What is Writing Success?

When does a writer know when he or she is successful?

Being “a writer” has certain connotations and sometimes embedded tangible requirements. Does he make a living from writing? Is her work critically acclaimed? Is he well-known? Does she garner respect from other writers? Do other people ask him to write? Is her author rank on Amazon within the top few thousand? Can a book release produce excitement? Does she have book signings? Has he won awards for his craft? Does she work tirelessly to improve?

Surely, these are all requirements of being a ‘real’ writer.

But, alas, no, that’s not it. It’s much simpler. It’s more personal. It’s more subjective.

Being a writer is about having the confidence within where one feels they know what they are doing but remain wise enough to know how foolish a thought like that is. Despite always wondering if what is written is any good, he or she keeps on writing.

For the first 30+ years of my life, I had the heart of a writer, yet I was not one. I was a person who made excuses about my writing, which mainly never occurred. I focused on my weaknesses and the strengths of the real professional writers. Strangely enough, the gap between my weaknesses as a writer and a highly respected writer’s strength was vast. That’s what I was focusing on, and it made writing seem like an impossible task. There was a gulf of separation too wide, so I  figured I might as well not try.

I’m ten years beyond that type of foolish thinking. Do I still have writing weaknesses? Oh yes. I think I’ve even discovered more that I didn’t know existed. But now, I don’t look at the big guys in awe and lament that I will never be like them. I have learned to feel comfortable in my own shoes. I have unique experiences and unique bouts of creativity which are vastly different from others.  I have something to say, and that’s enough.

Sure, I like a good review or an award or honor just like the next writer. It certainly can stroke a writer’s ego and boost one’s confidence.

But good reviews or awards or a certain threshold of downloads does not a writer make.

A writer is simply someone bold enough to admit that he or she is one.

Once you can overcome that hurdle, you can be successful, and you can write in peace.


A Writer’s Life: Feeling Comfortable Like Well Worn Jeans

When does a writer finally have the mind of a writer?

Or perhaps I should ask it differently: When does a writer become comfortable in his/her own skin?

Honestly, my mindset has made a remarkable transition these last few years. I’m confident in who I am and what I can accomplish. I believe that confidence comes by being comfortable with who you are and who you are not.

The writer I was a few years ago was riddled with doubt. Now don’t get me wrong, doubt is a common occurrence for every writer (as much as I can tell), so I’m not pretending I’m super-writer or something like that. But experience breeds a certain level of acceptance of who one is. And that is where I am at as a writer. It’s not a bad place to be.

The writer I was three years ago did not see an avenue for sustained success. The writer I am today no longer scoffs at that idea. The writer I was three years ago cautiously put his work out for others to see. The writer I am today is less driven by what others think and has a better grasp on what I want to communicate. The writer I was three years ago was still trying to figure out how I wrote. The writer I am today feels like I have a voice. Some have said it is unique. I’m not sure if that is true or not, but I do know it is mine, and I am who I am.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I’m happy to be where I am. It’s been fun to get feedback and put my works into the hands of the public. But really, I’m just getting started. I have so many stories I want to tell. I have so many voices in my head that want to be realized. Being a writer feels natural, like a well-worn pair of jeans.

Time to move forward.

“If I can think of it, anyone can” and other false thinking.

Did you ever ponder how one can be truly creative in today’s world? I mean, hasn’t everything already been thought of. Hasn’t every melody already been written? Hasn’t every plot line been explored?

I used to think like this and such non-productive thoughts have significantly shortened my writing years.

I remember when I used to get a random idea – whether a line in a poem, a catchy melody, or an idea for a story – and I would say to myself “If I can think of it, anyone can.” At that point I put the thought out of my mind and did nothing with it, knowing for a fact that my idea had already been done before.

How foolish I was! If you find yourself ever doubting your creative limits, consider the following:

1) we are all different. No two people are even remotely alike. How could we expect any two people to come up with the exact same idea?

2) thinking like that is admitting failure. Sometimes perhaps we want to readily accept failure instead of stepping out with our creativity and opening ourselves up to criticism. It’s easier to play it safe. But we weren’t created to play things safe. We are meant to express ourselves from the very core of our being.

3) we are living off the creative ideas that have come before us. Any creative artist stands on the backs of giants, whether he or she realizes it or not. We have all been influenced by the classics, the moving whims of culture, and the relentless drive of media. But the way we process and think and move and change and grow is completely different from other people.

