SPARK: redefining success

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:

  • Joy
  • Passion
  • Transformation
  • 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?

Preach it!

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?

I have:

  • 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.

SPARK: Words As…

SPARK is a monthly joint post exploring a single idea from multiple bite-sized perspectives. This month we invited the first of our guest contributors to The JAR to explore the ‘words as’ motif  Adam, Rus and Jodi traversed in earlier posts.

Welcome Christina Hira and Cara Moulds.

Christina Hira

I have been exploring and deepening my creativity, specifically poetry, over the last 4 years. There are many beautiful things that have arisen out of this curious journey of weaving words, but there are two main ones I want to write about here.

Firstly, poetry has allowed all the pieces of myself to have a seat at the table.

There is no other home I have found where I do not have to deny parts of my being. I can bring any version of myself to my creative desk and I am welcomed. Every thread of emotional chaos, every shame I have hidden deep within my bones, every insecurity about why I am here. Nothing is forbidden.
Religion has only ever invited my spirit. Spirituality only wants me when I am happy. Self-development allows my mess on the condition that I am evolving into something better.
But the words. The words only ever make me a cup of tea and witness. They allow space for my darkness, my mess and the totality of my emotional and human experience.

Secondly, poetry is not a solution.

The wonderful thing about crafting a poem is that I can take the chaos of my experience and stir words until they match how I feel; until they reveal something beautiful. And it doesn’t solve anything.

I think in a society that is always adamant on fixing everything, one which tells you that you are only worthy in your mess if you are on your way to growing out of it, having space where you can be seen without the expectation of transformation is expansive.

For me, poetry is not a cure.

It is a lake I fall down next to on a clear night. One which piques my curiosity and invites me to muster up all the courage I have to carve a path to where the moonlight is most strongly reflected on the surface. To look in and see myself, to allow the lake to hold a space where the ripples soothe just enough and what is revealed is often way more beautiful than what I thought it would be. And yet I still have to leave the lake behind and return along the path I came.

Poetry creates a space where I have permission to exist exactly as I am.

Cara Moulds

Masaru Emoto’s water crystal experiments showed that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water. Water exposed to loving thoughts resulted in beautiful crystal formations, while water exposed to fearful, hateful thoughts resulted in disfigured molecular formations.

Thoughts are words unspoken. We are mostly water. What happens if we intentionally transform the water we are made of? Does that make us magic? Does it make our words magic?

Wayne Dyer taught that thoughts become things. Change your thoughts to change your life. How? By transforming the molecular structure and energetic vibrational field of your body in the same way that thoughts transform water molecules. Then that vibrational field attracts more of the same vibrational experiences based on the law of attraction, and the life you’re living transforms.

All based on the words you’re thinking and speaking. Your words are not only powerful, they’re magic.

Magic: the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious forces.

Except it’s not really mysterious anymore.

“I AM” is the most powerful phrase to connect to source energy and tap into the magic of words to become a conscious creator. Think about how many “I am” statements you make every day without even thinking about it. I am tired/sick/miserable/busy/stuck/stupid/overwhelmed.

Or I am happy/healthy/inspired/creative/powerful/divine.

Without realizing it, you are speaking your reality into being. I host women’s circles and lead meditations. When people are first learning to meditate, their greatest difficulty is stopping the thoughts/words running through their head, the monkey mind that replays the same fears and self-doubts that keep us small and disempowered. Tapping into the power of positive affirmations is one way to still the negative monkey mind and use the magic of words to change your life. Create I AM statements from your highest, divine, source-energy self.

We create vision boards in our women’s circles. They are always a mix of images and words, words that call out to each woman as she is ripping through magazines. Very often, they don’t know why they’re choosing specific words, but they follow their feelings. They are often surprised when we follow up after a month or two and they realize how the images and words on their vision boards have already manifested in miraculous ways. Like magic!

Just as daily words can transform the structure of water, so can the daily words you see in a vision board and state in your affirmations transform your life.

Because words are magic.

Our Guest Contributors

Christina Hira (@wild.dark.magic) is a poet living in New Zealand. She believes in creativity and black coffee. Both of which help her survive the chaos of mothering a three year old. Her poetry is fuelled by a curiosity of human behaviour and her current favourite method is cutting up books and rearranging words to find the unexpected connections.


Cara Moulds is a spiritual coach for awakening midlife career women feeling called to reconnect to their soul and jumpstart their creativity. She’s also a writer, high school career coach, and co-founder of Mind Body SHE, a networking group for midlife career women in Baltimore. She has built her career over the last 27 years in education as a former National Board Certified English teacher and high school administrator. At the height of her career success, she suddenly found herself wondering “Why am I doing all of this?” A lifelong spiritual seeker and personal development junkie, she embarked on her own Heroine’s Journey to redefine success on her own terms.