Thursday, March 18, 2010

What Defines Success?

This can go anywhere, don't you think? Are you dying to see where I'm going with this? Ha ha! I bet you are. *snarf*

Success: the achievement of something desired, planned or attempted.

That's a pretty good definition.

So in publishing what defines success?

Getting an agent?

A book deal?

Making the NYT bestseller list?

Where do you aim? Some of my best friends, Suzette and Bethany, have this on their blog. It inspires me greatly.

"Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal." ~Pamela Vaull Starr

So combining my life and writing worlds together, this is how I define success:

  • Not eating that girl scout cookie. Okay, not eating the whole box.
  • Writing THE END. Finally.
  • Reading good books. Lotsa good books.
  • Curling up with a blanket and the DVR.
  • Walking in the park. With sun, please.
  • Feeding the ducks. Even with all the crazy-quacking and my heart pounding with the fear that I'm going to have to kick them off my kid and wondering how bad it might hurt to be bitten by a freaking duck.
  • Arriving on time.
  • Signing that agency contract.
  • Reading amazing blogs.
  • Emailing good friends for epic lunch dates.
  • Phone conversations with my DH on the way home.
  • Saying "I love you" and meaning it.
  • Saying "I'm sorry" and meaning it.
  • Not answering the phone when I don't recognize the number. Or even when I do.
  • Listening to my favorite song (Nothing from Chorus Line) on Pandora. And then turning it up real loud.
  • Hearing someone playing the piano in my house.
  • Meeting authors.
  • Merely walking through Barnes & Noble, with that smell of pages and pages of wonder.
  • Sharing this blog with all of you.

And yes, getting that book deal. Landing that agent. Running my fingers over my name on the cover of my book.

Do you think there's an end to success? And you tell me: In your world, what defines success?


Unknown said...

What do I see as a success? Well, I think success is doing something I love and getting it completed (yeah, actually finishing it).

Yeah, getting the agent, book deal, movie deal, etc would be fantastic, but they would be nothing if I didn't love what I did and the work I produced.

Jess of All Trades said...

I agree with your definition (though my goals are slightly different ;D )
I think the quote 'success is a journey and not a destination' came about when some guy realized, 'hey! I got what I I'm ready for something else. Something more."
I think realizing that once you have That Thing (that Goal), that you're going to then want something else (if you give a mouse a cookie..), and knowing that that first Goal is not the end-all, be-all, would help a lot of people avoid dissatisfaction.

That was kind of convoluted. I hope you know what I mean.

Candyland said...

I don't think there's an end to success. It's limitless. With the big and small, from book deals to having a child when the odds were stacked high.

This is a fantastic post because I, too, also think it's an achievement when I can only eat one Girl Scout cookie:)

Scott said...

I think if we are happy in our lives, then we have success. Yeah, there's always something more, some other dream to chase, to capture, to . . . whatever, but, I think happiness, well, contentment to, is all part of success. I also think success is different for every person out there.

Oh, and kudos on not eating the whole box of girl scout cookies. I wasn't so lucky. Ha!

Christina Lee said...

Well. NOW you got me thinking :) I love your list of successes--those are the little things in every day life that REALLY MATTER, so calling them succeses is a great idea. Yeah, the dream of running my fingers over my name on a book cover has always been in the back of my brain. *sigh*

L. Diane Wolfe said...

For me, true success is defined by the number of lives one touches in a positive way.
So it's not how many books or the money or if anything I write ever ends up on a best seller list - it's how many people can I reach with the message of hope in my books and in my talks?

Kimberly Franklin said...

Yours are good. For me, success is finishing my MS and not going completely crazy doing it! Among others, of course.

Theresa Milstein said...

I love your success list.

What defines success for me?
- When my children are thriving
- Even when I can make every excuse to get out of it, I exercise.
- A meal I've created comes out delicious
- I'm told that I'm a good friend
- Being married to my best friend
- Completing a rough draft
- Completing a final draft
- Writing a good post
- Reading a great book
- Petting my cat
- Being out on a beautiful sunny day
- Teaching

Success I'm aiming for:
Publishing contract

Having a best seller would be pretty nice too.

