Friday, March 25

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, March 25, 2011 15 comments
I think we're all aware of our dark-side tendency to envy. The comparison game can be insidious and soul-killing. One of the most helpful pieces of advice on that front came from your elementary school teacher: "keep your eyes on your own paper."

Each of us has our own journey, and our chosen route will vary greatly depending on where we want to go. Your vision of success shapes the kind of projects you'll tackle, the sacrifices you'll make, your time priorities and your interactions with other creative people.

So how do you define success? Survey time, friends!

UPDATE Clarification: Click the response that best defines "I will know I am a success when I am ___" or, "I idolize and wish I could be like 'successful' authors who are ____."

Having trouble with the widget? Click this: To me, a successful writer is :

How does your vision of success shape how you work now?
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  1. This is something to think about. It's sometimes hard not to get caught up with the others around you. You see them jump ahead and wonder why you can't get there.
    You're right we all have our own path. It may take some of us longer than others to get to where we want to be, which we have to accept. Not the easiest thing to do, but once we accept our path then our work will shine.
    Have a great weekend!

  2. Well, I saw several of those option as successful. But ulitimately, if one has reached their realistic goals - isn't that successful?

  3. We all have different levels of success. But I think being content in what you are doing beats out all the others. And you never know, maybe someday, you will have all the other stuff.

  4. OMG this is hard because I don't entirely agree with any of them. My definition is different. I think Laura put it the best when she said it was about reaching realistic goals. But if I'm published, my goals are going to be different from what they are now.

  5. So funny you mention this today as I've just finished responding to a letter that claimed they just wanted me to be a success along with a whole lot of redundant advice. Anyhoo, I already feel like a success because I get to do what I love every day. It's not about money for me. At all. Ok, off to do your survey! :o)

  6. that is fantastic advice, Laurel. LOVE it. And I do try to do that. The envy creeps in, and then I think, "just keep swimming." Got to follow my own course... :D <3

  7. Christine: I've seen a few 20-somethings score big advances and movie deals recently and I think that I could not have handled that kind of pressure so young. That got me thinking about what I do want to achieve. The authors I admire most are the skillful and giving types, like Madeleine L'Engle, Marilynne Robinson and Sara Zarr.

    Laura: I added some clarification--I wanted to press readers to think of which picture of success fit their personal ambitions best.

    Anne: Sounds like you chose the 'contented' category. Sure, one might have the other successes come--I was curious to know which picture my readers chose as a goal.

  8. Stina: Certainly our immediate goals change over the course of a lifetime, but who do you look at and say "s/he is a success"? And why? Understanding that can help you define what your core values are. Those values should shape your course.

    Jessica: Wasn't it liberating to know you had a different vision of success than your correspondent did?

    Leigh: Giving some thought to your own values and pictures of success can be a real boon to your emotional health as a writer.

  9. I try to answer this question every year with my Mission Statement. The answer may change, but I think it's important to keep asking the question. :)

  10. It is hard not to be envious of people who announce that all their dreams have come true (even if they aren't my dreams). But hopefully we can turn that bit of envy into hard work so our announcements come that much faster. :)

  11. I had difficulty choosing between skillful and contented. I want to write with skill of course, but I also want to be comfortable in my pacing and turnout. I don't worry about getting the big bucks, but I'd like writing and producing novels to be my day job also.


  12. Susan: It is good to reassess where we think we're going on a regular basis.

    Erica: I remember in Elizabeth Berg's book on writing, she mentioned a Native American folk story in which a wise man explains humanity's prime inner struggle as two wolves fighting inside of us, a good, patient, loving one and an evil, greedy, malice-filled one. Which one wins? The one you feed.

    Donna: I wish I were tech-savvy enough to have set up a survey that let you rank choices. That would have been interesting! But even narrowing to two categories is helpful isn't it? With contentment and skill as your vision of success, you won't, for example, beat yourself up for not writing a new novel a month.

  13. My dial-up struggles with the poll....
    Hhmmm, I'll go for influential, a work that changes history... now that would be something to leave my family!! Great poll, thanks.
    I came here through Susan's blog :)

  14. Definition of success to me is a peaceful heart. Like Stina, completing goals is success for me, but then those goals change, and it's on to another 'success' adventure. I really like what your teacher told you; 'keep your eyes on your own paper.' Great advise!

  15. Marja: Welcome and thanks for following. Sorry about the connectivity issues. I'll happily input your response for you. I hope to do a results post after next week.

    Lynn: I'd posed the question as a "what's your vision for the next 20-30 years?"--to get readers thinking about their larger aspirations. One could have realistic short-term goals with any one of these visions of success.