I have a confession to make: I’ve not been feeling successful lately, especially this past year.
Book sales took a tumble. My novel The Second First Time face-planted out of the gate. I spent this past year trying all kinds of things to revive my sales and attract new readers, only to feel as if I were throwing any ol’ thing against the wall to see what stuck. And nothing was sticking, dammit. I was growing despondent. This whole writing thing wasn’t as fun as it used to be. And yet, every time I asked myself whether I wanted to be doing anything else, the answer was a definite no.
Turns out I’ve been looking at this success thing all wrong.
I’d had a narrow definition of success—make a sustainable living writing novels full-time. That was about it. Oh, and write bestselling novels too.
There’s nothing wrong with that as a goal. And three years ago, I’d achieved that goal. Problem was, when the books stopped selling and my livelihood was in jeopardy, I began to panic. Worse still, I was feeling more and more like a failure.
When you see yourself, your work, or anything else through the lens of fear and failure, you’re not exactly creating a pathway of abundance.
I knew this too, which made it even more frustrating when I couldn’t seem to get out of the loop.
My favorite Wayne Dyer quote is this:
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
For starters, I discovered I was looking at what wasn’t there rather than what was—every time I looked at sales totals, all I could see were the thousands of units that used to be on the bottom line. Worse still, I’d looked less at readers and more at numbers. I could only see what I so desperately wanted—to reclaim that success I’d had three years ago, and anything less than that was bad. Worse than bad. It was embarrassing and shameful.
And then I read this game-changing quote:
You are tied to things you do not like. You cannot leave something until you love it.
The epiphany followed:
Rather than trying to enthusiastically expand or reinvent my writing livelihood, I’ve been frantically trying to save it, thus clinging to it for dear life.
If I wanted my situation to change, I needed to not only change the way I looked at it, but also the way I responded to it.
So here’s what I’ve been practicing…
1. Letting go.
I’m no longer trying so desperately to reclaim a past status. Now I’m exploring ways to have fun again. By releasing the tight grip, my mental hands are now ready to receive whatever the next thing my writing life has to offer me. I’m now open to ideas not as a way to desperately win followers or convert Likes to sales, but as an opportunity to reinvent my writing life, and reclaim the joy instead of the accolades. And my experience has been that money follows enthusiasm. Especially when you’re tuned into the flow.
2. Making peace with where I am now.
I’m no longer looking at my writing career in life in terms of where I was or where I want to be; I’m looking at where I am now, and choosing to bless it with love. I bless every one of my books with love. I bless every book sale with love and give thanks for it, regardless of the numbers. I bless the booksellers with love. I bless every reader with love and every review, positive or negative. I bless my publishers, editors, agent, and all those who played a role in getting my books into the hands of readers. I bless my work-in-progress with love, and am not sweating word counts or how many hours per day or days per week I’m writing (or not writing).
It feels so good to do this because a) it’s easy, and b) it’s tapping into the abundance rather than the lack. Presence rather than absence.
3. Seeing success everywhere I turn.
This morning I woke at 6:00 a.m. (if you know me, you know this is a success in and of itself), wrote Morning Pages (see The Artist’s Way), walked 3 ¼ miles on the track at the Y (I’m going to write a future blog post about the effect walking has had on me these past few months), made a delicious breakfast when I came home, spent time with my husband, and spent the afternoon addressing packages for contest prizes to winners and gifts to those who helped spread the word about Big Skye Littleton in the weeks leading up to launch, as well as during and after launch week.
In short, I accomplished quite a bit today, including this blog post. I realized that when I think of success, I think of accomplishment. And so rather than looking for big successes like hitting best-selling lists or trying to recapture the royalties of yesteryear, I’m looking at the seemingly ordinary accomplishments, as well as the accomplishments I take for granted. I published a book! Heck, I’ve published 10 books! In multiple languages! And people other than my family and friends are reading them! And they like them! I wrote today! Maybe not contributing toward a manuscript, but I wrote privately. I wrote a blog post. I jotted down an idea for another book. I read something inspiring.
When you change how you look at success, you find a lot more of it.
When I was a teacher, I always sought the best ways to serve students. Throughout the writing process, I’ve thought about how best to serve readers. When I revised my website, I kept readers in mind then as well, especially new readers.
But oddly, when I was trying to attract new readers and raise my royalties, I didn’t think in terms of how I was serving or what I was giving. Instead, I now realize I was too focused on what I would be getting. And that’s not joyful at all.
No wonder nothing was working.
So I’ve made more of a conscious effort to think about ways I may be of service not only to readers, but also to fellow authors, those who help bring my books to fruition, friends, family, and humanity in general. It’s not always in doing, or giving something material, but it includes forms that go beyond gratitude and appreciation.
The very intention to focus on service has come back to me multiplied. Today I went to Office Max. Not two minutes in, an associate offered to assist me. Not only did he help me find what I was looking for, but what I needed was on sale.
Success! And service!
The results: After a year of angst and uncertainty, I feel good about where I am. What’s more, I am embracing the possibilities rather than worrying about the unknown. I am embracing the essence of success—a feeling of accomplishment—rather than demanding that it take the form of increased readers and royalties. I am giving more than I am getting. And it all looks pretty damn good. The joy is returning. I feel more like a writer today than I have all year.
Oh, and guess what: sales of The Second First Time are up.
As Wayne Dyer used to say, It’s all green lights from here.
For discussion or reflection: What does success look like to you? If you were to change the way you look at success, how would what you looked at change?