Karen Lange said...

I don't think there is an end to success. We can constantly learn, grow, and achieve new things. I'm all for succeeding at things for the rest of my life! You in? :)

Tina Lynn said...

I think a successful person is happy with what they have, but still driven to want more.

Stina said...

I'd say your list pretty much mirrors mine . . . including the duck thing. I'm always in my ninja pose whenever my kids go near ducks, 'cause, seriously, their bite must be worse than their quack, right?

Kay said...

Success = satisfaction, gratification, recognition, passion, dedication, and all those other words ending with "n" :)

I do believe you have defined yourself as successful! Bravo!

Christine Fonseca said...

I like this post - Hmm...Success:
-the tiny moments with my kids when I see the amazing people they are
-every moment with my hubby (well almost every moment)
-"real" conversations with my online friend
-the relaxation that I am not alone on this journey
-staying on my matter how hard it gets.
Everything else is just the blessings that come with success!

Jessica Bell said...

What a perfect post for today. I've just finished writing a query for my book, which deals with the way people strive for things that they think make them successful, but in the end realise that life means so much more than what they think success can bring. I think evenually, whether you are 'successful' or not, you realise that the true success comes in little bundles of pleasure that make you smile for reasons that you can't define.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Loyal readers and books that stay in print.

Laura Pauling said...

Definitely not eating the whole box of girl scout cookies. My daugher is a girl scout and the boxes we bought are still in the basement. I will bring them out in desperate times and hope that my kids get atleast a couple. :)

Kelly Polark said...

I feel that you can be successful and still strive for more.
I have accomplished many goals that I have set out to do, but I do have more. Agent/Book Published is the next one to check off my list. After that I will have more goals. But the important thing is that I am happy where I am now, but I do like a challenge.

Unknown said...

First, I love your definitions for success. What a great list, and I'm with you on all points!

For me, success is not synonomous with reknown. If the world at large never knows my name, I'm fine with that. To feel successful for me is simply to know I've put my heart and soul into what I accomplished. The opposite of success is not failure. In my way of thinking, the only possibly way to fail is to not see the lesson in your attempt.

When I feel on top of the world, it's because I'm basking in the joy of knowing I created something with my hands that made the world a more beautiful place for me.

An a book deal would be sweet!

Tina Laurel Lee said...

You have a good list! and I think is an important thing to consider. Very valuable post for me, especially after yesterday's. I feel I'm catching on to this all so slowly.

Bish Denham said...

Success for me is being content with my life and what I've done with it. I have met some very successful people who by American standards did not succeeded at anything in particular and yet these people were loved and charished by many. That, to me, is the greatest success of all. It's not the end result that's important, it's how we behave while we're on the journey. (Of course signing with an agent and getting a book deal would surely smooth out some of the rough spots on the road!)

Suzette Saxton said...

What a beautiful post! I love the things that you define as success. I think I need to broaden my list. Right now, success for me is hitting a 1000-word minimum every day.

Thanks for linking to my blog! :)

Kristi Faith said...

I love your list! I'm pretty sure as long as I'm happy and my kids are happy and healthy, I've succeeded.

Anne Gallagher said...

Success to me is finishing the project I've been working on, whether the fence, the WIP, or the dishes. The feeling of accomplishment, especially of a job well done.

JournoMich said...

I think there are benchmarks, but no end--thank goodness! Where would we go if there were an end? Success for me is laughter between my children, a book deal, writing AT ALL during the day, making it through the day without calling my husband home (I have fibromyalgia), doing yoga and feeling good about it at the end...Hey! I feel successful for listsing these successes!

Ok--gotta run accomplish something!


Patti said...

Success is always getting better. Instead of eating the three cookies I ate yesterday, today I'll only eat two. Instead of only running one km yesterday, today I'll run two.

Instead of only writing 500 words yesterday, today I'll write 600.

Kerri Cuev said...

Success is doing what I love to the best of my ability and finishing what I started. Hmmm and loving every second of eating a chewy chocolate chip cookie!

Jemi Fraser said...

Love your list.

