deadlines are a way of life especially when an editor is waiting for you to get back to them with rewrites and all that other fun stuff. Missing such deadlines would not be wise. Earlier this year, I set a goal of having a first draft for another novel completed by the end of the summer. Guess what? Didn’t happen. Little did I know when I set this goal that I would become very busy with some revisions on a completely different story. Did I feel like a failure then for missing my deadline? Not for a moment. I felt like a complete success for bringing my revisions to a place where I am totally happy and confident with the story I was revising.

Sometimes we have to accept the fact that we don’t have control over everything. Sometimes we want to go in one direction while the Universe is guiding us someplace else. Sometimes we think we are ready when in fact we aren’t. But if we quit working at it I can guarantee this readiness will never find us, and yes we probably will feel like a failure.

So that’s lots to digest for one day. Thanks for making me think, Leah, and for inspiring me to write this very long-winded post…

As a writer what do you feel if your measure of success? Do you agree with the statement that “ The standard of success in life isn’t the things. It isn’t the money or the stuff — it is absolutely the amount of joy you feel?”

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