Recently I witnessed an artist (not a writer) put work out to the public that I believe needed some polish. Some of my close family and I agreed that it shouldn’t have been released without being improved first. However, this artist was being cheered by intimate friends and family. I’m not positive all of these people actually like the art itself. I think many of them just want to encourage the artist.
This thought caused me to contemplate one (but certainly not the only) definition of success. Perhaps this may be helpful to you:
As an artist, you are successful when none of your friends or family must purchase your work for you to be recognized.
Is it great to have emotional support and praise from those you care most about? Of course! But when people who don’t know you except as a writer think your books are good enough to purchase or to borrow from a library to read, then this is a measure of your success as an artist.
What do you think of this definition?
What other definitions would you like to offer?
I love that definition, and I hope to have a story published one day that strangers will buy and enjoy. I don’t have another definition to add, but as a Christian I’ve got to balance my dream of success with my goal to honor God. (I’m not sure if I’m saying this right. Worldly success is nothing without God.)
But I get what you’re saying. I want to listen to those in my critique group and listen to editors to make my story stronger. I don’t just want somebody to say I’ve done a good job. I want to be challenged to write the best story possible. Then it will honor God and hopefully people will read it.
Thanks for a thoughtful post.
A bittersweet accuracy. I have a blunt family – most of whom aren’t readers – so I’ve had to depend on others picking up my books/blogs and reading.
It is a long, slow process to try and offer a hand to others through writing. Definitely a marathon.
My definition of success as an artist: One who having put their hand to the process their heart calls, looks up and not back.
Alternate definitions for “cheer” and “encourage”: flatter and indulge.
My definition of an artist would include the intentional involvement of honest feedback – from qualified critique partners, mentors, editors, etc. – throughout the artistic process.
Reality check: a first-time author needs their family and friends to buy the book and help get the word out about it in the very beginning. Then the work lives or dies on its own merit. Don’t overlook the importance of their support.
Hi, Tamela. I like your definition. In a business sense, I think you’re exactly right. It’s also a good reminder to be careful with what we say. Our words might be encouraging, but are they the right words?
You’ve made me think today. 🙂
I love to encourage but only within the bounds of truth. Kind but truthful is my goal. I tell my beta readers that I crave anything negative, no matter how small the problem, because it helps me improve the novel. That lets them be truthful with me without feeling bad. Really stressing my desire for criticism works.
Choosing just the right word helps me achieve truth with kindness. If I ever tell you your ensemble at the gala is “stunning,” you might want to worry about what I meant.
Tamela, after reading your definition of an artist success, I nodded in agreement.
I make this definition personal. This may be cliche (yikes a dangerous word in this industry!) but I have various measures/definitions of success for various goals I set for myself.
For example, if my goal is to nail my story’s tagline to where 90% of my writing circle gives me a fist bump, success.
If I want to simple finish a story to where I’m 100% satisfied it’s my best work and do so, success!
If my goal is to have writing to become my source of income and I can achieve that, success!
If my goal is to make a vegetable keish that is moist and flavorful and do so, success! (Mine come out dry. I’m blaming my oven.)
So often from people I hear, “I just want to…” And when that happens, we celebrate. To me, that’s success.
I like a challenge and work well toward goals. I pray about my motivation for the results of those goals and push myself to do the best job I can to reach them. Ultimately If I truly feel like I did my best work and honestly tried my hardest to my fullest potential, then I am successful. The world might not think so because they can’t see my “work”, but God and I can 🙂
Success is not letting early mistakes stop you before you have the chance to make strangers happy with your books.
One of my life verses is Luke 16:15,. Here is the end …”What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”
This helps me keep my motives in check when I think about success, especially with writing, and it helps me remember who I’m working for.
Hi! I have two quotes which express different opinions to answer your question, but they both really resonate with me. Maybe they can encourage others, too!
The first is from Ira Glass:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
The second is from Amanda Palmer, from her book “The Art of Asking.” “You’re an artist when you say you are. And you’re a good artist when you make somebody else experience or feel something deep or unexpected.”
This nails it for me. The “gap” e plains my frustration with my own writing…and gives me grace toward others who are there, too.
My husband has allowed me to tell people for years that he is an a artist. Yes, indeed. He draws flies in the summer.
Tamela, I like your definition of success. I would have never thought about it in those terms, but it makes a lot of sense.
It is certainly easy to fall victim to the unwarranted praise of those closest to us, assuming everyone must feel the same way. Seldom is that the case.
Tamela Hancock Murray
I have enjoyed all of these comments. Thank you all so much for stopping by!
I love your definition. I wrote your definition on a file card and have it posted on my desk (along with other treasures I have posted). I have one daughter that likes anything and everything I write. The other daughter gives me true responses. I am currently making my church family aware of the book I am writing.
Thank for reading Tamela
Carla Jo Novotny
Successful—-There is this passion burning in me to share what worked for me in the midst of lifes torn, rough, ripped shredded, cut, sliced texture. When I have a focus group of one or more to try out the print version and they keep turning the page, come the next week to the Sunday School time of practicing on them with their evidence of doing different options I give, when groups I try out material on then want me back and the men with the male Pastor asks to come, when participants feel free to say something that is awkward or confusing, when just a 5 sentence summary of the work makes someone say “Hurry up and finish that.”, when I get a, “Well at least send me something.”, when a 14 year old Granddaughter keeps reading because she states that she is getting to know me more, when my husband says ” You really helped that guy. I am real proud of you.”, and other moments of delightful memory, I feel successful in the moment of progress. Then that fire changes to shining instead of condensed pain of wanting to have better, more, finished, polished.
Progress in the process is satisfying these days with focused deliberate moments of faithful enjoyment. I smile at the times I capture an audience of one even in a grocery line, “Could I use you for a moment to try out some words.” Oh the fun I’ve had and learned to enjoy. Reading these blogs and the correct rules and instructions make me work harder and smarter (I hope) but in the meantime I gain satisfaction when the work feels right and passes each focus person’s judgement of meaning and worth.
I’ve got the perfect Online artist store for all successful artist like the website designer, marketers, and brand creation along with their stories how they become so much. Can you just go through it you might like it?