Sunday, February 20, 2011

defining success

Yesterday, as I was telling someone about yogavotion, my newest project, they gave me a half-hearted thumb's up and said, "yeah, but what about WRINKLE?"

Good question. That was my go-to, post-FLOW, no-brainer project. I have hundreds of questionnaires stored on my hard drive. Great art. A substantial table of contents. A proposal would be a breeze to whip out—I used to thrive on that. And I know how to do this book, how to combine text, concepts, art to tell a visual story about a specific aspect of society and culture.

But, it didn't happen. Perhaps if FLOW had been more successful. Perhaps if that experience had been positive instead of fraught with hostility, anxiety, self-doubt.

Or, perhaps, I've moved on.

I had thought FLOW would make me a writer, a writer of a certain genre of books. I'd gain a reputation. I'd tackle new projects in the series with support of a publisher, an agent, an audience. The first part came true:

I am a writer.

I own it. I live it. What used to be close to impossible less than 2 years ago, now feels almost as effortless as design. Words flow now almost as easily as layouts do—they're just a different means of expression and communicating to me.

But the rest?

I'm far more grounded in reality than I've ever been about my path, my story, my success. And, what success really is.

I will never make huge amounts of money. In fact, it might not be likely that I'll even make good money again. The world is changing and what I'm good at isn't valued at the moment. I will never be a best-selling author. I don't see any sort of successful series in my future. I will never be an expert in a field, called on for talk show appearances and quotes in national publications.

I will never be high-powered.

I will never have a corner office, an assistant, a secretary.

I don't see royalty checks in my future. Or guest speaking. Or a summer house bought by the proceeds of the above.

I will never be a household name.

I could keep going here and mention I'll never be a rockstar or a painter or an astronaut, but none of those were ever even under consideration.

But, I have more love in my life than I would have ever imagined possible. There are times, watching my puppies play, my kids  groove together, that there isn't a smile big enough to express all that's in my heart.

At times I am transformed by gratitude. I cannot think of a single thing I want that I don't already have in abundance.

I can be present and am learning to let go of the past and the future. That's something I would have thought impossible but, here I am.

I am comfortable in my skin. Cellulite, wrinkled elbows, slightly drooping eyelids, now more than the rare grey hair, a solid size 8—it's truly fine.

I am healthy. I don't just think it, I've gone through extensive testing and so I know it. I'm physically healthy enough to contemplate elective surgery and give an organ away. And mentally healthy enough to be good with that decision.

I can knit a scarf that stops people in the street. I have friends who are happy to see me. I have family that accepts who I am and loves me for that, and sometimes in spite of that. I can finally do a head stand in the middle of a room.

By society's standards I don't know that people would label me a success. But by mine? I'm not doing too badly.


Anonymous said...

I saw your Twitter link and stopped by to say "hi". I'm impressed at your self-revelations and acceptance of reality, but if they're important to you I hope you won't let go of your writing dreams.

When we first started writing, a lot of us had big expectations for our first books. Then we learned more about the publishing industry and realized that our early writing is just part of the process. We keep writing, keep learning about the craft and improving, keeping sending out our work, and one day the right story will meet the right agent or publisher. It won't make us big money, but that's not the goal of those of us who love writing.

So, congrats on finding satisfaction in your life, but keep at that writing! Dreams are worth pursuing.

Carol Garvin

Amy Oscar said...

Im with the previous commenter. Don't you dare give up those dreams. You are too good, too talented. That said, I'm discovering, as you are, that the climb to 'instant' success is a steep one. Maybe the shift (and I am making it with you) could be from writing books that we think will sell to writing books that inspire us as we write them, books that we love working on. And that way, sell or not, we will have enjoyed the climb.
Love your work - and you.

Erin said...

I think that you are a rockstar!

You've done what many of us only talk about doing (see: the book thing).

And you're giving the most precious gift of life.

Success in my book!

Stratoz said...

good for you, but all those "nevers" reminded a rule of thumb I use when I teach science: don't use absolutes. There are always an example to prove you wrong.

All those things may come true, but it is good to be happy if they don't.

peace and hope