What is “success” as an author?
This question has more answers than Carter has pills. (My grandpa liked to say this, which always made me feel badly for whoever Carter was. Who is Carter and why does he have so many pills?)
Ah, this is great. I'm munching some popcorn Charlotte, my 5 year old, just brought me from her mid-morning snack. She’s home today for teacher’s conferences, and this is way more information than you need, but I want to set this up first, to say how glorious it is working from home, and appreciate that beauty with me, but second, how instructive it is to have a kid around who comes downstairs with her big bowl and quietly sets it near you, careful not to interrupt the typing, and say, “You can have some of my snack, if you want.”
I mean, this isn’t the way I imagined it. I had no idea. But I take a handful and she smiles and tells me to get lots of work done and leaves.
And I will. With this popcorn, I will work like a factory-assembly-line maniac. Like Carter without his pills.
Now I don’t work for her affection. She gives it to me freely. I don’t do a thing. I could even deny my affection, work so I never see her and miss out completely on a relationship with her and she’d still bring me her own food to share.
Because this is how it is with love.
And this question of how we define success has so many different answers because so many people don't feel loved. Underneath what we say we believe, "success" always has to do with whatever we're seeking most. These are words I've treasured: When you first seek to give yourself to God's way, his higher purpose, you'll be given everything you desire.
I used to think this was a cheap trick because when you do this, your desires "magically" change—and how easy is it to give me what I want when he just changes what that is first? Come on! But there's a deeper principle at work that says when you seek the higher purpose beyond yourself, you get what you really wanted all along.
It’s not different from your original desires, it's just deeper, more real. And hense, more lasting when it's fulfilled. It's always better to give than receive. It’s always better to do for another what you’d want done for you.
And I believe it. But do I? Would I act differently if I really believed? Do I give my popcorn, or do I eat it myself? What’s success: having the biggest handful or giving the most away?
Affirmation and validation are big traps for authors. Most realize it’s a fool’s errand, but the exploiters still sell it: “Are you desperate to feel appreciated and worthy? Sign with PAI-YUP Publishing today!” So many authors say they know where ultimate love is, but they don’t seem convinced. If they felt it, they’d know, and they’d figure out it’s probably dumb to try and squeeze love out of a book contract. But they don’t want to look deeper.
That’s not me. I mean, I know you can’t derive your value from a car or a job or even others’ opinions.…
But we all still do it. And we close our eyes, rationalize it and make it “all right.”
Why do so many books get printed? Why do so many people work so hard when the only pay off is more attention and more work? Ask anyone “important”: more importance = more problems.
I know what I want to say with my work, and it is a way to give back, but I think I need to look harder at how what I’m writing is directly pouring into who is receiving it. This is a critical step in the process for anyone looking to share a book of true lasting value. I need to spend some more time picturing those outstretched bowls and me pouring from mine that’s been so generously filled…
So what's "success" to you, that is, what do you think is most important? Are you writing to “give back” or is it more about what you want to say?