What is Success for a Writer?

Last night I watched a movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman, and I couldn’t help but mourn this incredible actor yet again. He had the uncanny ability to breathe life into the smallest of roles as if by magic. The reality, however, is that Hoffman worked very, very hard.

Because actors are artists, too, we writers can learn from our thespian friends. Even though Hoffman died so tragically and far too young, I am forever grateful for his shrewd words. “Success isn’t what makes you happy. It really isn’t. Success is doing what makes you happy and doing good work and hopefully having a fruitful life. If I’ve felt like I’ve done good work, that makes me happy.”

The beloved poet Maya Angelou had similar thoughts. “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Let these wise words guide you in your work. While it’s wonderful to be published and even win a prize in a contest, these are ephemeral moments at best. A life devoted to words offers many smaller and more enduring rewards. Such as nudging an exciting new word into your writing vocabulary. Getting over that pesky little hump in your current project. Savoring the words of another writer, you know what I mean, the book waiting for you on your nightstand.

Yesterday a fellow writer, much more talented than me, followed me back on Twitter. Bliss indeed. That didn’t just make my day, it made my year. And 2022 is still young….

The list goes on and on. So let me ask you, writer friends. What made you happy today?

What’s On My Bookshelf: Part 2

As promised, I’m following up with the final great book on my summer reading list.

Ever wondered what goes on in the right side of your brain? If so, you must read Imagine by Rhodes Scholar Jonah Lehrer. If you’ve ever thought that creativity was held hostage by the gods, this book is for you. By breaking down the long-held mystery of creativity, Lehrer shows us that this power is within the reach of everyone.

He also shows that cultivating creativity takes work (and frequently, collaboration), but the examples he provides (from the invention of the Swiffer Wetjet to the songs of Bob Dylan) are compelling and inspirational.

Stumped? Take a warm shower or take your dog for a walk. Lehrer convincingly argues that taking a break from the issues that are puzzling you gives you the opportunity to let your right hemisphere do the heavy lifting, and presto, you may just hit upon a solution.

This book was a gift from Tonya, my childhood friend-muse-fellow artist. It was so good that she didn’t just pass along her own book; she saved her own copy for herself and bought me my own (bless her.) Although this book is filled with literary examples, this book isn’t just for writers. It’s for anyone who needs a fresh look at life. And the great news is that the secrets to life and the dilemmas that puzzle us all might just be in our heads!