Friday, April 10, 2015

How Much is Enough, and When Do We Know

Of course most of us want to be successful. Of course we do. We want to see our books in the stores, our songs on the radio, our paintings in galleries, our businesses grow. Don't we want to feel like we are good enough at our job/avocation that others will notice? If not, what is up with all the "reach for the stars", "set your goals high", "dare to dream", "use your God-given talents", and so forth?

A really brilliant writer, Anne Lamott, writes a blog that hits me where I live nearly all the time. In her last one, about turning 61 (my same age), she observes that success can be our downfall. That some writers on the best seller list have been derailed by acclaim. We don't have to look far in Hollywood to see that same affect on many of newly famous. We all know cutthroat business people. Yet, as a writer, Anne spends her time with the most important writers tool, "butt in the chair" as she calls it. She is driven to write. It is her catharsis. She is a terribly successful blogger, by my standards. Over 50,000 shares of the birthday blog. That is happening, in my opinion, because she forges strong bonds with her readers. She writes with such a strong voice, we can hear her as if she were in the room with us. No self-promotion could ever work as well as her own writer's voice.

Every time I go to the children's writer conference (if you want to write for kids, please be sure to check out your local SCBWI) I hear some presenter say, "If you need money, get a job. If you love to write, have to write, can't keep from writing, write." I also remember my husband telling insurance agents, "Don't go into an interview with dollar signs in your eyes" - in other words, keep the well being of your client above your own need for income. If our top priority is lining our own pockets, we'll forget ourselves. We'll lose our way. We'll become the greedy humans that lie just beneath our best intentions.

Like works and grace, it is a tricky balancing act, this effort to create something worthwhile. Marketing our own books has fallen to the writer more and more as the publishing world has changed and morphed. If we don't promote them, no one will, for the most part. And, promoting something you believe in, whether a product or ourselves and our abilities, is not a bad thing.

Sometimes I feel a little edgy, with time passing quickly and my age creeping up. I have so many books I want to write. But I don't just want to write them. I want them to be read. Ambition is a wonderful thing when it serves us. It is a negative thing when we serve it. Will I still be okay if not another book is sold? Will I feel like I did my best if the two books that are "out there" go no further? How much is enough?

What is success? What is the good life, and how do you live it? We define it for ourselves. Am I there yet? Yes. Because there is no there. Just here. And since I am here, in this amazing place, in a life filled with blessings all around me, it is enough. That doesn't mean I don't feel compelled to write. Or have a desire to promote my books. It just means that I can't wait for another day to feel successful. I just have to remind myself. Gratitude again. The one pure, true note that sounds above the din of commerce. Hear it? 

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