Today's post is by Jess Tudor, who has been such a great contributor on Adventure's in Children's Publishing. We are delighted to be able to say that she is now represented by SuperAgent Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Lit. Find her at Must Love Books, or more frequently, on Twitter.
by Jessica Tudor
I had a lot of trouble deciding how to approach this post. So many different things I could explore. In the end, the topic was handed to me. My mother died the week before Christmas, and grief has a way of prioritizing things.
How do you define success? Getting an agent? Seeing the deal in Publisher's Marketplace? Holding the book in your hands? Or maybe you dream even bigger - NYT list and world tour. Maybe then you'll consider yourself successful. The problem with success is that it's a lot like money - Rockefeller said he'd have enough when he had just a little more. We reach a milestone only to set a new one.
We're never happy.
I've cried a lot this week, and one bout was when I realized I wouldn't get to share MERCY - or any of my books - with my mother. She'd never get to read it. And that devastates me. My mom never read anything I wrote - I would never share it because it wasn't "ready" and I was embarrassed. But she supported me from the beginning. When I was in high school and said I wanted to be a writer, she never said, oh do something else you'll never make any money. She never doubted I would make it.
Now that I'm about to go on submission - and whether or not the book sells is beside the point, really - I've realized "making it" isn't all it's cracked up to be if I can't share it with the people I love.
Celebrate the small steps. You never know if it'll be your last triumph, or the last one you can share with someone.
And more importantly, live. Writers are overprotective of their solitude for good reason, we need it or we don't get anything done. We have to be willing to say no to people more often than we may like, and that usually takes the form of having no social life. Don't go overboard. Not only do we need life to recharge, but when all is said and done, no one ever said, I'm sorry I took that extra hour to call my mother today, or, gee I wish I'd gotten in another ten pages instead of going for that walk with my husband.
Our work matters, but our people matter more.
So I propose we get out of our milestone method of thinking about success. Are we loved? Do we find our work fulfilling (in and of itself - the writing, not the recognition of it)? Have we shared our achievements in a satisfying way? Everyone knows it's lonely at the top, but maybe it's less because other people don't fit up there with you. Maybe it's because we weren't supposed to be climbing mountains. Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen farther it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." I like that. Because if we are standing on the shoulders of giants, there is someone holding us up. We are not alone.
Our traditional definitions of success aren't bad ones. Traditional success can be shared.
But, also like money, true success lies more in what you do with it and how you respond to it. Don't be caught up.
"The world is but canvas to our imaginations." - Henry David Thoreau
Must Love Books: http://www.jessicatudor.com