Even as an exclamation, wow, it means something!
How can this one word denote an absolute measurement on one’s self or others around you?
Because we let it.
For many years I have personally struggled with what success is. Television commercials, internet ads, empty promises, the grass is always greener all contribute to a definition or vision of how success should be. How can we fix a measure that is placed upon us by ourselves, or even worse by others? Success is at its best a moving target. It is possibly achievable but maybe not quite how we anticipate it. How can we take control of our own lives? How about redefining our definition of what success is.
Is it okay to dream big? Absolutely! But the end goal does not account for the potentially many successes or failures that occurred during the process of reaching it.
If Bagon had successfully defeated the dragon (see my Painting Corners blog post-shameless plug.) Then would he have been a success? He was still trapped in a pit with a broken leg. Even if he had escaped it all, and recovered-somehow-would he then be considered a success? He had lost everything to this beast and its armies and had decided to defeat the ruler of the dragons to seek vengeance, but also to give hope to those who might be still striving to survive in his brutal world. A world in which monsters and dragons were the victors. By defeating this dragon, would he be a success?
If for a moment…
Is that what we strive for?
Is that the true definition of success? Succeeding moment by moment?
Is this how we sustain it?
Think about a distance runner. Their training for a marathon did not begin at the marathon itself! Even stranger, almost none of the marathoners I have met enter the race to win it. I admire these paragons of distance running but I misunderstood at first the true measure of success for the majority of marathoners. I wondered, “why run if you can’t win?”
Most enter the race with the goal to finish it. Success on a personal level rather than a comparative scenario. How can we internalize this lesson? Then I wondered, did the runner still achieve success if he/she was unable to finish 20 miles in? Digging deeper, outward it might have felt like a failure, but the fact that the marathoner even attempted this-including all the training leading up to it-I would answer, Yes! Running a marathon is remarkable! Even the attempt is something to be applauded.
What about the writer? I have met many writers at various different points in their writing career. Each is unique in both their approach to writing and their ultimate goals. Although a majority of them have the dream of becoming a full-time writer. But is that the measure of success for a writer? No! I have learned to succeed using fifteen to thirty minutes increments. Sure it has taken much, MUCH longer than a normal writer to finish my books and forget about Nanowrimo. Actually, I did that once. Although I had to temper my goal from a book in November, to 250 words a day. I succeeded that time.
Eventually, my goal of writing a book was accomplished, and then four more. I have yet to publish; still polishing book 1 in the series. But I look back on the years and years of writing moments, and feel an odd sense of satisfaction. I was able to squeeze in time for something I love to do. It was worth it.
Others have spoken about how researching has helped them succeed in their writing, everything from swordplay, to studying proper equine care. I agree. Taking time to research is something all writers should do.
Another potential measure for a writer could be, meeting other authors and giving and accepting constructive feedback. I did say constructive! 🙂
Measured, tiny steps of success can effect anyone. Just getting up and taking on the next day is often a small triumph in itself. But in order continue down this successful path, one must continue. To work. To not give up. Could the true measure of success actually be something as simple as that?
The line drawn between success and failure might be summed up by the word “again”. As we get up again and again, we are succeeding on our journey through life. Let me ask this then, is finding joy in the adventure even more important than the ultimate result?
Chasing the Laser Pointer
There are times when I feel like success is like a cat a chasing a laser pointer.
With a flick of the wrist, you move the tiny dot across the ground and the feline (if it’s in the mood) chases it and pounces on it, only to come up empty pawed and often with a dot sitting on its fur that quickly moves away.
It thinks it has success, but did it? It caught up to the pointer numerous times, but did it actually trap the laser?
Maybe if the cat had figured out how to correctly use a mirror, it would be a different story. It could potentially blind the wielder of such pointer forcing him/her to drop it. But then what fun would it be for both parties? And even then, did it trap the laser?
If we break it down, a cat chasing a laser potentially gets exercise, gets practice pouncing, sharpens its reaction time slightly, it’s ability to track it’s prey improves, and it didn’t seem to mind that his/her target moved when it thought it had it. The thing is, it never captures it. But in it’s mind for a brief moment, it did.
But was it a success, especially when you think about all the things it potentially gained?
As a writer, did we succeed when we first started typing? How about when we struggled through a difficult chapter in the story? Learned how to properly use commas. Finished the 1st draft. And the 2nd? 3rd? 12th? The Final Draft? A publishing deal? Self published? Sold your 1st book? Got your 1st rejection letter from an agent/publisher? Attended a panel in a convention as an author? Sold the 1000th copy? Started typing book 2? Book 3?
My hope for anyone reading this, that you answer yes to being a success to the questions I proposed and many more I didn’t as you work your way through this writing journey.
Much like the cat, with every attempt to catch that writing laser our skills are improving. Some aspects of our writing become sharper, the ability to chase down grammar mistakes improves. Characters become more developed. Setting descriptions become crisper. Our understanding of the book selling market increases. Our ability to market our own products improve. Our renown grows.
But have we caught the laser? Is catching the laser really the true measure of success?
Or is it our efforts that define us?