What Does Success Look Like? 4 New Viewpoints to Change Your Success Landscape

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 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.

 

4. Serving

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?

 

wayne dyer quote

21 Affirmations for Writers

“What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.”

As a writer, I’ve been quite fortunate in many aspects.

Seven years ago, I self published a book that went to the top of the Amazon bestseller list, and landed me a contract six months later. Two years after that, I was able to resign my teaching position and become a full-time novelist. And two years ago, I met my literary agent through a chance meeting at a cocktail party.

Life wasn’t always so rosy, especially during my teens and early twenties. My parents’ divorce had really shaken me, and other issues/people tore at my self-esteem. By the time I was 20, I’d dropped out of three different colleges and became involved in an extremely toxic relationship. I floated from job to job and couldn’t decide on a career. Writing was one of the constants in my life, but the belief that had been ingrained in me was that I was never going to make money as a writer. I also didn’t believe I was any good as a novelist.

I wrote in my memoir about how Duran Duran’s song “Ordinary World” became a sort of lighthouse for me. But I didn’t mention the book that had changed the course of my life: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.

In the early 90s, I had been working in a salon as a manicurist when one of my clients recommended the book to me. She must have seen that despite my liking my job, I was in a dead end in other ways. I bought the book, and was instantly riveted.

Louise’s message was this:

What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.

 

At the time I had never seen a book like this before. And throughout years of therapy, no one had ever offered such seemingly simple advice: You can change your life if you change your thoughts. And the way to do that was by positive affirmations.

It seemed too far-fetched at first. You mean all I have to say is “I approve of myself” and life will get better?

And yet, that is exactly what happened. Literally.

I started with I approve of myself. This was quite an effort at first, given how low my self-esteem was. I had actually believed that toxic relationship was the best I was ever going to have, that I didn’t deserve better. He used to be so manipulative and controlling that he would actually tell me how to dress and wear my hair.

Little by little, I started to believe the affirmation.

The more I said, “I approve of myself” (it would run through my head like an endless ticker sometimes, the more assertive I became. One day I insisted on wearing what I wanted. He tried to shoot me down by telling me I wasn’t beautiful anymore, said I looked “nasty.”

“On the contrary,” I replied, “I’ve never looked better.” I believed it too. More than that, I knew at that moment that I would be leaving that relationship for bigger and better things.

 

Opportunities and people came into my life that opened me up, raised my self-esteem, and sent me in a positive direction.

I went back to school, and this time came out with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. While in school, I used affirmations to attract a love relationship, and two weeks later I met a man on campus and we dated for several months. The night before an exam, I would send love into the situation. And so on.

Any time I found myself desiring something—a new apartment, to publish a novel, my dream car—I offered affirmations and surrendered the outcome. Things and situations didn’t always work out so perfectly overnight, and sometimes I struggled a great deal, but in some cases the results were even better than anything I’d visualized.

In my latest novel, Big Skye Littleton, I even passed on the affirmation “I approve of myself” to Skye, who needed it as badly as I once had.

 

Louise Hay passed away last week—she was 90 years old—and I was more affected by the news than I’d expected to be.

This past year I’ve been challenged with lower royalties, and a novel (The Second First Time) that launched almost one year ago had been a major commercial disappointment. I also found myself adjusting to married life (not that that was unhappy) and at times I was overwhelmed.

Upon hearing of Louise’s death, I transported back to the first time I had read You Can Heal Your Life. I pulled the book from the shelf—my copy is over 20 years old, and it is well worn (see photos below)—and held it lovingly in my hands. And I wondered: What thoughts had contributed to the situations I’d been finding myself in lately? I’ve spent the last year making a gratitude list every morning, but when was the last time I’d used affirmations like a mantra? When was the last time I’d said “I approve of myself” and meant it?

I began to read the book yet again—each time I read it, I either connect to something in a way I haven’t before, or discover something completely new about myself. I realized that I’d spent much the year blaming others for the novel’s sales failure. I’d also spent a lot of time focusing on thoughts of being overwhelmed rather than trusting that the change was good.

Thus, I wrote new affirmations. I changed my thinking about The Second First Time, and the dip in royalties. I did more than express gratitude.

Sure enough, in the last four days, sales of The Second First Time are the highest they’ve been—they’re nowhere near the bestsellers list (yet!), but seeing the uptick has been so delightful… I’d forgotten how much fun writing and reciting affirmations could be.

 

You know how at the beginning of every episode of The Simpsons, we see Bart writing on the blackboard as punishment of his latest mischief? That’s what I do with my affirmations.

I write them five, ten times in a row (sometimes even more!) followed by repeated recitation of them—but they’re far from punishment.

