One time at a huge book-industry event, Book Expo America, my editor brought me to my signing booth and the line for people was the longest it had ever been (back then) for a Bloomsbury author.
“This is amazing,” she said. “Look at this. This is for you. All these people.”
And I said, “Oh man… It’s not just for me though. It’s for you, too. You’re my editor; you’re just as big a part of this. You just don’t get the fanfare, which isn’t cool. You deserve fanfare.”
She brushed all that aside, and then I realized that her idea of success wasn’t the same as mine. She didn’t need the same things. And I also realized something else.
“Oh, gosh. This is it, isn’t it? This is the pinnacle for me. This is my writing peak and it’s all downhill from here, isn’t it?” I asked.
She gave me a look.
That look said, “Meh, maybe.”
Her look scared me, but the bigger problem was that even, even with so many people lined up for my autograph and to get my book, even with people crying when they met me (weirdest thing ever, but so lovely and I’m wicked honored and thankful), even then I didn’t feel successful.
I’ve been thinking a lot about success and how despite the fact that someone can write in my obituary, “New York Times and internationally bestselling novelist,” I still don’t feel successful. Once someone bit someone else to get an advanced copy of my book. People sometimes cry when I meet them. And I am so lucky. SO LUCKY! But I still don’t feel… successful.
And that’s pretty weird because by outside metrics of success, that pretty much cuts it for a writer.
The problem is that outside metrics don’t matter when it comes to us defining our own success. We hear other people rant about what success is, what the right way to do things is, and on and on.
But those other people don’t matter.
What we define success as is what matters for ourselves.
When it comes to our careers, success is only felt when our careers are shaped by our personal values. When our careers reflect our values, we become far more satisfied and fulfilled by what we’re doing.
So, the first step in becoming successful is to actually define what is important to you. And apparently for me success isn’t about people biting each other, long lines at signings or bestseller list. All this things are super nice though. Um…. Except for the biting. People should never bite each other – not even for books.
So to figure out how to feel successful you have determine what are your values? And sometimes those values…? They’re hard to determine and define for yourself. I’m not talking about the values your family told you were important, or your Instagram friends say are important. I’m talking about the values that you – YOU (INSERT YOUR OWN NAME HERE, OKAY) – think are important.
Three Quick Steps to Help You Figure Out Your Values
- Think about your perfect world and community. What is it like?
- Think about your death bed. You’re about to die and you reflect back on your life and have a super huge regret. What is it that hurts you inside because you didn’t do it?
- That’s such a downer. So think about your death bed again, but this time you feel peaceful and accomplished. What is it that makes you feel that way?
A lot of times, we don’t realize that the outside metrics of our success:
- Be a bestseller
- Win a Nobel Prize
- Earn 5 million dollars (in a month)
- Have people bite each other for your books
Are often the internalized wishes and definitions of society or our parents or our agents or our peers. But they often don’t align with our personal values. So, figure out your personal values. Looking at those three questions and really thinking about them is the first step.
Think about your answers to those three questions I just asked you and refine what your core values are. It might be super easy and the answers just pop out at you, but you might be blocked, which is normal and okay. If you are, check out this list and then define your five top personal values. Do they coincide with what you’re doing at work? In life? In your creative life? Can you make them align better?
In the podcast tomorrow, Shaun and I are going to be talking about stakeholders, which is another key component to feeling (or not feeling successful). The podcast is called Dogs are Smarter Than People. I hope you’ll check it out AND I hope that you found this helpful.
Be the success you want to be.
You deserve to sing the song you want to sing, the story you want to be.
WRITING AND OTHER NEWS
I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here.
People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.
The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?
It’s awesome and quirky and fun.
FLYING AND ENHANCED
Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them hereor anywhere.
OUR PODCAST – DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.
Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!
I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.
I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!
Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?
Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.
Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here.