The Real Definition of Success

Last week, my son pointed me to a carton based on Bill Watterson’s 1990 speech about the true definition of success. You can find it here:

Watterson created the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, one of my all time favorites, a strip that resonated with something inside me like nothing else. My family will tell you I’m always quoting Calvin and Hobbes, and I’ve been known to use examples from C&H in my classes at school or to cheer up someone else’s day.

So what does this particular cartoon have to do with writing? Everything! For the past several years I’ve struggled to make a place for myself in the writing world, prove that I had talent and that my creations would make an impact if I were just given the chance.  Follow the yellow brick road of success–lots of readers equals the measure of worth and value. What the current definition of success doesn’t tell you is it’s only one definition. Something Watterson discovered and had the courage to redefine in his own life.

So what does success look like for an aspiring writer? A completed manuscript. Yep, it’s that simple. Success is birthing a new world, complete with characters you like and admire. Success is telling a story that sticks with the reader, that gets into the reader’s head and heart and lingers like perfume or the memory of the perfect summer day.

I used to think the measure of my talent was how many readers told me they liked my book. Then I discovered that if only one reader read my story and liked it, I did what I had set out to do: entertain someone.  I am a storyteller, not an author.  Yes, there is a difference. Storytellers tell stories, anywhere, at any time, to entertain. Doesn’t matter if the story gets repeated or not. It’s “in the moment.”  Authors depends on print versions, number of copies sold, making money, being in the spotlight, having a brand/platform.

Like Watterson, I’ve learned there’s much more to life than making money. Than having a book on the best seller list. Than racking up a 10,000 readership.  And for the first time I am content. Content to create my stories. Content to spend time living life to the full without worrying about deadlines or numbers or marketing. Content to create my own definition of success regardless of how it’s perceived by the rest of the world, or even another writer. The only difference between Watterson and myself, is his work was interesting enough to the population to make him money.

“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy…but it’s still allowed.” Bill Watterson.

Thanks, Bill. Let’s go exploring!


Posted on 2013/09/11, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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