And so, in honor of Louise, I decided to offer writers some affirmations to try. You can choose one or two of these that you connect with, or use them as inspiration and/or motivation to write and recite your own. Write them five or ten times in a row, and recite them five or ten times as well. Do this as often as you can.

 

If you’re struggling with writer’s block or are having trouble getting started, try one or two of these affirmations:

 

Divine Intelligence gives me all the ideas I need.

I relax and let life easily and comfortably provide me with everything I need. Writing is for me.

I trust in the writing process and my skills to compose and create.

My creativity is ever flowing. I go with the flow.

I attract the right words, sentences, and paragraphs at the right time.

Writing is a joy. Writing is fun!

 

If you’re struggling with being too self-critical (and what writer hasn’t struggled with that?), try one or two of these affirmations:

 

I approve of myself. (I recommend this one in any or every situation.)

There is plenty of talent and creativity to go around.

I love and accept myself and where I am right now. (Also good for writer’s block.)

I lovingly forgive myself. I am free.

I see with love and understanding. I hold all my experiences up to the light of love.

I recognize my own true worth.

 

If you desire to make writing your career, want to revive your writing career, or are fighting old beliefs that “there’s no money in writing,” try one or two of these affirmations:

 

My unique creative talents and abilities flow through me and are expressed in deeply satisfying ways.

My books attract plenty of readers.

I earn good money doing what satisfies me.

My work is a joy and a pleasure.

I have within me all the ingredients for success.

I establish a new awareness of success and prosperity.

I am worthy of success as a writer, and I accept it now.

I am making good money as a writer.

My good comes from everywhere and everyone.

 

You may feel resistance when you say some of these affirmations. They may even feel like outright lies. Acknowledge and work through those feelings. Remember: “What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.” Continue to say them until they are more than beliefs—they are truth for you.

 

30-Day Activity: Choose one or two affirmations from any or all of these categories, or use them as inspiration and/or motivation to write and recite your own. Write them five or ten times in a row, and recite them five or ten times as well. Do this for 30 days straight.

My Writing Space: A Feng Shui Analysis

The good thing about writing is that you can do it almost anywhere. But I find that a space, and one that makes you feel good while you’re in it, is an important part of the process.

In my new novel, Skye Littleton becomes a certified feng shui practitioner. At best, I dabble in the practice. I very much believe rooms (and homes) contain energy, and I do my best to balance those energies, especially on a limited budget.

The previous house I lived on Long Island in had extra bedrooms, one of which I converted into an office space. I also put my treadmill in there, thinking it could be a place of “productivity” no matter what. However, the energy always felt “off” in that room, and when I brought in a space clearer, even she noticed. As it turned out, I lived in that house for no more than one year. Maybe it was always meant to be a transitory place.

When I moved to Billings and my husband and I bought our house, we converted the two basement bedrooms into side-by-side offices. I wanted a wall color that stimulated creativity, so I opted for a bright tangerine color—for the entire room. Western feng shui says the color orange stimulates creativity, and I have to agree. I also wanted the bright color because the room was sub-level.

Using a bagua map, I positioned my writing desk in the wealth and prosperity corner of the room. I also keep two coin banks nearby, and placed a Japanese token of luck and prosperity that a friend had given me in the “power corner” of my desk.

I surrounded other areas of the room with special items:

  • A framed photograph of my meeting Duran Duran bassist John Taylor, the two of us holding each other’s books, along with a photo of JT holding his copy of Friends of Mine.
  • Side-by-side prints of Wonder Woman and Superman in the relationship corner, connoting strength, power, bravery, and fun.
  • A framed photo of my husband and me in the relationship corner of my desk, along with a photo of my grandmother and me.
  • Two bookcases, both filled.
  • My bachelors and masters diplomas.

 

One thing I’ve always strived to achieve in my writing spaces is less of an “office” and more of a “studio.” I had intended to put a couch in the room, but I couldn’t fit one because of the narrow staircase and the angle of the room’s entrance. I do miss having that studio feel, so that’s one thing I hope to change, if I can find the right couch.

When we first converted the rooms, I’d liked that they were separated from the rest of the living space—as if we could go to work and leave work every day. However, I was soon bothered by the basement’s “bottom” energy. It was also colder in the basement than anywhere else in the house. So I posted notes on bulletin boards (I put up a vision board too) such as “I’m on top!” and “My books are warm and fuzzy.” (Getting a space heater helped as well.)

The space is definitely a work-in-progress, as is my writing. It can always be better. The good thing about writing is that you can do it almost anywhere. But I find that a space, and one that makes you feel good while you’re in it, is an important part of the process.

