Success You Can Control

When we start writing, a lot of us do it, at least in part, to be "successful" (maybe just me, but I'll assume a lot of us because it makes me feel better). By successful, I mean like famous, best-selling, award-winning, rich, amazing whatever. And we know, we KNOW we can't control it, but it so feels like we can. Shoot, I've been writing professionally for almost a decade and have been rejected more times than the 45th US president has lied on record, and I still feel like I can control it.

(Sad that this had to get political? Me too, man. *heavy sigh* Me too.)

It's not just writing either. This is true in basically every creative industry and probably a fair number of non-creative ones as well. But what do you do when success doesn't come? Like, for years and years and years and . . . nothing?

There are lots of ways to deal with it, but I think they all boil down to these two: either give up or redefine success.

Now, when I say "redefine success," I don't mean give up on your big goal-dream of making it big; that's just giving up. I mean redefine your goals to be something in your control so that you're not just pulling yourself out of bed each morning, but rather you're jumping out of bed because you have another successful day ahead of you.

This is what I've been doing lately. I've still got big dreams, and I'm working hard toward them: I have a novel outline in the hands of a Big 5 editor. I have a mobile gamebook in the works. I hope to carve time to write some more novellas. But my happiness isn't resting on those things. They're way too far out, and too much of it is out of my hands. Saying my book has to sell or my game has to hit it big is just begging for depression.

So where is my happiness? Partially, I'm still trying to make myself truly believe these things, but here's where I want it to lie:

  • In making enough money each day to feed my family well and maybe take them to a movie every once in a while.
  • In spending time with my family.
  • In having time and purpose to create something that I love.
  • In having time to play a game or watch Netflix every so often.
I have so many freaking projects that if I put my happiness in any one of them -- or all of them all at once -- I'd end up working 28-hour days only to have the project flop while simultaneously missing out on what makes these projects worth doing at all.

So I'm trying to take things slow, one day at a time and enjoying my family at each step. How about you? What does success look like for you?


Matthew MacNish said...

Every time the existential dread tries to take over, I have to ask myself, "So what then? Are you just going to not write?"

Adam Heine said...

Ha ha! Right?!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Nailed it.

Steve MC said...

To me success is getting my work done before going on Twitter.

Maybe tomorrow...

And I definitely approve of the way you're looking at it. Every Olympic athlete longs for that gold medal, but when they get it, they always say what mattered more was the challenges they faced getting there, and the focus and discipline in learning new skills, and the help from coaches and family and friends. To live just for success ain't really living.

Unknown said...

My happiness is currently lying in the chocolate chips within my pancakes. And you. I love you. You make me happy.

And the fact that Dale just finished his entire pancake for the first time ever without giving any to the dogs!!!!

Adam Heine said...

@Steve: Ha! Oh, man, I really need to implement that level of success, too.

@Kirsty: You make me happy, too! Also your happinesses make me happy!