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How far have you come, and does it matter?

“Always concentrate on how far you have come, rather than how far you have left to go. The difference in how easy it seems will amaze you.”
Heidi Johnson

Is success relevant?

Is success relevant?

I don’t know if I agree with this advice. When I look back, the amount I could fall scares me. I’d rather just keep going, breath by breath, each step of the mountain I’m given to climb.

The thought of scaling up to the top scares me too, because it is so lonely up there. And isn’t it better to just keep climbing and have something to look forward to?

When it comes to my writing, I’d rather just keep plugging away at it, taking each day as it comes. Success is irrelevant. The agony and ecstasy of having written is enough.

Would I have to eat my words some day?

Is success important to you? If yes, what would you do to get there, and what would you do once you’ve reached your destination?

If success isn’t important, why not?

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Hello there, Damyanti! I didn’t see you on the #IWSG list, but thought I’d stop and say HI! I think it’s the “struggle” that matters. If we just coast along and exist, we’re not really engaged in living. I could never understand my father’s attitude in this matter. Even if things are difficult or you’re not up to your best, you still have to try. As much as I loved and adored my father, he gave up and died way too soon. That’s not what life’s about, to me. I may be speaking on much broader terms, but it’s like learning a Sonata by Bartok or Shostakovich on Viola. I have this one note in the margins and it just says “how?” because you’re supposed to play all four strings at once, and it’s just not possible. I believe my coach gave me some fake-y way to get through it, and it sounded fine, but it’s things like that, that are memorable. Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful weekend! All of my love, Mary!

  • I really enjoyed this post. Short, simple, but rather poignant.

    When I began making the step from “hobby” writer to “maybe-sorta-possibly-more” writer, I knew my backlog. I knew my characters, what had been said about my work, etc. I failed to realize just how many other incredibly talented writers existed outside of my web of many 2,000 other part-timers.

    When I realized I was a name and a profile picture with very little material that could be promoted, I completely lost faith in myself and had forgotten everything about my writing. Learning the industry, the trends, the whole e-Book thing, it was all overwhelming. It took months to realize that I loved writing, and why it had been so enjoyable, so cathartic, for so long.

    A true writer just writes. Success is measured both inwardly and outwardly. If you are writing for money, for notoriety, so be it, but the passionate writer will continue even if no one else will ever read it.

    – A.M. Schultz

  • I think it depends on what success means to you. Do you want to sell a million copies of your book? If you do, does that mean you’ve reached success and then you just stop writing? Or maybe you feel success is having your book turned into a movie. Do you stop there? I write to get the stories out of my head. I’m not looking to get rich, but I’d like people to read what I write and hopefully they will enjoy the stories too. Yes, it would be nice to see one of my books made into a movie, but it’s not what I base my success on. Sometimes success comes from the baby steps. You tell yourself you will write a book and you do it! You continue to write, learning and improving as you go along. Success comes in many forms. It’s what you do after, that makes you successful. 🙂

    • Damyanti says:

      Success comes in many forms. It’s what you do after, that makes you successful. 🙂

      That’s my mantra too. If I became a ‘successful’ writer in the generally accepted terms– published, bestseller-status, movie deals, awards, and so on–will I stop writing? No. So I’m continuing to write today—which is pretty much the same thing if we take my ego etc out of it. Yes, a writer needs to be read and validated, but that can’t be the only measure of success. Sometimes I do not understand a writer’s hankering to be ‘successful’—why not just keep writing and trying to become a better writer?

  • That is all any of us can do, is take one step at a time, one breath at a time. It just means we are still following the dream.

  • Damyanti says:

    I could live with there being now word for success. But I’m not sure too many other people would. 🙂

  • recoverythrumylens says:

    Success is such a bugaboo—what defines it? Fortune and fame? Happiness? Maybe it should just be erased from our language…wouldn’t it be so much easier to get on with it?

  • Success is important, but the issue really is what does success mean to you. For me the defintion of success has changed over the years and now in middle age, it means simply to be happy. Succesful poeple are those that are happy. My S post for the Challenge was all about this topic.

    Happy rest of the CHallenge to you!

    • Damyanti says:

      I’m doing the challenge on my other blog, but thank you for visiting me here, as well. Yes, being happy is one way of measuring success. just that happiness sometimes seems like an elusive thing!

  • 1. Looking back, for me, is smart because I am easily daunted by all that lies ahead, but if I can see how far I’ve come then I know I’m doing something right. It keeps me going. But living in the past isn’t ALL good, of course, & plotting for the future (looking ahead) is just as important as keeping up your spirits.
    2. Success is very personal. For me it means I have not given up, & have followed through, whether or not it met with popularity or social approval. I wrote a post for every day in April, & that is HUGE for me, whereas it might be no big deal to someone else.
    3. Combining these two thoughts,I have NOT been committing to my WIP, which is a terrific FAIL. In this case, looking back does me no good, because I already know what I messed up. Looking forward is the only choice I have from here. And I will consider it a success when I’ve added as much to my WIP as I have to my blog. 🙂

    Andi-Roo /// @theworld4realz
    [email protected]

  • Stuart Nager says:

    Depends on what you define success as. There is a real sense of success in just the efforts made, friends gathered, and not stressing over “the top” is just a way to live.

  • I think looking back should only be done occasionally, when we need reminding. I’d rather not rest on what I did in the past or today, but think about what I’ll accomplish tomorrow.
    Success? Yes, I’m the author of two books. But my real feeling of success comes from the amount of friends I have made in the past few years and what I can now do to help them.

    • Damyanti says:

      But my real feeling of success comes from the amount of friends I have made in the past few years and what I can now do to help them.

      Alex, you have helped more friends than you can count, I think.

  • It’s very easy to fall into the habit of looking only at results and judging ourselves by those results. In my case, mostly by the negative results. The curious thing is that the act of writing gives me more joy than the finished work.

    Lately, I’ve had a chance to realize just how much I’ve grown as a writer over the past decade while compiling a couple of collections of my older short works. Reading what I’ve written in the past and self-editing, as well as comparing to my current manner of writing has been an enlightening, not to mention encouraging experience. I’m amazed by how far I’ve come, without even realizing it.

    I’d like to be successful as a writer but that desire isn’t the driving force behind my literary endeavors. I write because I Want to Write. It’s a simple desire but it is the thing that gets me from one day to the next and that’s good enough for me.

    • Damyanti says:

      I write because I Want to Write. It’s a simple desire but it is the thing that gets me from one day to the next and that’s good enough for me.

      That is so like me. 🙂