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?


Anne Mateer said...

Indicator of Success. I like that.

Right now, it is little things, like completely engaging with my two high school sons in the little bit of time they are actually around! It is also knowing I've made good progress each day toward writing a good story to meet my upcoming deadline. And when I can climb into bed knowing I've communed with the Lord throughout the day instead of just one moment of Bible reading or prayer.

Some of those things will change, but for now, my indicators of success are very small. And that's a good thing!

Richard Mabry said...

Anne, Your indicators of success aren't small at all. They're very appropriate. One of the problems of our society today--and here I go sounding curmudgeonly again--is that people are striving furiously to keep up with the outward "signs of success" of their neighbors. If they only knew...
Thanks for sharing your indicators with us.

Mocha with Linda said...

I'm glad to know there's a third book on the way. I thought Medical Error was the last one.

And here's the greatest indicator of success: He has showed you, o man, what is good, and what does the LORD require of thee but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks for your comment. The Prescription For Trouble series consists of three books, each a freestanding novel. However, in the third--Diagnosis Death, due out next spring from Abingdon--we have a chance to return to the fictional town of Dainger, Texas, when Dr. Elena Gardner is almost literally driven away from her practice and ends up there.

There's a good possibility for another series, the first novel in which is already well underway. Can't say more, except it continues my theme of "medical suspense with heart."

Crystal Laine Miller said...

Dr. Richard, it was a great thing to meet you in person finally!

At first I thought I wanted to become an editor. This is difficult for someone like me because of where I live, my responsibilities. My goal was to help writers be published. That goal was met in odd ways, not how I expected! So, while I still yearn for success in that area in a little different way, I do not feel disappointed with what I was given.

Long ago in HS I stated that my dream was to "write and publish the Great American Novel." Many years later I still have not achieved that success, or even "A novel." Period. So, I suppose I still work toward that goal.

Some of my achievements I could not even begin to have envisioned, but as a former athlete and coach, I do think that I need to focus on this more.

Great post! (Something I need to think about.)

Richard Mabry said...

Crystal, Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Sometimes we need a goal that's a bit beyond our reach, but at other times God gives us what we need, not what we want. Amazing, isn't it?
It was good to see you (albeit briefly) at ACFW. Wish we'd had more time to talk. Maybe next year.

Gwen Stewart said...

I admit I'm rather discouraged right now, Richard. Just having someone say they think I CAN write a publishable book would be a real boon. Or perhaps a billboard sign from God: "Keep Writing" or "Stop Writing" would be wonderful. ;)

For now, I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other.

God bless you!

Richard Mabry said...

Gwen, Thanks for sharing your feelings about writing. I just returned from the ACFW meeting, where twice I heard the same thing--most writers, if they persist, will produce a publishable work. That persistence may be measured in years or decades, but it can pay off.

Carol J. Garvin said...

I've found my goals have shuffled positions with each other through the years. I've always loved writing but for a time, while my family was young and I was busy working, I was content having occasional magazine articles published. Now I have time to focus on my novels and I'm working towards their publication. It feels like God has been leading me on a one-step-at-a-time journey and at this point I'm leaving the end result up to Him. I like the trip so far. :)

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, It's true that our goals change as our life goes on. I think it's more important that we have one or more fixed indicators of success, even if they change with the passage of time, than to always feel unsatisfied as we strive to reach an indeterminate goal.

Richard Mabry said...

Gwen, Thanks for sharing your feelings about writing. I just returned from the ACFW meeting, where twice I heard the same thing--most writers, if they persist, will produce a publishable work. That persistence may be measured in years or decades, but it can pay off.