Careful with those ducks! My son & the babysitter were "attacked" by the geese they were feeing once. The babysitter got bit when she covered him up. Neither of them has liked geese since.

Success for me is all about the smile. If it makes me smile, it's pretty much a success :)

Slamdunk said...

Good discussion topic.

It is girl scout cookie time isn't it?

I like a modified version of a quote by George Sheehan:

"Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you were intended to be.”

Anonymous said...

Striving for progress.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I love your list! I'd say running a few miles when I would rather be reading, baking a perfect flourless chocolate torte (I'm about to tackle tiramisu for the first time), and landing a publishing contract.

Sarah Ahiers said...

getting bitten by a duck is painful, but not too. It's like someone grabbing a peice of your flesh and twisting a bit. More bruising pain that sharp pain.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Here's my short answer. When I offer up a piece of myself in music or writing or conversation, and someone has an emotional response. I know I'm successful when they say, "Please, can I have some more?"

Carolyn V. said...

Wow Elana, I think you defined it perfectly! =) The only thing I can think of adding is having one of my kids come to me for advice. That's awesome. =)

Faith Pray said...

This is good. It's so easy to get distracted by results, and think that results (especially that all-consuming book deal) equal success or importance.
But feeling good inside, realizing you did your best and then some, owning a clean conscience, getting mucky and living life up to your neck - that's success.

Janet Johnson said...

So many ways to succeed, I'm not going to try to list them, but doing your best even when it's hard, in all areas of life. That's my definition.

Shelley Sly said...

My idea of success is based much more on my relationship with people than with gaining money, materials, or fame. I'm with the others -- the published book or the best seller's list would be amazing -- but I'd consider myself successful if I can do something that I love (such as write a book), and as a result, have the opportunity to connect with people.

Katie said...

-Living up to my potential
-Fulfilling my purpose in life.

Great list! :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Success is waking up every morning and giving it my best shot all day long! :-)

December said...

I really like your list there. I'm going to add:
-have some really deep rich belly laughs with good friends on a weekly basis.
-eat great food
-exercise to keep my body tuned up.

Cassandra Frear said...

Success is Jesus living his life through me, in me, in a fallen and broken world. Regardless of any results I see for my efforts. This has been a great freedom for me.

But I do admit, I relish those moments when I feel successful! I love them like I love cake and rich coffee and walking on the beach! Ha!

Danyelle L. said...

Love this! Success, to me, is being able to look at the face in the mirror at the end of the day and see a friend. :)

Stephanie McGee said...

Success is surviving each day to live another.

bookaholic said... many other words,success is an abstract concept for me. I guess anything that gives me unsurmountable happiness after its achievement is success to me!

Jackee said...

My own personal happiness defines my success. Which it sounds like you've got down! :)

Beautiful post!

Crystal Cook said...

I guess I think of success as financial or public recognition (stupid I know, I'm working on getting over that). I mean I don't define success with my family or my inner self that way, but when it comes to writing that sums it up. I am slowly learning that that isn't true. I liked reading your list and all the comments too. Honestly the freaking duck biting you made this post so worth reading for me :)

Casey Something said...

I've realized recently that nothing is ever quite good enough. You think something will be... but once you have it, there's something else, something more. So I think you've got it right, Elana. We have to find success each step, in the little wonders of life.

I've been focusing on that lately, and the power of that positivity is definitely working for me.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I really agree with Casey's comments. I think success is doing the best you can given your circumstances and that will be different depending on each of us. For example, if you are able to not work, you may be able to finish that novel, query, get published, etc. quicker than those of us who have to juggle it with another demanding career.

I don't define success as getting an agent or getting published anymore though I hope and work hard toward those goals. I think even if you have a good story, there's no guarantee that these things will happen, especially with the economy right now and all the changes to publishing. And I try to remember, even if I do get published, it'll be great, but it's not the answer to life or to making one happy. It's one aspect of a good life.

Liza said...

Today success was completing eight hand-written pages on my WIP, and realizing that I have one--a WIP, I mean. You heard it here first, folks! (Does saying it out loud, or in this case writing it down, make it true?) :)

Abby Annis said...

