The Secret to Success

Thursday, January 07, 2021

By the time the first of the year rolls around, I’ve usually done a lot of goals-thinking. 

I’ve done a lot of snacking on sweets, too, but I’ve found that thinking about goals requires serious chocolate nourishment as I’m sure you’ll agree. Anyway, this year was a bit different. I mean, I still enjoyed a ton of chocolate but the goals-thinking was lacking. Specifically, in the goals related to work, which for me is writing. 

So I had to clean my desk to get everything ready for 2021 and whilst munching on my favorite candy, I came across my 2020 “Twelve Days of Christmas for Writers.” I’d diligently followed all of children’s author, Julie Hedlund’s posts; I’d completed all the exercises, too, and I was just about to toss it into the wastebasket when I stopped. 

What had I been thinking back in 2020, during that first week full of hope and promises and dreams? And so I read—well, scanned the topics would be more accurate—and saw Surprises and Successes, Big, Fat Judgements, and Failures and Disappointments. There was a page of what I’d Learned and what my Heart Knows to be True, but I finished with an intentional read of all that I’m grateful for and that list—an entire page!—hadn’t changed much. All that I was thankful for then, I’m still thankful for now. 

Thus cheered, I went back to take a closer look at my page of successes. I couldn’t recall 2019 being a banner year for success, but there it was, another whole page of writing-related success. What in the world had I found to write about? 

I suppose by some standards, my successes in 2019 were not very remarkable…I completed a novel revision, had an editor request a manuscript, received a complimentary rejection, read 40+ books, regained some writing time when I stepped back from a volunteer position. But you know what? I felt pretty darn good about those successes then. 

And here’s the real kicker: I could write the same list for 2020. For most of last year, I felt like a big, fat failure, and really, like a big, fat phony for calling myself a writer, but I could write the same exact list.

Yep, in 2020, I had several requests for a manuscript, and one very nice rejection. I read 50+ books, and regained even more time when I retired from another long-held volunteer position, and I even taught myself several new skills that I’d been wanting to learn for ages. 

So then I decided to read what I’d written on the page titled, What my Heart Knows to be True. Maybe I’d find the secret to why 2019’s successes felt so much more…well, successful than this past year’s successes. And I think maybe I did find something in my scribblings: Success is not just about money.

Success is an attitude, a belief in one’s self. Success is progress, even when it may not look like progress to anyone else. Success is showing up, hanging in there, and try, try, trying again. Or it’s letting go to move in a different direction. At least, that’s what success is to me. And if there’s a secret to it, maybe it’s just remembering what our hearts know to be true, no matter what year it is.


Margo Dill said...

I have had this same debate with my writing critique group so many times. Some of us equate success with money, and some of us don't. Success really is in the eye of the beholder, but I tend to err on the side of celebrating every time you hit a goal or a milestone or even sit your butt in the chair and work on something. :) Here's to a lot of success in 2021--however you define it!

Sioux Roslawski said...

I like Margo's idea of every BIC moment being a bit of success. You had a great 2020. (Did I dare pair "great" and 2020 together? ;)

I agree with you. Each time we refuse to give up, and submit again despite a new rejection, that's success. You getting a complimentary rejection means that sometime soon, you'll get an acceptance...

... I just know it.

Cathy C. Hall said...

It's hard, Margo, because our society equates success in mostly material terms, and that means money, whether it be a big salary or a big advance. But there are lots of jobs where you can't measure success by income...I think I did a pretty good job raising my kids and I never got a dime for all that work! But I do get the occasional free lunch. :-)

And thanks, Sioux. If I hadn't taken the time to do a little year's end reflection, I would have trudged into 2021 still thinking in terms of my failures! Not sure what writing holds for me moving forward but y'all will be the first to know when something happens. Also, I feel like I missed Muriel's Wedding. I also feel like I would love it!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I earn a living through writing. Well, that's my entire income. So 2020? Not the best year ever.

But I did have contracts for 3 books.

And I'm teaching a new class.

And I redesigned my site/blog.

And I finished a draft of my novel and 3 picture books.

So there were definitely successes even if they weren't what I set out to do. While I think we need goals, I think it is also important to remain flexible and realistic.


Jeanine DeHoney said...

Cathy, I love this post. It is a subject I too have been wrestling with lately. When it comes to success I realize we have to chart our own blueprint and not measure it by other's standards, especially society's. The last paragraph in your post sums it up beautifully.

Cathy C. Hall said...

It was a tough year for creatives, Sue, but isn't it always hard to make a living for us creative types? Most of us rely on several streams of income and you've kept that going amidst these challenging times so I'm sure that's gratifying for you. I've let a few streams dry up but as you mentioned before, we've got to give ourselves a little grace this year, right? (And big congrats on your three contracts!)

Oh, thanks, Jeanine! You know my favorite quote: Comparison is the thief of joy and that's especially true when it comes to measuring our successes against everyone else's success. Hold on to your joy, Jeanine!

Renee Roberson said...

I always like to take a look back at the end of the year and it surprises me when I find these hidden nuggets like you did. I used to do a yearly wrap-up on my blog detailing everything I wrote/had published and I haven't done that yet for 2020. May be time to do so. You know what else is funny? Since we've all been home during the pandemic, the kids see I work just as hard as their banker father and make 1/4 of the money he does. It was nice when they said something to me about it.

Thank you for keeping us in check!

Linda O'Connell said...

This post speaks to me. I submitted 100 pieces in 2020, hoping for publication, Money would have been nice, but not my first goal. I think I published 4 for $. But I am most proud for sticking with a Monday through Friday, month long poetry prompt from a local university. My poetry was published on their website, which makes each poem inelgible for future publication. But I stuck with it. That made me proud of myself. Success is measured in many ways indeed.

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