I found out this week that my new book won’t be getting a review from The New York Times. For ambitious writers, a review — even a crummy one — in the Times is a sure sign of success.
So, I’m disappointed.
But…maybe I dodged a bullet. Some of “Malled’s” reviews have been so vicious they’ve left me gasping.
And yet almost every day since it came out I’ve also been getting private emails from fellow workers in retail, like the one that arrived this morning asking: “Have you spent 23 years sitting on my shoulder?”
To know I’ve been able to tell a complex story well and to connect emotionally with readers is success for me.
I’ve been struggling for a while to write a guest post about “the writer’s life”. There are many!
The reason I can’t figure out what to say is that we all define success so differently.
I received an email this week from a young woman who described me as very successful. In many ways, on paper, that’s true; I’ve punched most of the standard tickets.
But how do I feel internally?
Because “Malled” has gotten a ton of press attention, many people consider this success. But for a writer trying to find thousands of paying readers, it’s only one crucial piece of it…success is actually selling books.
Success, for me, is the ability to wake up in the morning and not worry about where the next set of bill payments is going to come from, and freelancing without any steady income means almost constant anxiety.
Getting a job doesn’t feel like it would solve the problem; my last staff job, from 2005-2006 at the New York Daily News, was a terrible fit and an extremely stressful experience. No job can be better than the wrong job. And at my age, in this hard-hit field, getting a staff job feels next to impossible.
Success to me, then, would mean freedom from financial anxiety.
For others, it’s another day simply being alive and/or healthy, or their child’s achievements or finding and keeping a partner or a home…
How about you?
How do you define it?
Have you achieved it?
Or is it…I suspect!…a constantly moving target?