Success is something I think about regularly now that I’m focusing on my writing career. I see it as being similar to beauty: it’s in the eye of the beholder. What one considers a successful life, another thinks the exact opposite. How do you measure success? Money? Recognition? Love? Happiness? Or perhaps all of the above? In my opinion, happiness and love are key, but then perhaps if I suddenly made a lot of money I might soon change my mind. I’d like to hope that wouldn’t be the case.
Of course, not everyone wants to be happy. There are those who seek out misery. Discontent with their lot, they consistently do things that they’ll live to regret in order to moan about how bad their life is. I have difficulty comprehending their motivation for this, but I recognise it to be the case for certain individuals. These people usually have a definitive idea of what they deem as successful, most often another life in some unattainable dream .
Many authors consider having their work published as the pinnacle of success. Now, with the rise of self-publishing, the lines between published and self-published authors has begun to blur. For instance, I perceive there to be a certain amount of success in simply producing a book on your own initiative. I’m not alone on this. Also, what of the authors who are celebrated in the writing world? There are plenty of them who are self-published too. So is the fact that they are well known a mark of their success? I agree that’s the case to certain degree, but what I’m coming realise more and more is that success, the concept, is somewhat of a paradox.
We’ve all heard it said that money can’t buy happiness. We also know that heaping praise on an author doesn’t always encourage the further production of quality novels. So why do we writers convince ourselves that this is the ultimate goal? This notion that success in being published begets success in life is nonsense. To chase this ideal of being a successful writer is folly, for it is the writing in itself that completes us, not the trimmings of recognition or praise. To be lucky enough to have the time to write: that ultimate release of Self from mind to word, that is where our sense of achievement derives.
The way I see it, if you focus on writing instead of gaining success, it’s likely you’ll produce more and more work. In turn, you’ll find the more you put out there, the more others will catch on, giving you the recognition and praise you seek. The upshot is, if you want to be a successful writer, artist, musician, whatever, then stop focusing on the notion of success. Do what makes you happy instead. You may not make money, but you’ll continue produce work that makes you feel satisfied with your life, regardless of what others think of it. You will have found happiness. If I can manage to do that consistently, then in my eyes I'll have achieved true success.