An end to success? I think if/when :) I reach publication, there will be higher goals I would like to reach. Though sometimes it's hard not to get ahead of myself.

For now, in my writing life, I'll be happy when I get my rewrite done and start submitting. In regular life, if I can succeed as a mother, wife, sister, friend, etc., I think I'll be good. No pressure. ;)

Tahereh said...

i always love your posts. so insightful and interesting. i like your definition of success, but i don't think it ever needs to end. success can be attained in even the tiniest things -- cliche, i know, but i really believe it.

i think the day we start feeling less-successful is the day we stop paying attention to the world.

thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

"Feeding the ducks. Even with all the crazy-quacking and my heart pounding with the fear that I'm going to have to kick them off my kid and wondering how bad it might hurt to be bitten by a freaking duck."...LOL!

Hmmm...for me success is loving my husband and child with a serving spirit. Finishing a project, even when I would like to light it on fire, put it on a boat, and hold a Viking funeral for it. And putting myself out there, opening myself up to critique and rejection, but becoming a better writer for it.

I also wouldn't mind selling a novel in a preempt, 3 book, major deal. Go Beth!!!!

Anonymous said...

When I was teaching at risk kids I defined success by how I felt about how I'd treated my students. That's how I judged myself at the end of each day. Was I compassionate? Did remain non-defensive when an angry teen cussed me out or threatened me? Did I have patience? Did I let go of expectations? And did I give myself permission to screw up (because I screwed up a lot) and face the next day with a fresh slate? And if I could do that for myself then I also could do that for my students.

Now that I'm writing full-time I define success by how present I am with my work. Am I wasting time? Am I not pushing myself? Am I engaged?

Sure, I'd love a book deal but when I look deeply I see success as something both internal, and how I interact with the world, how I treat other people. How I feel about how I'm treating other people.

Thanks for asking this question! It has really helped to remember what is important. It is so easy for me to forget. Thanks, Elana!!

Shannon Messenger said...

Honestly, I'd say REAL success is being happy with what you have while still dreaming of bigger things. BUT--that's like the brass ring, so I'd also say its:

-finding time each day to do something for yourself--even if it's only a few minutes

-reading a book that's so amazing you can't put it down

-doing something nice for someone else

-rubbing a warm kitty belly

Also--LOL on the duck one! Still chucking about that. ;)

Melissa Hurst said...

I can identify with so many of the things you have on your list. I could also add having days when the kids play together without fighting, having the kids in bed ON TIME so I can have some quiet writing time, having one of the kids come up to me and give me a hug for no reason other than they love me, realizing that every day is a gift and that we should not take life for granted. I must say that finding an agent and having my book published would be pretty sweet, too:)

Melissa Sarno said...

Ok, so I'm too distracted to discuss the definition of success because of 'Nothing' from Chorus Line! (what does that say about my ability to achieve it?! ha) I once became obsessed with the version from My Favorite Broadway: Leading Ladies where Priscilla Lopez sang it.

Krispy said...

Love your list. It's a good reminder that success can be defined by things we normally take for granted.

I'd add something about enjoying food to your list though. ;)

Jennie Englund said...

Those are all so many good things.

Mmmm.... success is tasty!

Unknown said...

On some days it's not going crazy.

Every day it's being more like the mom I want to be and less like the mom I cringe at being.

And on almost all days, success is getting to write at least a little bit.

About Me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
About Me said...

Great list! Success for me is being happy in life and if I'm able to one day make a living doing the thing I love the most (writing, that is...) that's even better.

Unknown said...

This is a hard question. You've done a great job defining it for yourself.

For me I'd have to say that I already feel successful in life.

I'm happily married to a great man and have been for a long time. (can't say how long, don't wanna give away my age too much:))

I have four incredible kids who are healthy, happy and pretty well balanced.

I live in a beautiful city in a nice home with my own office in it.

I have supportive family and friends.

I've traveled a lot and had tons of adventures.

I'm a friend of Jesus. Yes, I'm a spiritual person of faith, and I give thanks to God everyday for his goodness to me and mine.

And now I can add I'm an agented writer with a book out on submission. Yahoo!