Want a FREE bagua map? Get one at elisalorello.com! You’ll also be entered to win a tote bag full of books! Details here.

 

Discussion: Where do you write? Do you have a special space devoted to your writing? What would your ideal writing space look like?

My two feng shui go-to books:

The Western Guide to Feng Shui: Room By Room

Sacred Space: Clearing and Enhancing the Energy of Your Home

 

Big Skye Littleton is here!

In this warm, high-spirited contemporary novel, big love can happen in the smallest of spaces.

I am happy to announce the launch of my eighth novel, Big Skye Littleton.

I am so proud of this book, which takes place in my adopted city of Billings, Montana. It was fun to write, and I’m thrilled by the response it’s already gotten.

Here’s what some of the early reviews on Goodreads have to say:

This book has a huge heart. A real feel-good story that feels personal and leaves you warm inside.

A delightful, contemporary read that you simply can’t fail to love.

It’s a fun roller coaster ride through the beautiful city of Billings, MT and one that I didn’t want to end.

Big Skye Littleton is a super good book. I could not put this book down. I loved the story and the Montana setting. Lorello is a new author to me and I was impressed by her writing and will be reading more of her books. If you enjoy a good romance this could be the book for you.

In this warm, high-spirited contemporary novel, big love can happen in the smallest of spaces.

Skye Littleton said goodbye to her job, her best friend, and her home in Rhode Island to start over in Billings, Montana, with Vance Sandler, a gorgeous guy she met online. On her cross-country flight, Skye shares her happy story with her seatmate, Harvey Wright, a Billings resident who knows Vance—and his reputation for heartbreak. Harvey’s infuriating advice to Skye? Go home.

When Skye arrives, she discovers that Vance has changed his mind and wants nothing to do with her. Despite the setback, Skye is determined to rebuild her life and begin a new chapter in Montana’s largest city, which sometimes feels like a small town. With Harvey’s help, Skye finds a job—and a passion for organizing closets and clearing out clutter. But as she grows closer to Harvey, she finds herself homesick for her former life. Could Harvey be her future, or is she his chance at revenge? Can Skye finally trust her own heart enough to let it show her the way home?

Available in paperback (ask your local bookseller to order it!), Kindle, and audiobook. Buy a copy today!

To lean more, go to elisalorello.com.

 

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What’s It Like Being Married To an Author?

We love this story. We don’t ever want it to end.

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, Twitter, or this blog, then you know that I’m married to an author.

We’re still newlyweds, in fact! We got together a little over two years ago, evolving from a friendship that followed our meeting at a publisher’s party in New York in 2011 (we also share the same publisher).

Craig Lancaster is best known for his Edward series. In fact, quite the fan following has developed in the UK thanks to some rather devoted followers of #TeamEdward, as they say.

Earlier this year, I had put out a call for “Ask the Author” questions to respond to on my author blog. One of my husband’s most loyal fans asked me this:

What’s it like waking up with a literary genius each day? Do you have to pinch yourself?

I never answered it on my author blog, so I’ve decided to respond here:

What literary genius?

Oh. Right. My husband.

Yes, of course I’m kidding. Is he a really literary genius? It depends on how you define that word. I don’t see him as such, nor do I believe he sees himself that way either, and he’s OK with that. That said, the truth is that my husband is one of the most talented writers I know, and I know a lot of them.

I like being married to a fellow author because he understands both the process and the business of writing. He understands the core philosophy of The Writer’s HabitKnowledge + Skill + Desire—and, like me, believes in the importance of craft. Like me, he believes it’s not just about the words, but the story. It’s about the truth that lives in the heart of the lie—the “lie” being the fictional world we create and, for a time, live in either as a writer or a reader. I like that he understands the struggles. I like that I never have to go far to get help on a scene, a sentence, or a conflict.

It’s also rather nice that I get to spend most days with him. Even when we’re both holed up in our offices, he’s just a door away. We’ve even started a freelance business together. Our combined skills pack a good punch.

Plus, our own conversations ultimately end up as novel dialogue. It’s inevitable.

But here’s the really awesome thing: One of my favorite pastimes is when Craig and I read our books to each other prior to publication day (we’re currently in the middle of my new novel, Big Skye Littleton, which launches on August 22). In fact, this is the first time we “read” each other’s work in its finished form. I’ve written about the intimacy of such an act, and how we became close because we told each other our stories over time. And as we continue to grow together, our story develops. New chapters. New scenes. New snippets of dialogue. New conflicts and resolutions. We love this story. We don’t ever want it to end.

And that makes me want to pinch myself. Because this love story is very real.