What’s Your Yardstick?

As I race through NaNo at my usual pace, another event is looming. I’m on the doorstep of that magical (and terrifying) time when I release Bound. I only have a couple small things to do, then it’s time to go live with my first published novel. The impending event has me all introspective. I know, hard to believe for a girl who happily lives in her own imagination whenever presented an opportunity to do so, but I don’t get introspective that often.  The subject of this deep thinking? What my definition of success is.

You see, I think that we all have our own, because it depends on what you want. Mine likely won’t be quite the same as yours and vice versa, especially as not everyone who follows my blog is a fellow writer. That’s okay, because we all want different things in life. It’s how this is supposed to work. But, having thought about this a fair bit as I’ve worked through the process to get Bound to this point, I thought I’d share my ideas on the subject.

For me, success isn’t a numbers thing. It’s not sell X number of copies of however many books or make Y amount of money.  I said to someone just today that money is the least motivating thing in the world for me. So long as I have enough to cover my bills and keep me in coffee, internet and a laptop, I’m happy with what I have money-wise.  I’ve just never been that into stuff, despite my love of tech toys.

For me, success is about touching people with my life in a way that makes theirs better. I know, that sounds so cliche, but it’s really what I want. I hope I can do that with my words. I know it’s in me to do, as I’ve written notes and letters to family and friends that touched them deeply. I want to do that with my stories. If someone reads one and tells me it made a difference to them, whatever that difference is, then I will call myself a success. I don’t care if that difference is to give them a refuge from their own life for a while or making them think about something in a new way. Even if it’s as simple as they enjoyed the book so much they didn’t want it to end. That’s enough for me.  That’s success. You’ve touched them if they feel that way.  I can’t imagine a better feeling than someone saying, “I want more of your work.”  That’s all that I could or would ask for in the world.

With regard to my peers, I suppose that to me success is their respect, be it in the form of a kind word about my work or questions asked when they need advice.  I know there are a few writers I love that I’d offer that to if I didn’t think it might seem creepy (they don’t know me from anyone really).  And, of course, to know that even some of my peers like my work would be amazing too.  You can’t have too many of that sort of compliment. 😉

I feel about the same in regards to my personal life, not just my work as a writer. If I can make the lives of those around me just a little bit better, even through something as simple as being there to listen, I’m a success.  Making someone smile or laugh? Yup, that’s success too. I’m lucky enough to feel successful in this way quite often, even as I have many around me who offer that same thing, the laugh when I need it, a virtual hug on a bad day, or just knowing there’s someone to listen when I need to talk.  I guess you get what you give in life.

So, now that you know the kind of success I want in life and how I define it, I’m going to do something I don’t do too often. I invite you to have a thought or two on the question.  Really ask yourself what you want from your life, the things that are important to you. Leave a comment with any answers you feel comfortable sharing.  I’m curious to see what others use as their yardstick.

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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8 Responses to What’s Your Yardstick?

  1. quix689 says:

    I’ve actually been thinking about this sort of thing a lot in the past few days. Not what I’d consider a success as far as writing it concerned, but success as far as life is concerned. I’ve been thinking a lot about the sort of person I want to be, about where to draw the line between letting people walk all over you and acting just like the people who are being mean. Your post has made a lot of sense to me. I think that’s a great philosophy to have on life. All that matters is the people who make you happy and the people whom you can make happy. That’s something that I definitely need to remember.

    And I completely understand your definition of success as far as writing is concerned. I mean, I would love to eventually make enough money from writing that I don’t have to do anything else, but as long as someone enjoys what I write, I’m happy. Also, I look forward to the day that I finally get to read Bound. 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Thanks. And yeah, I’d definitely like to make enough to live that dream, writing as my only full time job. Fortunately, the threshold is pretty low on that one. Also, I’m thankful that I kind of like my day job. Not as much as I like writing, but it’s better than the jobs I’ve hated. 🙂

      I’m glad the post made you think. And I’d also add that it’s okay to set the line in the vicinity of making others happy without making yourself unhappy. Relationships are supposed to be give and take from both sides, not you give and they take. That isn’t healthy for either party.

  2. Ottabelle says:

    My yardstick is a lot like yours. Sure, money is great but I would just be happy not worrying every month.

    I want to help people, make them better. Heal with words.

    I guess I want to be who others are to me. Things I would have never thought would happen to me. And i can turn that around and give it to others.

    Hopefully, I guess. 🙂

    • Julie says:

      I think that passing on what you’ve learned in your own life and experiences is always a good thing. While sometimes people need to learn lessons for themselves, other times, the sharing is appreciated and can help someone. And, of course, sometimes it’s just nice and makes you feel like less of an idiot to know someone else went through it too or made the same mistake you did. 🙂

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    Hmm, when I clicked on the link in my email notification for this, it said “post not found.” But when I visited your follow up post, I saw this one in the sidebar, and here it is. Strange!

    For me, success in writing would mean there are some people beyond my family and friends who enjoy the stories I write. Of course, the fantasy of making enough money to give up the day job (even my part-time one) is an attractive one. But that’s not why I write.

    If I did make a substantial earning, though, there are a number of groups I would happily support more than I can at present.

    • Julie says:

      I like that idea, that success spills out beyond you to those you’d like to help. A wonderful idea.

      As for the link issue, I think it’s because the date for the post somehow got screwed up when I first posted it, and the address of the post is based on date.

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