Liz H. Allen said...

I've always said that the greatest revenge is success. You see, in jr high and high school, I had almost no friends and was pretty much the butt of jokes. I decided that I was going to grow up and be successful so that I could go back to my 10 yr reunion and shove it all in their faces, LOL. Success has never been money or fame (although that would be nice) but I wanted to do something that most people never achieve. At the time, it was to get my PhD. Though this is still a goal of mine, right now my success would be to get published (which means I actually have to finish something). I feel, in regards to family, I am already successful. I have two wonderful, smart kids and an awesome husband who supports us all with his own business. Perhaps it is possible to feel successful because you are proud of those around you?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Great post. I marked profound, for sure.

In my world, what defines success? I'd say trying to figure out what God wants me to do with my writing, then doing it!

It's the doing it part that's hard, though, cuz we all know how hard it is. Long hours writing, trying to get an agent, then to find a publisher. . . But I say the success comes in trying, because that's what I'm supposed to do. :-)

Anonymous said...

To me, success is walking through life with integrity. Being true to myself, my goals and my dreams without selling out.

Success is being able to go to bed at night with a smile on my face because I accomplished something--no matter how grand or how small.

Success is happiness no matter what anyone else thinks about you.

Nichole Giles said...

Thank you for this. I needed it today.

Right now, at this moment, happiness = success.

You know what, you've inspired me. I think I may give this some thought on my own blog. Hope that's okay!


Anonymous said...

Great list! We have chickens.... I think they have talons..... as my friend Napolean would say. :O)

Aaron Polson said...

Continuing to write is success. Plain and simple.

All the other schtuff? Gravy.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

OMG I totally cracked up at the duck part. Great list -- I try to include moments of pleasure in my goals as well.

Unknown said...

Nope. Never an end to success. Unless we are at the end of our life? B/c what's life without striving? BORING?


making the most of each day without ever uttering the words: I should...but...

Lisa K. said...

My idea of success is constantly shifting. Of course there's the bigger, sort of "ultimate" successes: publishing a novel, making a living as a novelist, etc. But there are also the day-to-day successes such as finishing a manuscript revision that's been particularly difficult, or writing that synopsis, or sending out a query letter. Maybe getting an acceptance at a short story market that I've been targeting. I try to enjoy all the small successes and use them as motivation and inspiration for moving forward toward the larger successes.

lotusgirl said...

I love your list. We share many ideas on success. I would add: moving people (including myself) with something I've written, making people cry when I sing, getting the picture just right, helping someone when they need it, seeing my kids do something I taught them how to do, knowing that someone feels better after talking to me. I could keep going, but this is long enough. Alas.

Henya said...

So yes...I like reading you and I don't always leave a comment. TIME is a big factor. But here I am to tell you that I always enjoy what you have to say, and, much helpfulness (:))

Suzette Saxton said...

"Success is the journey, not the destination." Bruce Lee

My son quoted this at the door before he left for school today, which made me think of your list, Elana. You already embody this quote!

Georgiana Daniels said...

Great post! I, too, define success by not eating the whole box. Especially because it's entirely possible that I will eat the whole box! Writing THE END is also a great feeling of accomplishment, and one to be savored and celebrated.

Lisa Nowak said...

I think I'll define success as not getting bit by a duck. Woo-hoo! I've been successful every freakin' day of my life so far! :)

Seriously, though, for me success is fleeting. As soon as I achieve it, I seem to lose sight of it, because my eyes are coveting the next goal. I guess that can make you productive, but it's not a very fulfilling way to live. Maybe I should define success as giving my achievements the recognition they deserve while not being bit by a duck.

Hannah said...

Success to me is being alive and being able to enjoy all those things on your list! LOL! Except I would add more food to that list...lots and lots of food. ;)

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I didn't know it was possible to NOT eat the entire box of Girl Scout Cookies. I guess we really do learn something new every day!

Ally-chan said...

As a wannabe author, I just want to get one of my short story published in a magasine, get my new novel done so I can start working on the sequel for my other novel, and editing out the one I have finished.

I am already suffocating in papers D:!

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