It’s All How You Measure It

As I grew up, my parents didn’t teach me to measure success by dollars and cents or promotions and positions. They taught me to measure success by the level of personal enjoyment and fulfillment I obtained by each phase of my life.

I’ve watched my schoolmates go to college and land enviable jobs. I respect them for the amount of work they have put into their goals and I view them as successful. I view my brother as successful, who is an amazing example of an eternal student and I view my cousin, an endless learner who helps in every situation he can in order to learn new lessons and experience new perspectives, as successful.

I view myself as successful. Even if I never manage to land that contract with a publisher as I’ve so often fantasized, I have written four books in one year on a storyline I drafted only two years ago. That is success, of my own definition, whether the project ever reaches the heights I imagine or not. I know it has the potential to go far, and that, to me, is a huge thing of which I should be proud.

I swallowed my fear and submitted my manuscript to publishers and agents, and from that courage (which took much convincing from my very supportive friend Ireene to summon) I have a contract with Corvisiero Literary Agency. How cool is that, really? I’m still having trouble believing it. Michelle Johnson believes in my work; the agency believes in me. I’ve been floating on an absolute high of disbelief and pride – a feeling I rarely indulge – ever since. Successful? Yes, absolutely, even if I never moved up in life any further, I am overjoyed.

But today, I felt another sense of pride for another success. We harvested our garden this afternoon, pulling up enough potatoes to last us the year after giving some away. The children – Ireene’s included – played and caught frogs and squealed at worms and helped dig up vegetables all afternoon while we adults toiled away, laughing the whole time. At the end of the day, I took my kids to a bonfire with family and carried children around on my feet like shoes and over my shoulders like backpacks, eventually toppling into the grass, surrounded by laughter, love, and joy.

That is success, too. The garden, having generous friends help with the harvest, the children giggling hysterically by a bonfire while they lock me in a chair-jail for “dancing on the job” (the charges will never stick, I’m sure of it)… all of it was successful. I’m brimming with positivity tonight, and it’s because I have so many ways of measuring the joys I experience and the successes I have. And I apply those tools to my children as I teach them to measure their own success, because they should measure themselves by their own definitions, too, rather than by mine. My oldest often has days of difficult listening at school. But if she can have one good class out of the day, or come home and make it a nice, polite evening, or even just trudge through her chores and earn a high-five when they are done… that is success, too, and it is to be championed.

Treasure the little things, believe in the big things. Success is all about perspective… it’s all how you measure it.

Meeting a publisher

I submitted my manuscript to a publisher, who asked to meet with me after he read the first chapter. He said he had 46 notes to review with me, a number that disturbed me.

I was right to be disturbed by his assessment, as he was far less than thrilled with the sample pages I provided. But this particular publisher was more than helpful, regardless… He offered to set me up with an already-published author for some guidance and we talked for over an hour about writing and parenting. Even though the meeting was a rejection, it was educational and extremely beneficial and he seconded what Cathy Ostlere (award-winning author of Karma) told me: the first chapter needs to begin with action.

He gave me some books to read and I left the meeting pondering the female character of my book. Do I actually like her? Do I want to change her altogether?

I sat down with Ireene and hashed out some ideas. Ireene has a unique perspective on things, being very similar to me in attitude and preferences and yet somehow a stronger-willed individual than myself. We came up with a few ideas and I set to work.

34 pages into the re-write, I questioned my own motives. Was I rewriting the character because she did not fit the story, or because she did not fit one particular publisher’s ideals for the way I want to tell the story? Was I overreacting to the rejection and trying to adjust the story too severely?

I may still continue with the complete adaptation of the main female character, or I may not. But I did write a new version of the first chapter, opening with action and concise thought rather than vague reasoning and discretion. I will continue with both ideas until something just clicks and I know it’s right.

After I forwarded the new chapter to Cathy Ostlere, I received a quick reply saying that she is making some contacts for me with the synopsis of my book. CUE EXCITED SQUEALING HERE. I hope something comes of that, but if not, at least my confidence got a much-needed boost. I’m going to simply press the pause on the rewrite of the first book until I’m more decided (and until after I get Ireene’s impression of the rewrite) and proceed with the rewrite of the second, which I am confident about.

Onward and upward as always, refusing to judge myself based on one publisher’s opinion!

Magic connection

The thing about magic is that its not really magical at all.

Making that magical connection requires work, attention to detail and caution in all areas of life.

I made a magical connection with my husband. It’s true love, the sappy bullshit we try to leave out of adult fiction because it’s never as perfect as the fairy tales make it seem. That connection takes work, too, in the form of pursuit, commitment, maintenance and attention to the little things, while practicing mature problem-solving for the big things. The good times feel magical and the hard times feel like work. Being married is every bit as much something you continually do as something you have become.

The same holds true for commitments like work and school. If you slack off, fail to pursue aggressively or refuse to dedicate time to either, the endeavors will fail. It is not a matter of wanting that paycheque or degree badly enough, it is a matter of taking active steps to obtain it.

I could make the same argument for weight loss, for conflict resolution, for an audition or for raising a healthy, well-grounded adult from childhood. You will only see as much result and reward as the effort you put forth.

My writing brings me to this conclusion today, as I have sent out more query letters and continued to expand my network on Twitter (naomisarah1 by the way). I poured my soul, hour after exhausted hour into my books over the last year and have spent countless nights perfecting that damned pitch letter. Attending the Writers Guild of Alberta conference last week granted me the best connections thus far, yet it occurs to me that this is still not enough.

But what is left to do? More queries, obviously and more connecting. Perhaps cold-calls to agencies, to ask if they are accepting query letters from unpublished authors. More research on more agencies, publishers and another week of nights spent immersed in editing.

I love what I do. Writing makes me a healthier person. I have the natural gifts to succeed and the dedication to pursue the goal of becoming published with all of my being. But passivity will gain me no ground, neither will wallowing in defeat as I anticipate the rejections tumbling in one at a time.

Today, I want to make that magical connection that will gain me ground toward my goals. And I will seek that connection day after day until it happens, at which point the real work will begin. My dreams are reachable because my work ethic is relentless.

Besides… Every agent who passes my book by is missing out on one fucking amazing story.