Monday, December 2, 2013

Writerly Success: What Does It Look Like to You?

 " a writer, one of the things I've always been interested in doing is actually invading your comfort space.  Because that's what we're supposed to do.  Get under your skin, and make you react." ~ Stephen King

I've been writing for more years than I want to recall.  It's embarrassing how many years it has been.  Embarrassing because we're trained as children that you practice and get better over time.  Then, one day after years of practicing and getting better you succeed.  But that's not how writing is.  It's a breed apart from traditional paths.  Acting, dancing -- the performing arts, in general -- all follow this unusual elliptical pattern.  Success is not always what it's cracked up to be in traditional terms.

Writing success is personal.  Whether you are a major literary star like Stephen King or Maya Angelou or an aspiring author striving for their first big break success is measured very subjectively. 

"...there are those critics -- New York critics as a rule -- who say, 'Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it's good but then she's a natural writer.'  Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing.  I work at the language."

Ms. Angelou clearly feels that 'success' comes to her through diligent hard work and the wooing of her muse and structuring and re-structuring the language in her works-in-progress.

Success is an elusive word when it comes to artists.  What defines success? How much money you make?  The acclaim (or flame...) from critics?  The acceptance by the literati?  A sizable niche following?

Who's to say?  It could be one of these.  It could be all of these.

Success could also be defined as doing what you said you were going to do; the accomplishment of one's intention.

Here are some fab quotes about what success is (and is not) by some folks you may have heard of.

"The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet.  His problem is to find that location."  ~ Flannery O'Connor

"To succeed in life you need two things: ignorance and confidence." ~ Mark Twain

"Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally." ~ David Frost

"Action is the foundational key to all success." ~ Pablo Picasso

Girl Before Mirror (1932)

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents." ~ Salvador Dali

The Persistence of Memory (1931)

 Success to me is centered around my family and children and the assistance I can share with them in achieving/striving for their dreams and goals.  My own personal success is tied into creating a life that I find worth living.  Writing is an integral part of that life.

Another interesting aside to this topic of success is this.  When you go looking for something in the wrong place, or with the wrong information you never arrive.  For example, my Art History class back in college is a dusty memory (an alarmingly dusty one!).  I just knew that this painting was a Picasso painting...

When in reality, this is Georges Braque's Cubism.  My brain misremembered who actually painted it and recalled that Braque and Picasso revived Cubist painting.  I was on a chase for a painting by Picasso that -- didn't exist!  Success can be just like this episode.  You imagine you will find success somewhere where it isn't, or you mislabel what true success is.

I'd love to continue the conversation with you.  How do you define success?  What is your personal take on it?