Joy vs. Success

Yesterday I got an email from the woman who edited Savior and Martin of Gfenn. She’s a lovely person, and I like her very much. I even hope we meet someday. Her email suggested a small press I should contact, one that has published the work of another of my editor’s clients.

I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. OK, I know I’ve just barely gotten over the flu and I’m not yet 100%, even though I did take Dusty and Bear out to the fields yesterday, but it was still a strange reaction. I immediately went to their website and assessed it. By now I have an experienced — if somewhat jaundiced — eye. They have published a few novels. They are an offshoot of a literary journal. Their website is amateurish. There is nothing there to tell wouldbe writers how to submit work. None of these are red flags, necessarily, but it reminded me of the now bygone Bygone Era Books, RIP.

Rather than the feeling of hope I would have felt a year ago discovering a new possibility, I felt mildly nauseated by the thought of starting all that up again.

My editor asked if I were working on anything now and I am and am not. One project is busy work, in a way, though it might become something. The other is tabled until I have some idea who the protagonist is and why the story needs to be written at all. The thought of publishing has, meanwhile, pretty much stolen the joy from the whole thing and, as I learned from a tea bag a couple of days ago, “Joy is success.”

Cryptic little tea bag. It could mean that success brings joy; it could mean (as I read it) joy itself is success. Writing was never meant — for me — to be an obligation and what I’ve learned in the past year has taught me that fame might be a subjective term.

I’m famous now in a way I never imagined. I got a Christmas card and note from one of the two remaining aunts in my family — there were 7 girls, one of them was my mom. They were all very bright, beautiful and complex women, significantly different from each other — not too surprising as one was born around the turn of the century and the last was born in the mid 1920s. The note came from the youngest, Aunt Dickie. I’ve sent her my novels and she has loved them. In the note she told me that she and a group of “girls,” her reading group, are going to read The Brothers Path this winter and discuss it and she told me she is proud of me. “It’ll be a little money for you, anyway. Love you, Aunt Dickie.”

No publisher in the world can give me that.

I think the next thing I will write, and what I will do with it, remain to be discovered. Meanwhile, this morning the freezing fog (which I love) is tangled in the tops of the trees, encasing each tiny twig in white, and the tree tops disappear mysteriously into the clouds.

14 thoughts on “Joy vs. Success

    • The words, “I’m so proud of you” “Love you” are words that generation of my family can barely utter. I adored all of them and treasure every memory I have of all we’ve shared. When we lose people that we love it can be such a gift to have a little wonderful bit of their love to cherish when they are gone. ❤

      • I never heard them from my mom. Very much the opposite. More like, “You think you’re so great. You’re not a fraction as (smart, kind, generous) as your brother.” After she died, the aunts conspired to tell me the truth about her life-long treatment of me that I had buried deep inside. So I KNOW what you mean!

  1. I agree that joy itself is success. And love and pride from those who know us best. And the positive we’ve managed to pass on to others. The older i get, the more aware I am that in the final analysis, who you are matters more than what you ‘achieved’. Could be considered sour grapes since I never ‘achieved’ in the worldly sense, but in the end, the author of ’50 Shades’ will be just as dead as the rest of us, and your gift to your professor-student will last longer than her ‘success’.

    • Agree 100%. One cool thing about my student (now professor) is that HIS student and I have chatted a bit about how to decide about one’s future. She’s 19. I advised her to follow her passion, once she’s found it, because no matter what happens she will have lived a happy life with purpose to herself. Because — as you say — everyone is dead in the end. 🙂

  2. Joy most definitely IS success — and all the other kinds of “success” in the world WITHOUT JOY, are just more experiences of temporary, fickle, pressurized pomp that eventually add even more pressure to keep performing. And those words are not sour grapes because I’ve experienced both kinds of success and found it to be true that only the joy is lasting.
    Great article.
    Merry Christmas!!!

  3. Last night, one of the shows we were watching revolved around “the cruelty of hope.” The premise was that giving hope was not necessarily a favor and I agree. People often ask why I don’t write another book. I tell them i don’t want to. I don’t believe I have a salable book in me. I don’t see the point in writing a book just because. Blogging scratches the writing itch pretty well for me. I don’t want to give up another few years to authoring. I’m glad I did it once, but I don’t feel compelled to do it again.

    Usually, people argue with me. Maybe you have to have gone down that road to understand why maybe you don’t want to. It’s such a personal thing. You’re a great writer. I love your stuff. And I can entirely understand why you might not want to start the whole submission cycle again. But if you do, I will support you. Gladly.

    Feel better and merry merry! Hug the dogs. They always understand.

    • ❤ I'm looking forward to two pretty winter days alone with the dogs while everyone is "Christmasing", some long walks in the hoar-frosted fields, and then a short road trip to visit friends on Monday. I'm very, very, very happy that I do not have any external force compelling me to do anything. I think you're right about having to "go down that road."

      I am honestly most thrilled by my next door neighbor saving the newspaper clippings of the press releases I write myself, the fact that my local paper gives me 1/4 page to promote my work, the fact that my other neighbor calls me an "author" but most of all — out of the blue — my Aunt Dickie is proud of me.

      I have loved the things you've written about The Bros Path, the perception of some others and their real affection for my stories and the contacts that have grown from that. It's really magical. I've learned that maybe all I wanted in my life was the freedom to be myself yet part of a community. We sure do have to do a lot of traveling to find what we want, don't we? 🙂

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