Spark is a monthly collaborative post written from a spark of inspiration that organically finds its way to us. This month we were inspired by this photo sent through by Catherine Evans of a page from Rebecca Campbell’s Rise, Sister Rise which prompted a discussion around how we could each redefine the parameters of success to be congruent with where we currently are.
In a glass-half-empty world it is easy to forget it is also a glass-half-full one too.
JODI – aligning with core values and personal goals
I was never the girl in the bookshop wandering the aisles imagining my book on the shelves. A contract with a big international publisher was never my definition of success, but as I wrote in my opening article, I forgot that because I took on others’ ideas of achievement and what it meant to be ‘a real writer’.
Success is often thought of in terms of money, influence, fame, popularity or status articulated in royalties, advances, reviews, awards, nominations and grants (to name a few). As it turns out – none of these have ever been motivating forces for me. This came to the fore this week, after putting myself forward to talk about the different ways I do business with a group of advertising and marketing people. Imposter Syndrome came for me in a big way – where were my success markers to give me validation and credence in having the audacity to step forth and speak to people (some with 30 years experience!)? There was a voice (albeit much quieter and less insistent than years gone past) that said: sit down and shut up. Please!
Success is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. Under that broadest of definitions I am a ‘success’ every time I commit words to the page. I am a success every time I turn up as a tarot reader to hold a space for someone over cards. I am a success with every poem I build and send out to my subscribers. And perhaps more importantly right now, I am a success every time I negotiate a fair exchange for what I do.
In assembling notes for my talk tomorrow, I realised that I am a success every time I align action with my core values or my stated aims regardless of the presence (or absence ) of an obvious and tangible outcome. Every time there is a burst or a slow building crescendo of joy in what I am doing/have done, I am successful. Every new person I meet, who resonates with who I am and what I am doing, I am successful.
My key aims for writing are (as unearthed in April least year):
- To write for personal enjoyment, pleasure and fulfilment
- To write for a small, intimate audience
- To write as a way of transmuting pain and wounding
- To write as a form of listening that honours my creative expression as a psychic channel
- To write as a way of embracing wild concepts and big ideas.
Being part of the JAR Collective allows me to pursue all of these without compromise, and therefore seeds success in a whole new way.
And from the list of aims a list of core values emerged:
intimacy – connection – fun – fulfillment – healing – comfort – innovation – experimentation – listening – immersion
This is what drives, informs and provides direction and foundation for everything I write. It makes it easy to be successful. To fill myself up (this is an expectation free zone!)
These are not too different to my business core values and aims:
- Autonomy from social media
- In service
- Fair exchange
The difference with much of this redefinition of success is it is an internal job. I do not have an online joy account where I can show you all the deposits I’ve made in the last three months – but I can tell you I am happier and more creatively fulfilled than I have been since 2012. Nor is there a spreadsheet that crunches trends in passion, but I can tell you all about what it feels like to wake up and know the only things I do ‘for work’ are ones which light me up. I can talk about how the concept of fair exchange has shaped how we do things here in the collective and personally what I am prepared to share for free, and what I am not. I can talk about a paid poetry project for a small intimate audience that was a big wild idea that allowed me to hop off social media but maintain my creative zeal, momentum and connection to an audience.
While my creative writing in many respects is playing catch up to where I am forging ahead with authenticity and a new sense of self respect and confidence in my business, at the end of the day, everything is story and one is helping to shape, solidify and reframe the other, as to why I do what I do, and how to celebrate it along the way.
When the idea was first mooted for this week, my initial thought went back to my best mate’s band, Apostrophe, from the mid 1990s. Back when you had to make physical flyers and bios to distribute to venues and agencies to get bookings. One line from their flyer read: “We put the ‘SUCK’ back in SUCCESS.”
KPIs of Success in our Daily Guide to Better Living
- eating a meat pie and not burning the roof of your mouth or getting globs of meat and gravy on your shirt.
- finding a parking spot on a busy shopping day.
- getting your children to their various extra-curricular activities on time.
- putting on pants first before shoes.
- remembering conditioner goes on after the shampoo.
- having fairy bread sandwiches for lunch.
- snaffling ten minutes to hastily scribble some notes.
- taking a picture, writing a brief poem and posting it to Instagram.
- finding twenty minutes to write a paragraph.
I have wrestled with this question of success for a few years and apart from wrenching my hip from its socket, I have no definite answer.
Would I like the success of agency representation, book sales and recognition?
Do I have the discipline required to work towards that?
Perhaps a better question: Would I be better served to redefine my understanding of success?
