Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day XCV: Success

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.
-Herman Melville

Have you heard of the quarter-life crisis?

Twenty five is the new fifty.

When I started this blog, I did so with a goal. A few of them, really. First, to get back into writing. To make a daily habit of something I really, really enjoy. Second, a collection of one hundred days of writing would make an excellent birthday gift to myself. And, third, maybe through writing about it, I'd be able to get over my insane fear of turning twenty five.

Well, I can't speak to goals one and two--haven't hit day one hundred yet!--but I can finally say that I have beaten down the third goal. I am no longer terrified of hitting the first stage of my mid twenties.

A great deal of my anxiety in turning twenty five has derived from my inability to be proud of myself.

Fleeting moments of success linger here and there. Objectively, I can point to a few instances that have stood out as impressive in my short existence on this planet. Very rarely do I feel accomplished. There are moments, quiet and suppressed, that surface every so often and lead me to believe that, hey, perhaps I've done something. Maybe I have made a difference. An impact. Changed a life or two or, do I dare, three.

For whatever reason, over the last few days, I've felt that need to point and click at specific moments of success subside. You're all going to laugh, but I think the trigger was actually an episode of Drag Race from two weeks ago. When Ben Delacreme was asked to leave, she gracefully bowed out with the parting words: "It's not like I lost to a better Ben Delacreme..." It hit me, after watching the episode for the third or fourth time, that there's a great deal to be ascertained from that.

We are constantly successful--if we are good and decent people--because we progressively become better, more actualized versions of ourselves with every passing moment. If we are exerting the effort to be impressive, through whatever medium, in whatever activity, we're actively improving the person we already are. There is no way for someone to be a more impressive Josh. I get the rights to that title. And in crafting the best version of him that is possible, I am successful.

Today, we received two bits of amazing news at work.

First, a large big-box retailer bought 15,000 copies of Monster Needs a Costume and is still working on plan-o-grams for Monster Needs His Sleep and Monster Needs a Christmas Tree. For an independent publisher like Scarletta, where a print run is often around 2,000 copies of a book, the national exposure of this store is major.

Second, Ellen Prager's book The Shark Whisperer, the first middle grade title I had the pleasure of working as the Managing Editor on, hit #61 on Amazon's Best-Seller list for all books. Crazy, no? That's only forty books on all of Amazon between John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and our very own title.

Tonight, we're feeling exceptionally satisfied with our work. For the next few days, it will be remarkably easy to feel successful. We've worked hard and capitalized on great opportunities. We've created quality books and done the best work we could possibly do.

And that is great. And it feels good.

But it's not going to satiate us, satiate me for long.

Understanding that success comes from a lifetime of growth and effort, from intangible examples of becoming a realized human being?

That will keep us full.

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