Friday 6 May 2011

What is Success? - Lynne Garner

At a social gathering recently the host dragged me over to a group of friends because he was talking about my work.You see some years ago research for a non-fiction title (African Crafts) took a group of us to Ghana; he was part of that group. The photographs taken on the trip were to appear in the book. As a joke I told him he'd appear on one of the pages. I was as good as my word and when the book was released I gave him a copy, this he’d dragged out and was showing around.
During the conversation someone I’d briefly met before said something along the lines of “how exciting, I know a successful author.” I quickly responded “hardly successful.” I received a quick nudge in the ribs from my other half and a close friend asked, “well if over 20 published books is not success, what is?”
At the time my reply was, “to make a good living from writing.” This unfortunately (like many jobbing writers) I'm still trying to achieve and top up my income by teaching creative writing.
However this did get me wondering, what is success?
If you’d asked me this question when I first started to write the answer would have been getting a book published. Once I'd achieved this the answer would have become getting a second book published. As the years have passed I would have also included:
  • Read a good review of one of my books – tick!
  • Receive at least one piece of fan mail – tick!
  • To be asked by a publisher to write for them – tick!
  • See one of my books translated – tick!

Today my original reponce, to earn a good living from my writing is perhaps at the top of my list. However I also dream of:
  • Seeing my book in one of those vending machines at an airport
  • Having one of my books turned into a kids programme
  • Cuddling one of my characters because it's been turned into a toy
  • Winning an award
  • Hear one of my characters names being shouted across the local playing fields and seeing a dog eventually doing as it's told

So what is success?
Deep down I think success is when someone who does not know me, will never meet me picks up one of my books, buys it, takes it home and enjoys sharing it with their kids.
Or am I being sentimental?
Should I really be shouting from the roof tops "bring on that film deal.”
Lynne Garner


Julie Day said...

Success for me is either to have letters and articles published regularly with prizes, or having a book published that sells out and goes to a reprint. My success is the former and still wish for the latter.

Celia Rees said...

No, you are right, Lynne. The other way madness lies.

Susan Price said...

You seem to be successful on almost all your own counts, Lynne! Next time you're called 'a successful author,' smile in a becomingly modest way.

Linda Strachan said...

Interesting post.
People are often delighted when they meet a published writer and often they will be delighted to tell their friends they 'know' you - and they really don't want you to take the shine of it for them - so a modest smile is def the best way forward!

Stroppy Author said...

I'm not sure who ever feels they are a 'successful' author. It probably depends more on personality than achievements. But Linda is absolutely right - you have to accept the label if it is making the OTHER person happy to use it. It's ungracious not to, even if it makes you squirm.

It's also not good for your public image to go around denying your success - others (including publishers) will take you at your own estimation, remember. If your estimation is low, keep quiet about it!

Leila Rasheed said...

It's a difficult thing, isn't it? I would say that success - if there can be a general definition - is firstly getting published, and secondly staying published. You seem to have managed both.

Claudia Myatt said...

Good point - we do tend to see success as something that lies perpetually ahead of us rather than the platform of our accomplishment. I am always in contradiction when someone sees me as a 'successful' author - I've got six non fiction books in print, plenty of foreign translations and a satisfying amount of feedback from readers. BUT of course I'm not earning very much, which is something that non writers have no idea about ("all those royalties - how nice!" they say. Ha ha) So the little imp in my head that measures success by income pipes up and says "actually, I'm not successful at all." Go away, imp! One day.....

Sheena said...

Yes, the problem is that once you have achieved the goal you thought would make you ecstatically happy, it suddenly loses its sheen. You think, "so what? I'm still the same". I suppose it's human nature to constantly want more. At the moment my idea of success is like yours, just to be able to make a living from making books, but I don't know if that will ever happen!