Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What would make you a success? by Lisa Karon Richardson

Success means different things to different people. Today, author Lisa Karon Richardson gives her experience with finding the meaning of success. Maybe you can relate. -- Sandy

Lisa: To be honest I can’t tell you how to be successful. Success is a subjective measure, and I’m learning that every time I think I’ve achieved it, I pounce, only to find that my celebration was premature.

When I was unpublished the goal was: get published. The validation I get from having that contract will mean I’m a success. But then I got my first contract for a novella. I was thrilled at the opportunity to see my name on a cover… But the cover also had the names of other people. I wanted a cover with just my name. The bar had moved.

After that I got a short novel published, just my name was on the cover—but the story was only 45K words long. I was really hoping to be published in trade length fiction. God blessed me with a three-book series contract which I got to write with one of my best friends. Once again, a great opportunity and I was so thrilled and felt blessed to have been given it. I’m proud of what we did with those stories. But then… well they didn’t sell so well. And we all know what that means—those sales numbers will haunt me forever. I’ll never get another contract. There I was multi-published in trade length fiction and I was feeling like more of a failure than I did before I was published. Maybe it would all be fixed if I could get my very own trade length story with just my name on the cover. Surely then, the accolades would come. I was not afraid to put in the hard work of marketing. Whatever it took. And then that dream came true. And you know what. The book didn’t sell. My pride insists that I add that it got great reviews, but for some reason it didn’t sell.

If my life was only a search for the arbitrary “success” I would probably have given up last year. But God has been working on me and I’ve learned something. God has not called us to what the world would define as “success”. (Although some people are tested by success.) Rather He has called us to live a life of significance.

What’s the difference? Success is about self. Significance is about others. Success asks everyone to admire it. Significance asks how it can serve. Success says “I’ll do what God asks but only if I can see how it benefits me.” Significance says “I’ll do what God asks regardless of how it hurts.” Success is fleeting. Significance is eternal.

Chasing success will never satisfy us. There will always be another award to win. There will always be someone who has better sales. It’s an aggravating way to live and a miserable way by which to measure our self worth.

What if, this year, instead of chasing success we began to look instead for significance? How would we go about that? Perhaps it means putting more of our authentic selves in our writing. It might look like surrendering our plans for our novel, and trusting God to get it into the hands of the ones who need it. I know it would look a lot more like we trust Him with our future. We can rejoice with the author who got a contract even when we didn’t. We can help an author who is a step or two behind us on the journey. We can encourage someone who’s hurting.

You can make a difference in the world. God’s got a plan for you. Your words could be written simply for one person—they may never get published, and yet, they could change everything for that one. How is that NOT success? Even if you never make a dime as a writer, you have value as a child of God and your significance is measured not in sales figures, but in your willingness to heed His voice.

Have you ever looked at your writing life and doubted your success? Has that idea of success changed over the years?


Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city while raising a family. She has published several novels and novellas.