4) a better thing to think would be “I wish I had thought of that” or “I could have never thought of that.” Did you ever read some thought-provoking lyrics or some wonderfully deep descriptive language where you wished it had been your idea. This is exactly what I’m talking about. Faulkner writes the best Faulkner out there. Hands down. But Faulkner, whether good or bad, could never have written like Sasse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I write better than Faulkner. I’m saying that my writing is unique, molded by experiences and life circumstances that no one else has had.

Therefore, your best writing will be when you are emulating yourself. That’s it.

I don’t let myself fall into this false thinking trap anymore. If I can think of it, then it means that I thought of it and I should write about it. And by the stares and strange looks I get from people sometimes, I realize that they are asking me, “how did you ever think of that”?

I don’t know. I just did, and I wrote about it.

You should do the same.

Come to think of it, I was always a writer – Part I

It wasn’t that long ago that I made a decision – I’m going to call myself a writer. That may seem like a stupid pronouncement, but it came out of years and years of thinking I’m not a good enough writer to write anything that anyone would want to read. I lacked confidence. And because of that, I didn’t write. That great novel I started 13 years ago lasted two pages and was finally trashed. But within the last 6+ years, I’ve felt a renewed call to write, and I’ve written so much more than I ever thought would have been possible. So now, as I sit with three completed novels behind me, more than a half-dozen plays of various genres, I looked back on my life and realized that I had it all wrong all this time. I always had the heart of a writer. It was just manifested in different ways. So I thought I would share how my writing evolved over the years, not that this is anything ground-breaking or even very interesting, but sometimes the perceptions we have of ourselves are not completely accurate. Sometimes it times time and perspective to really understand how we have developed and grown as a person. I hope the message is clear: if you love to do something – do it! Regardless of praise or criticism, regardless of days when you feel invincible or desperate. Just live the dream and enjoy. And if others happen to enjoy what you do as well, then all the better.

Come to think of it, I was always a writer – Part I – 1975-1989.

My first play: I must have been ten or eleven and I wrote a play about the Biblical story of Esther. I remember showing it to my mom and being so proud that I added in two sentries for comic relief to lighten up the thick drama.

Lyric Writer: In my high school years, I wrote many different song lyrics, creating all kinds of tunes and even made-up bands and artists in my head. I still remember some of those old tunes. I especially loved to write songs when I was mowing grass. If the song was good, I’d sing it over and over enough in my head so that I’d actually remember it.

College Poet: My college years were my poetry years. I probably wrote hundreds of poems or fragments – most of them I still have in a red binder. My poetry was all over the place. I wrote an epic poem modeled after Alexander Pope for one of my literature classes. I got a B simply because my professor said it was too ‘dense’ and difficult to wade through. He was right. I wrote love poetry to my girlfriend, and one of the poems ended up being in our wedding invitations.

Little did I know that my writing would take a great turn once I headed overseas – because I never expected to go overseas. But I’m sure glad I did.

Next Post: 1990-2006

Nothing as Bleak as a Writer’s Confidence

I just finished a short 1500 word dramatic sketch entitled “‘No’ in Spite of Itself”. Now I can’t seem to shake those mixed feelings I have about it.

For a while, I had my doubts how effective it was going to be. It’s about a man, standing on the edge of a cliff, having a conversation with his alter ego. A couple days ago, I did a complete read-through envisioning how the characters would be saying their lines and just playing it up in my mind as much as possible. When I finished the read-through, I was excited and thought that this could be an interesting little sketch. So I felt satisfied.

Today I looked at it again and cringed. I’m really not sure if it is going to work the way I envision it. Grrrrr …

Back and forth with myself, once again, like I do all the time.

I keep telling myself to learn to trust my instincts. They’ve been pretty successful for a number of years when putting on various dramas. I’ve had plenty of people look at me strangely when reading through one of my scripts for the first time. I assure them that everything will work out. Trust me. (and then quietly I hope beyond hope that I’m right – , usually, I am.)

Will it work out this time for this particular dramatic sketch? I have no idea. But all I can do is polish it up as best I can and then give it a shot.

Doubt? Yes.

But it won’t stop me from moving forward. A writer who is not moving forward is soon to become a former writer.

I won’t have any of that.