Success: I’ll Know It When I See It (Mary Strand)

This month, the blog topic is supposed to be what “success” looks like to me now.

I’m tempted to keep this short and say “Nooooo idea.”

Still, I hate to waste a perfectly good law degree — from Georgetown, no less, which had the best basketball team in the country at the time, no matter what you may say. (HOYA SAXA.)

So, in a pathetic attempt to take a wild stab at defining success, I’ll start by comparing any definition of success with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, in which the Supremes were asked to define hard-core pornography: “I shall not today attempt further to define [blah blah blah hard-core pornography]... But I know it when I see it.”

Yeah. Pretty much how I feel about success: I won’t attempt to define it, but I know it when I see it.

A corollary, WAY less famous because I’m the one who says it, usually to my kids: “There are pluses and minuses to everything.”

In other words, success in one thing may result in failure (or at least negatives) in other things, so, really, how can you possibly say what success is?

If I write a gazillion books and they do well, it means fame and glory and money (with any luck), but I won’t have as much time to do other things I may love as much or more: playing guitar, playing sports, listening to live music, or sneaking out with my college-age kid to share Punch Pizza’s AMAZING chocolate hazelnut panini. (Hypothetically speaking. heh heh.)
Chocolate hazelnut panini IS success. Um, I'm pretty sure.

And if, encouraged by success, I start spending all my time writing and promoting my books, will I be happy? Highly doubtful. (In my case. Your mileage may vary.)

Seriously, I have no idea how to deal with this blog topic! Make it go away!

<looks furtively in every direction for savior from this topic> <damn> <foiled again>

Since no blog-topic rescuer is in sight, so I’m indeed forced to answer this burning question, I’ll say this: to me, success isn’t one huge thing, let alone a major culmination of events or the greatest destination in the history of destinations. It’s simply a series of tiny good things that, at particular moments in my life, I think are great. Nice. Sweet.

That’s all. And it’s good enough for me.

 As a queen of lists, I’ll even list a few examples:
  • I sell a book!
  • A friend (or stranger) gives me an out-of-the-ordinary compliment
  • I conquer a guitar solo
  • I win a contest (ANY contest, with any prize)
  • I score fantastic seats to a concert or gig I really, really want to attend
  • My daughter tells me, on a day she’s pissed at me, that I’m a great writer
  • My son texts that he loves me and uses several exclamation points
  • I pop out of the water on my first waterski run of the year
  • I drive the lane on a basketball court and do a loop-de-loop up the middle
  • I write a song
  • I’m there for a friend when he or she really needs me (or vice versa)
Or maybe, late one night when I should either be sleeping or practicing guitar, success is as simple as managing to write a blog post about a topic I’m convinced I can’t possibly write about. Like, for instance, what success looks like to me now.
Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at


  1. That success thing...Kinda like nailing jello to a basement wall while wearing mittens with the lights off.

  2. Very cute post. And i completely believe that stopping and enjoying the moments that make up success is the ONLY thing that matters about the whole process.

    1. Jenny, totally agree about stopping and enjoying! Thanks!

    2. That's so true. If you don't stop and let it all soak in, you miss the success entirely!


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