Monday, January 12, 2015
The Look of Success
Years ago, when I officially decided that I wanted to “be a writer,” I thought I knew what success looked like. I even had a face for it: a dark-haired man with a strong jaw, high forehead, and intense eyes behind thick glasses. His name was, and is, Stephen King.
Getting words down on a page was pretty easy for me, so I couldn’t see any reason why my success would be less than his. After all, we were walking the same path. Compatriots. Brother/sister-in-arms, with the pen being mightier than the sword. He had a head start, yes, but I would soon catch up. Novels would spill from my wildly imaginative and prolific brain via my tireless fingers, become immediate best sellers, and then, of course, the movies would follow.
I started writing, and I made every mistake in the book…including not reading the book. Consequently, I wrote a lot of crap—FYI, enthusiasm never, ever trumps bad writing—but to my credit, I never gave up. I guess this goes without saying, but neither have I reached that writer’s pinnacle where guru Stephen King welcomes me to the top of the mountain with hearty congratulations, sage advice, and perhaps a snifter of brandy for my troubles.
These days, I’m older and wiser, and success looks different to me. I still (somewhat enviously) acknowledge the amazing power of the bestseller/Colbert bump/NPR interview/book tour/movie deal that propels some writers into the stratosphere like a one-way ticket on Willie Wonka’s glass elevator. But I have also learned to recognize and appreciate that success is more varied and nuanced than I ever imagined back in the day. Most importantly, I now know that every step on the way to a ‘big’ success is a success of its own.
I encourage you to take a little time this January to picture what success as a writer looks like for you. It can be big and elaborate or small and simple, but it must come from you—not your spouse or FaceTwitter or the news or even Stephen King himself (though if he does get in touch, it would be awesome if you could find a way to casually work my name into the conversation). It must feel true in your heart and bring you joy. After you have a picture of where you want to go, you can begin working on the steps that will take you there.
How do you picture your writing success for this year and beyond?