Guest Post with Shelli Johnson

Today’s guest post is by author, Shelli Johnson, one of the many talented people I’ve met on Twitter. You can check out details of her book and blog below.
How Do you Define Success?
For some people, success equals money. For others, it’s fame. Maybe scoring an agent. Or a book contract. Good reviews. A New York Times bestseller. Your book optioned for a film.

But what if you don’t have those things? What if your attempts at finding an agent fell flat? Or you got reviews that cut to the bone? Or your book flamed out after selling only a handful of copies?

I’d argue, after having been a writer for 30-some-odd years, that success is being happy with what you’re doing. It’s waking up and putting your behind in a chair and writing. It’s trusting the story and yourself to tell it. It’s being so immersed in your work that you utterly lose track of time. It’s doing something you love and watching the disjointed scenes and jotted notes become a book. It’s seeing your vision all the way through.

Success is also not giving up when the money, the fame, or the traditional publishing route doesn’t pan out. Sure, I would’ve loved to have a self-supporting career and accolades and a lot of help getting my work out into the world. But because that didn’t materialize, does that mean I failed? I write every day. I take my time, no pressure & no deadlines, and let the story unfold. I let the characters grow. I am happy. So, for me, the answer is no.

Success, for me, has been finding a small but loyal following of readers. I get emails & letters from people who told me that my novel changed them in some way, made them cry, spurred them to work things out with a family member. Every once in a while, I get told I’ve made someone’s short list of favorite authors. I often get requests to see my new work.

Success, too, is seeing my oldest son win first place for a book he wrote. Success is seeing my youngest son turning into a book lover also. Success is connecting with other people through whatever means you can; in my case, that just happens to be writing.

What about you? How do you define success?

My award-winning novel, SMALL AS A MUSTARD SEED now an eBook for Kindle, Nook, & iPad/iPod/iPhone!
Publishers Weekly called it: “An intense and heartbreaking story of the fallout of war.”
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23 comments on “Guest Post with Shelli Johnson

  1. That’s a good measure of success and I agree, Shelli. All the other stuff can be distracting at times but mostly when the writing goes well, I couldn’t be happier and the outward bits of success are not on my mind.

  2. Hi Derek. Thanks so much for letting me be a part of your blog!

  3. Christy Farmer says:

    Hello Derek and Shelli! Nice to see you both! Shelli, your post is lovely and I love how you are prioritizing your family and also doing what you love. As for me my definition of success is a) love of family and b) doing what I love. Consider post RT’d you two and well done! 😉

  4. Georgie Lee says:

    Excellent reminder about doing what you love and not comparing your success to other people’s.

  5. davidbeem says:

    I think you nailed it on the head Shelli! Rock on, girl.

  6. Thank you all for commenting! Nuala, I completely agree that when the writing’s going well, I could care less about the outward bits of success. Christy, I agree about prioritizing, books may come & go but your family (whether you want them or not ~ lol) is there forever. Zoe, great post by you on what it takes to be successful, too. Georgie, I happen to think that comparing your success to someone else’s is probably the most damaging thing you can do to yourself, speaking from personal experience. Hi David, thanks; I will rock on. 🙂

  7. Shelli, your post has come at the perfect time and I couldn’t agree with you more! September, for me, is all about realigning goals, beliefs, direction; looking at my health and lifestyle and what I’m doing with my life. I gave up a well paid job just over a year ago to write full time, uprooting to live in the countryside where the cost of living is better (and the beauty of the place is priceless).

    Since then, I have completed my children’s book which has gone out to publishers and I’m awaiting replies…the wait is frustrating and there’s no telling how it will work out, but it was the goal I had in mind and I got there (eventually). Along the way I also ended up starting my own social media business which brings me to fabulous writing festivals as their official blogger – like Listowel Writers Week, Cork International Short Story Festival, etc…so I get to meet some of my favourite and most inspiring writers and bring reportage to people who can’t get there. I also found love and got engaged to a man I have adventures with and laugh alongside every day…we’ve renovated and moved into a mobile home and get to make jam, grow veg, go boating on the sea and catch fish.

    But one tiny thought kept niggling all along; the financial side is satisfactory but not brilliant.

    So today I sat down to think – am I going in the right direction? Am I truly happy? Should I shift to concentrate on money for a while? The answer to the first two was a resounding, yes! The answer to the last question – I’ve decided, after reading your post – is no! Look what I have – I get to write every day, walk in the countryside, be self sufficient and enjoy the company of my nearest and dearest. I’m happy. So I should measure success in terms of that, not worry about the finances. Thank you so much for reminding me of the correct path to tread and for chasing the niggle away.

  8. Couldn’t agree more.

    Caren

  9. Thank you for your beautiful comment, Elizabeth. I love it when someone’s post can do that for me ~ speak to me just when I need it. I’m so glad this post could do that for you. Hi Caren, thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

  10. Hi Shelli, I loved your blog. I am content with my life so far, my kids, my grandkids and my greatgrandson are all well and happy and they all adore me and think I am fun to be with. I like blogging, I am happy if someone enjoys a short story I write. I have had one published in Irelands Own couple years ago but I am not fussed if it never happens again, once someone gets to read what I write I am content. Not that I would mind getting a few bob for a story LOL Best wishes Margaret xx

  11. Catie Rhodes says:

    This post came at a good time for me. I’m not quite at a crossroads, but I’m overwhelmed with both real life and writing. I think you’re onto something here. I need to be happy with what I’m doing. In the end, it’s all about the journey. 😀

  12. Jackie Mull says:

    Wonderful post, Shelli.

  13. Hi Margaret, I’m so glad you’re happy with your writing (congrats on the publication!); I do agree that it’d be great to make a few bucks though. Hi Catie, I love this ~ in the end, it’s all about the journey. Hi Jackie, thank you so much!

  14. Chloe says:

    I think every artist must ask themselves this question. I ask it every day.

  15. Hi Chloe. I agree, especially for artists who aren’t making a lot of money from their work but still believe that art & what they’re doing are important.

  16. @EvangelinaJo says:

    Good for you! I think making someone’s short list of favorite authors might do it for me too. That is excellent. Finding something you love to do, especially if any money can be made from something you would do for free anyway, that is a gift. Enjoy your days! : )

  17. Hi EvangelinaJo. Thanks for your lovely comment! I LOVE this (& completely agree) ~ Finding something you love to do, especially if any money can be made from something you would do for free anyway, that is a gift.

  18. Louise says:

    A great post – I think we all have to be clear about what we want, especially the bits which matter the most. We are all a little cracked wanting to write, but the best pleasure is when the words work on the page, that’s the prize which really pushes us. Some days it doesn’t work, and it is frustrating, but we still go back to it, because well, we wouldn’t have it any other way!

  19. Ashley Nixon says:

    Oh, I do agree! I learned a while ago money does not equal happiness. The more I’m around college kids who are forced into microbiology by their parents, the more grateful and happy I am my parents support my writing. I love hearing things like this. It always reinforces why I’m writing, especially when I’m having a not-so-good week. Thanks, Shelli!

  20. I see success measured by failure; whether our own or others. Personally, I don’t use the word, and cringe when I hear it – I think of people struggling to survive; that is their success – and man’s failure not to recognise it.

  21. Hi Louise, you’re probably correct about a little cracked wanting to write ~ lol ~ but, too, I think a lot of us feel like we NEED to. Hi Ashley, you’re welcome. I love this ~ money does not equal happiness. I think a lot of people (I once did, too) think that money is the end all. Hi Elizabeth. It’s great you don’t use the word failure; it’s easy to judge something a failure & move on, a bit harder to look at it as something to learn from.

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