Monday, July 25, 2011

What, Me a Success?

Authors’ egos are easily bent/damaged. We are constantly rejected and reminded that we are inadequate. Over these past few years, I’ve taken heart after hearing the stories of famous authors and their rejections. Then comes a question from a friend: Are you disappointed that you have not yet become a name like King or Patterson? Well, after wrestling away depression, I started thinking. Am I successful? First answer – darn right I am. Then another bout with doubt. Why am I writing, and am I satisfied with my career?

After I had toiled in the corporate world for twenty-five years, the company decided they no longer needed me—or even my job. Cripes - rejection. I promoted myself to cobbler and owned my own business for eleven years. When the economy for cobblers (predating the economy for others) went south, I closed my business. Rejection number two.

I became a full time author in 2002. Since that time, I’ve had four mystery novels published by small, respected electronic publishers. Each of these submissions paralleled the process for publication by the big guys: query letter, first three chapters and then the entire manuscript.

I’ve had several short stories published, and am the owner of the Publishing and Promoting Yahoo group with more than 900 international members. My novels have garnered awards and wonderful reviews. So I considered myself successful. At least until the question from my friend.

Holding that first printed copy of my book was the realization of a life-long dream. Finally, when I was 65 years old, my book was published. I’d always wanted to be a writer, writing short stories all my life, and had the some-day dream of writing a novel. My very first goal was merely to finish a book. I had no desire or thought about getting it published. I’d read enough about authors to know that every one of the famous names has a first novel stashed in the back of a desk drawer.

A second book followed. An author friend in my writing group encouraged me to submit it to her publisher. I had already placed a rejection folder in my file cabinet. With my track record, rejection was a forgone conclusion. I should be ready for it. To my astonishment, they wanted to publish the book. Well, the bug had bitten me. I thought, “Hey, I have another book done, why not send it as well?” And three months after the first was in print, the second came out. I had no qualms saying I was a success. I even sold a bunch of them. Not thousands of copies, but actual people were reading my books. And liking them. Presto, I was a success. More books came.

But the question continues to taunt me. Am I a success? I ponder. And yes, by golly, at the moment I am a success. I’m doing what I believe I was meant to do--tell stories. I’m giving pleasure and smiles to readers and enjoying every minute of the journey, even the dreaded promotion and business side of writing. I have a wonderful writing group who help me overcome my grammatical ineptitude and a beautiful, supporting wife who is my biggest fan. And my “job” allows me time to volunteer and give back to my community.

When I listen to my characters talk to me and drive me to the finish line, I am in heaven on earth. I sometimes read what I have written and wonder where the heck that came from. I’ve made myself laugh and cry. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be about? Joy and sorrow? I thank you, God, for giving me the talent and tenacity to keep going. I am a success. Just ask me.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

You are a success once you've finished writing a book. So many people say they will write a book one day and never do.
Not many of us will be big name authors or make a lot of bucks, my feeling is when one person tells me they like my book, I am a success.


J D Webb said...

Absolutely, Marilyn.

Morgan Mandel said...

Different people have different criteria for success, and sometimes we don't all agree. And sometimes our own criteria changes.

When I got my first contract from a small publisher, I felt I'd made my goal. Then, after I self-published Killer Career, which took a lot of work, I felt I was a success, because I followed all the directions and got it done. Now I'm editing Forever Young-blessing or Curse. Once it finally gets out, I can breathe a sigh of relief because again I was successful in getting something accomplished I wanted to do.

I've learned writers are rarely satisfied with what they'd done, but are always looking to do more. It's in our nature to keep writing!

Morgan Mandel

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