Success as Mastery
Learning a new skill and struggling through the painful early steps sucks. Pushing to write one sentence, or one paragraph, one page, one chapter, one line of a poem, one practice sketch after another can be a grind. But you are the learner. Always.
I think true mastery is attaining a point where you understand you still need to learn, and seek to learn more. And then apprenticing others to pass on the skills and knowledge (although not all are good teachers).
I play drums and struggle to learn new techniques and rudiments. But therein lies the challenge. To stick with it. Break it down into smaller parts and learn one thing at a time. Goal: The Half-Time Shuffle from Toto’s “Rosanna.”
Every new project presents its own challenges and problems and the success of mastery allows you to navigate its intricacies with a little more decorum and awareness.
Success as Sharing
Social media can be a wonderful platform for sharing your ideas, to find other creatives with similar values and beliefs, sharing with each other, acknowledging and encouraging one another. And it doesn’t have to be for commercial gain but for the joy of creating and sharing with someone. Share your passion. Share your interest. Seek out others who share the same vision and focus.
Success as Tribe
Find the freaks and geeks, the weirdos and unconventionals, the orthodox and the ascetic. I feel very privileged to have found my coterie in Jodi and Rus. This is my tribe. These are my people. We write out of passion, not panic (thank you Jodi for that gem from our group chat)
Success as Legacy
What will I leave behind? Not in terms of works and projects but in terms of what I have invested in others. We formed the JAR Writers Collective for ourselves; to champion our own creativity and projects; to be a supportive collective for one another.
Yet it is bigger than that. We want to champion you through offering weekly prompts to encourage your own creative projects whether it is written or visual or musical or all three. To completely mismatch a couple of quotes: If I don’t have love, I have nothing. I am a clanging cymbal or a resounding gong, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Have I been successful?
- found my writing tribe in Jodi and Rus (even though we live far away from each other)
- found a supportive connection in these two who honour my creativity, and I theirs, and support one another when life kicks you in the groin and runs away laughing.
- finished writing a novel with Jodi and have the joy of it being released this year (coming JULY 21!)
- finished drafting a novella (revisions on the cards very shortly after some positive feedback from a few trusted readers)
- worked with Jodi and Rus on a new collaborative novel (we really must get to that ending)
- written poems on Post It Notes
- posted pics and poems to Instagram
- begun the revision for a verse novel
- turned up the page, whenever possible, to do something
I am successful. And I want you to be successful, too.
My story is your story is their story. It’s a classic tale of the lure of fabled success, of defining who we are on the scales of trends and fashions, and of selling our authentic souls for the pleasure of the masses.
I remember, quite clearly, the ambitious dreams that I had in my 20s of becoming a full-time American author. I believed that the more I could be like the contemporary writers raking in millions of dollars, the better chance I had of realizing my dream before I turned 30.
I did have a few things going for me. I was (and still am) a prolific writer, filling journals and blank typewriter pages with thousands of words each day. I was finding my voice, bringing the world to life through my own, personal lens.
And yet, despite my efforts and exercises in individuality, I derailed every single time and wrote what I thought my audience wanted.
We all know how that turns out.
Failure. After failure. After failure. I had a couple of novels and a dozen short stories – manuscripts of varying degrees of thickness – and no clips to show for any of it. Clearly, “success” was never going to be attainable while playing the game.
I took some time off from submitting work. Went underground and within to shut out the temptations to sell my creative soul to the almighty and very empty dollar.
A few years later, I re-emerged and composed a new, fresh novella. I decided to self-publish this piece, Cold Rock, and I knew that I was redefining what success meant to me. Still, though, in the bitter end just days before publication, I struggled with the desire to please. The risks I took were diluted with validation. At the last minute, I changed too much in the book based on the recommendations of others who had ulterior motives.
Despite the slip, I recognized the transition for what it was, and I finally had a major work elevated to the universal stage for the world to read.
With the exception of a few strong reviews from readers who took the deeper plunge and “got it” on their own terms, the book flopped. It didn’t matter. I had already succeeded in taking that ultimate risk. The validation of others meant little compared to the strength I felt from sharing my work, largely true to its original concept.
From there. I self-published short stories, then collections, and entered as many contests as I could — all in my own voice. The one constant among the rejections and accepts was my unwavering dedication to authenticity. If people liked my work, wonderful; if they didn’t, then that was okay too.
Now, with Fossil Five on the eve of publication, my success with a full-length novel has already been achieved, even before the first copy falls into a reader’s hands.
The shift in redefining success came about in embracing more of my own ideas, in my own authentic voice, and putting them out there for the world to do whatever they want with them.
Our success cannot be measured by others; it can only be measured by the authenticity with which we create our work, the commitment we make to that authenticity in revision, and the courage we carry to share it with the world.