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?

Scooting Through the World of Submission

Today I revised and bundled up three short humorous essays, took a deep breath, and submitted them for publication. Who knows what will happen, but it always feels so liberating to take the initiative. Submitting also helps keep hope alive. For this reason, I made a promise to myself long ago that whenever I hear back from a submission, good or bad, I immediately send something else out.

Rejections can sting, and many of you, I’m sure, like me, have had your heart broken before. You may also have A BIG REJECTION THAT STILL CANNOT BE DISCUSSED. But that’s just like life. C’est la vie. The good news is that for every rejection or two, there is bound to be an acceptance just around the corner. And you wouldn’t know it if you didn’t take a chance in the first place.

Wednesday was a nutty day for me, one that found me mired in muck while trying to plant grass, getting a humdinger of a spider bite, and accidentally tossing my smart phone into the burn barrel (thank goodness for Google’s Droid “My Device” locator). I sure needed some good news!

And wasn’t I thrilled to hear from Debra Simon, esteemed publisher and editor of Carolina Woman. She called to tell me that I won “1st Place” in their annual writing contest for my essay, A Tale of Two Tumbles. A prize that came not only with publication but a Razor E Prime premium electric scooter! Can you believe it? A scooter is not something I would have ever thought to ask for, but as serendipity goes, it turns out to be exactly what I needed! It was also thrilling to see (and read work) by my other writer friends, Jane Rockwell, Ruth Moose, Carol Phillips, Alice Osborn, and more who also placed in the contest. And many of these friends, I’m so proud to say, came from my long association with the Central Carolina Community College Creative Writing Program.

Carolina Woman has been connecting women like us for 27 years now–publishing articles of interest and other quality content on food, pets, fashion and more for women in the Triangle and beyond. And their Annual Writing Contest is a “must-enter” for any serious writer for both the prizes and the recognition. I have entered many contests in my life but this is one of the best! NO ENTRY FEE and REAL PRIZES. If you like Carolina Woman as much as I do, please, please “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You’ll be glad you did!

As for me, I’ll be “scooting” back into my growing sea of works-in-progress. This little whoosh — like the childhood friend pushing you on the swing to get momentum — is even more incentive to jump back in. And it all starts with the courage it takes to get those words on paper. You can do it!

Wishing you all the best as you write and delight!

Biscuits Help Each Other Rise!

biscuit1On Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending my morning with an enthusiastic and especially curious group of women writers at Charlotte Lit. What a vibrant organization! I can’t say enough about the leadership and students at Charlotte Lit. They have built an enviable powerhouse of writing, and are truly dedicated to helping each other succeed.

The topic of our discussion was how to share your writing with the world. While self-publishing continues to be a vital force in the writing world, no question, I believe it’s still worthwhile to submit your writing for publication by others–whether to contests, commercial or literary magazines.

Why? First, you’ll get to know so many other wonderful people, whether at public readings or just by getting to know them by reading their work. You’ll also meet talented editors, who will happily help your shape your work and promote your writing. And among all your new writing friends (at Charlotte Lit and beyond), you can help each other. As Martha Stewart once said, quoting another baker whose name escapes me, the reason we put biscuits together in a pan is because they help each other rise.

Second, and equally important, is that when you write for publications and contests, you also grow as a writer. Yes, you have to be brave enough to stand the occasional rejection, but you can learn so much about yourself and the wider world of writing, that it’s well worth it. The motivation to improve will invariably result in acceptances, I promise, and by sharing your words and experiences with the world, you’ll expand your community that much more. And, ahem, at the risk of repeating myself too much, we know that biscuits help each other rise, right? 🙂

Have you submitted yet? If you haven’t, give yourself a New Year’s goal of submitting one piece of writing at least once every month in 2020. And remember, in the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe: “Never give up. Because that is just the place and time where the tide will turn.”

In the meantime, I encourage you to lean on each other for help and accountability. Choose a “submission buddy” and check in with that person regularly just to make sure you’re meeting your goals, if nothing else. Share your writing with each other and ask for suggestions on where you might submit your work. Most importantly, celebrate each other’s successes.

And if you missed Saturday’s workshop, no fear, I’ll be offering an extended version of the same one (with even more writing time and new markets for publications!) at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro on April 25.

Remember, I am rooting for you. Because, okay, last time, I promise. Biscuits help each other rise. 😊

 

What makes a successful writer?

flowers.jpgIn this particular order….

1- Love of language

2 – Internal burning desire to write, write, write….no matter what’s going on in their lives

3 – Abiding curiosity (obsession!) for the human experience

4 – Significant body of work to draw from so there’s always something in circulation — plenty of pieces to submit and re-submit when the times are tough.

What do you think? Am I missing something? It’s entirely possible!