Sunday, March 19, 2023

Those Special Moments

Which do you find harder to cope with, success or failure? In either event do you have ways to keep the world's view of your work from affecting your work?


This is an easy choice. Failure is much harder to cope with than success. Yet even as I acknowledge this, I also must admit that the failures have their own importance in maintaining balance. Ultimately, failures make the successes even sweeter.

We're all told as authors starting out to expect rejection in bucketfuls. Others have been through the tough road to getting published or slogged through the roadblocks to having a book noticed once it's in print. Their warnings are meant to build resilience, to prepare a new writer for the hope-dashing reality of what is to come.

Perhaps, it's necessary to define failure and success, which I believe are constantly shifting. My evolving idea of failure (or success) might not be everyone's. I consider myself successful for having completed and released 24 books, continuing to find the joy in the process of writing, making friends with other writers and readers, being invited to book clubs and libraries, handling myself okay on panels and giving well-received presentations. I've decided that the big pay cheque, or fame of the Louise Penny or Michael Connelly variety is a goal but not my yardstick. 

My first books were a series of four mysteries for the middle grade market. I was with a small Toronto publisher who did what she could to get the books noticed, which wasn't all that much in the big scheme, publicity budgets being what they are. I attended a children's book conference around the time my first book came out and an author got up onto the stage and said, "Don't expect getting a book published to change your life. It won't." Harsh? Certainly, but her words lessened the sting of -- not failure exactly -- but not raging success either. It let me temper my expectations, and still does if truth be told.

Failure is less easy to gauge. It can be a bad review or comment. Being overlooked for awards. Not being invited to a book festival. Being turned down by an agent. We each have our own painful moments, and they always sting. Experience keeps them more in perspective though, maybe even lets you laugh. My recent favourite toss-off, bad review was when someone wrote that the first half of my book was too 'wordy'. I mean, huh?

As for handling success, I've learned to savour and appreciate the moments. Last year when Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills audiobooks made the top ten library loans in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and some library systems in the U.S. and Canada, even receiving media attention, I knew the hoopla wouldn't last, but boy, I enjoyed it while it did! Not for a moment did this success go to my head; I was simply grateful for the reader support. 

Success is really just a spaced-out series of moments, filled in by hard work and dreaming of the next story. Failure is also fleeting, and neither need define a writer or their work. The trick is to stay grounded, believe in yourself, and keep on keeping on.


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Susan C Shea said...

Agree, Brenda, that the meaning of success or failure changes and is entirely personal. Things that constitute failure for one writer are not even noticed by another. The thing I like about successes is that if we're brave enough to celebrate them with our writer friends, they get it and cheer loudly for us, even if our measure of success isn't the same as theirs. Three cheers for your successes, which sound pretty impressive to me!

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Susan and cheers to you too!