November Theme: Harvesting Success
By Marcia Thornton Jones

My life revolves around goals and to-do lists. Day in and day out I write—or I don’t. I sit at my desk or lug my laptop to the family room or tote my journal just about everywhere as I pursue the never-ending goal of finding the right words that will give scattered ideas shape, form, and meaning. I usually end up feeling that I didn’t write enough, the scenes didn’t match my vision, the plot sagged, or the characters were flat.

It’s. Never. Good. Enough.

I have a feeling I’m not alone with this kind of thinking. (I’m not, am I???)

For many writers the achievements and successes that indicate we’ve ‘made it’ are rare, and they’re often overshadowed by all that negative feedback writers tend to receive (a.k.a. rejections). After all, what does ‘good enough’ look like? What does ‘making it’ really mean? What, exactly, is ‘success’?
Toward the end of a recent week-long beach retreat with Barbara Underhill and Susan Rosson Spain, I bemoaned the fact that I was a failure. After all, I hadn’t accomplished what I set out to do. I didn’t have a rough outline. I didn’t know my main plot points. I hadn’t accrued a massive word count. I started to wonder: Why do I keep trying? Wouldn’t giving up be easier? Then I stopped and paid attention to where I was. I sat on Cape Canaveral beach sipping wine, watching the waves, breathing salt air, counting beached jellyfish-- and brainstorming how to develop the shadow side of a story’s antagonist and protagonist.  Suddenly, my questions morphed into, “How did I get lucky enough to end up here?”

The answer: Over a decade ago I sowed the seeds of friendship with these amazing women while attending a writing conference. Sitting on that beach, it occurred to me that a successful writing life isn’t only about pounding out words on the computer or achieving page counts or tallying book sales.

So I am going to redefine success. Okay, yeah, I know. I still have to actually write, but I’m also going to count relationships that nurture my creative energy. Relationships harvested as a result of teaching writing workshops, mentoring writers, attending writing and book groups…and especially from sipping wine on a beach while brainstorming with other writers!


  1. I'm in the midst of redefining success as well, Marcia...

  2. The single best thing about being a writer, I sometimes think, is getting to be friends with other writers.


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