Friday, February 4, 2011

Thinking about success

I've been thinking about success.

 Thinking about how I don't feel successful, and wondering why that is.

 When I googled the word "success" to see what images popped up, there were images of ladders, keys, people on top of hills, and street signs with "failure" pointing one way and "success" pointing another way.

This year, I will have published four YA and two MG novels. I am now writing full-time. Most people would say, Lisa, you are crazy, you ARE successful. So why don't I *feel* successful?

Is it because my bank account doesn't make me feel successful? That might be part of it. But I think there's also a part of me that believes lists and awards equal success. And since my books haven't made any lists or earned any rewards, I don't feel successful.

And yet, I could name a handful of authors off the top of my head who haven't made lists or earned awards, and in my eyes they are successful. They have written a book everyone loves or have sold extremely well or have a publisher that has bought many books.

What I want is to feel successful because I'm doing what I LOVE!

I was telling my friend Lindsey one of my goals this year is to be more like Johnny Depp. When David Letterman asked him why he didn't watch any of his own films, he said something like - I do my job and when my job's done, in my mind it's done, and I move on to the next thing.

What his response said to me is that he doesn't want *his* success to be tied to the *film's* success. He tries to keep them separate. And honestly, without doing some googling, I don't know if Johnny Depp has won any awards. I don't know how much money he makes per film. But I know I love some films he's been in and others, not so much. Still, I look at him and of course I see him as successful! And really cute, but that's another post.

As authors, can we separate the two? Can we be successful if our books aren't? I don't know. With a film, there are so many other people involved. But the same could be true of a book - how many times have we heard a cover can make or break a book, and that is certainly out of our control.

I want to feel successful because I did the work, not because of what happens to the work after that. That's what I'm working on.

What do you think? Is it possible? Or am I going to have a hard time doing that?


  1. Great post and I too like Johnny Depp's attitude, he is never fazed by anything. Maybe this will make you feel a bit successful, I started your book one evening and finished in the morning (not like me at all)I don't even normally go for para-normal either and it rocks! I'm going to review it on my blog soon. :)

  2. Interesting thoughts... I say YES you can consider your success, because the very process of becoming a published author at all is a huge personal growth process (at least I think so). So to even have made it through that, much less with 6 books, is an incredible accomplishment. Am I helping you feel successful here? ;-) And if this is where you are now, who knows where you may find yourself in five years. But I think the biggest thing is looking at yourself - without comparing to anyone else - and knowing how much you've put into it, and giving yourself credit for that.

  3. I don't think I've quite thought of it this way before, but I love this attitude. There's so little you can control about what happens after you do your part, so it just makes sense to gauge your success on YOUR portion of the finished product. I like that a lot. And for what it's worth, I see you as a success, Lisa. You, your books and your career.

  4. What a lovely, honest post! I definitely think of you as being successful. I can't think of another author that has books for me to get for my family in the children's picture book section, the junior middle grade section and the teen/women who wish they still were YA section! Seriously, I did that one day, hopping in the sections and brought home your books from each section. How cool is that?

    As for feeling successful, let me know if you figure it out. I have a sense of pride in finishing my first manuscript and getting good feedback on my query--something that many people say they want to do some day but never get around to doing--but I don't think I'll feel successful until I get an agent. Then I'll want a publisher to take it on. Then I'll want it to sell well. And get good reviews. And for my second to do well. LOL it goes on and on and on. I am working this year on being happy with where I am right now, living in the moment. And feeling good about that.

    So back to you--yes, it is possible for you to feel successful by remembering your inital dream of following through on that writing goal, and meeting it. Then getting that agent (who rocks) and an amazing body of work already. If you ever need a cheerleader to pump you back up, you know where to look :-)

  5. Yes, it is possible. I just try to remember that the best part of being a writer is the writing part.

    The other part (awards, huge advances, lists and such) are probably something we think we would appreciate more than we do. With that type of recognition comes the pressure to reproduce...and everyone has an opinions about why your next work just doesn't live up to the last one.

    I think that striving for Depp-ness is a good thing.

  6. Catherine - thank you so much for your kind words!

    vmichelle - You did a great job, thank you. :)

    Joanne - thank you, and maybe it's just that there is always more to strive for. So at some point you have to stop looking "out there" and find success within.

    Rachel - thanks for the kind words. I hope it didn't sound like I was fishing for compliments. I really wasn't, I promise. Just thinking out loud. :)

    storyqueen - you are so right. The best part of writing is the writing. So having a day doing what I love, that IS success!!

  7. Yes you are sucessful
    reason? you change pepoles lives with your writting you make books that are diffrent and amazing your write blog entries that make us think

    heck I'm holding out on writing my "Top 5 favortie stand alone books" entry till your book comes out so I can put it on it

    I think sucess is how you affect people in a postive way by what you do