Let Yourself Succeed

Here in Western North Carolina, March did indeed come in like a lion: hail and snow pounded the optimistic crocuses; schools closed; branches snapped. This was followed by several afternoons of temps in the mid-fifties, coaxing daffodils foolishly forward, and even one evening of spring peepers (small chorus frogs).

But I spent a third of this month in my homeland of the Pacific Northwest participating in author events, sparked by my alma mater Whitman College’s invitation to be a featured author in their Visiting Writers Reading Series. In 9 days, I flew across the country and back, drove 1,004 miles in a rental car, held 5 public events in 4 cities, and had 8 get-togethers with colleagues in my literary network. I also scheduled visits with 5 friends (unrelated to my literary life) and slept in 5 different locations. Keenly aware of the environmental impact of my airline flight alone, my approach to this journey was to connect with others as a literary steward. I don’t know when I can rightly justify another such assault on our Shared Planet, but I do know that I needed to make this trip count.

So many of the conversations, moments of connection, and coincidences during the trip reminded me of why I love being a writer: an afternoon spent supporting CALYX Press through a shared event that included deep conversation about the right to write and imagination as a survival skill; a joyfully muddy walk along the Willamette River with one of the most intelligent, hardworking, genuine literary stewards I know, director and founder of MindBuck Media, Jessie Glenn; a brief drop-in visit to my alma mater Pacific University’s MFA in Writing’s downtown Portland office, where I picked up pamphlets and bookmarks about the program to spread near and far; and celebrating a local indy bookshop’s one-year anniversary with a 4-author panel on living a sustainable literary life, which brought in a packed house of sincere readers and writers.

These are just a few of the highlights. A quick glance at the dollars and cents of this kind of engagement might not add up, but when you’re in this writing life for the long haul, success means so much more than financials. Success is measured by heartfelt impact, the trickle-across effect of shared resources, and the pay-it-forward ethos of true literary citizenship.

Also this month, Guild Members met with esteemed author and editor, Dinty W. Moore, whose treasured contributions to the creative nonfiction genre include forming and managing Brevity: A Journal of Concise Literary Nonfiction (and its blog), The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, and his hilarious, quick-to-read, structurally ambitious memoir, Between Panic and Desire. He offered so many heartfelt, craft-based, writerly gems of instruction to our group, it’s difficult to choose just one to share. When asked about the expectation to “write everyday,” he offered commentary on the unnecessary agony a dictate like that can cause, the various interpretations that might be possible, and this pithy sendoff: “Let yourself succeed.” If “write everyday” means to explore watercolors and read about others’ creative processes, that’s what it means. If it means 1000 words a day, locked in your room until it’s done, that’s what it means. If it means something in between (quite likely)–listen to that.

Inspired by Dinty W. Moore, I’d like to hear from you about what success looks and feels like in your life:

  • What rules do you have for yourself about what it means to be a writer?
  • How might those rules prevent you from experiencing success?
  • Do any of those rules support you in experiencing success?
  • What does success as a writer (artist, mother, CEO, dog-lover, you name it) mean to you, today?

Comment below or write to me with the answers to the above questions! I always enjoy hearing from you, and promise to write back.


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