Thursday, September 23, 2010
Indicators Of Success
My practice of medicine involved a number of situations in which my patients and I had to decide on treatment that involved a significant commitment of time (such as allergy injections) or a degree of disruption of one's life (like a surgical procedure). In addition to making sure the patient understood the options available and the pros and cons of each, I had one other question that allowed me to see if their expectations were realistic. What is your indicator of success?
I've tried to carry that philosophy through into my personal life, and it's served me well--except when I forgot to apply it. When I was in medical school and residency, my indicator of success was simple: to get through, to survive, to get my degree and my specialty certification. Later I felt I'd like to write some professional papers and do some teaching, and I was able to far exceed those goals. I had a pretty good handle on my indicators of success, and that helped.
When I began writing, my primary goal was to produce a book that would help others going through the terrible experience of the death of a spouse. I achieved that goal with the publication of The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, and the sales figures bear out the success of that project. By then I decided to try my hand at fiction, and after four years and forty rejections I achieved the next goal I'd set for myself: the publication of a novel. Now I have two in print, Code Blue and Medical Error, with a third due out next spring.
I'm not an "A level" author by any means. I don't have a long-term contract with any publisher. People don't stop me in the grocery store and ask for an autograph. And I'm not going to take a European vacation on the proceeds from my advances and royalties. But that's okay. Some authors may have those as their indicators of success. I don't. And because my indicators of success were set early on--learn the craft, do the best work I can, enjoy the experience--I'm not disappointed.
I'm enjoying my road to writing. I've used that description a lot, and it makes more sense to me now than when I began. I've found that the trip is more important than the destination, and I'm seeing a lot of neat stuff along the way.
What's your indicator of success for your life right now?