What constitutes success for a writer?

Can. Ch. Shiralee’s Elizabeth Barrett (“Sonnet”)

I’m not keen on being in the spotlight. My comfort zone is more behind the scenes. But since the mid-1970s I’ve lived with show quality purebred dogs. For years I subdued my nerves and stumbled around the show ring with our Shelties. Eventually a good friend (who later became an all breed judge) rescued me, and I soon discovered it was much more exciting to watch from the sidelines as the dogs won.

Our Labrador, “Tynan”, third from left with handler and friend, Jayne Luke

Many exhibitors thrive in the competitive environment – one of my recent manuscripts features a character who is addicted to it – but I’m not one of them. My thrill comes from being the breeder and/or owner of a dog whose quality is well presented, acknowledged and rewarded. I don’t need to be in the ring trying to make it happen.

In the purebred dog fancy success means different things to different people. It can be achieving goals in a breeding program – producing sound minds in sound bodies, and great family companions…

Can. Ch. Riversedge Tynan at Careann (“Tynan”)

owning top quality show dogs that can win trophies and ribbons in competitions…

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or becoming a celebrity (of sorts), perhaps in a movie or magazine.

Yes, that’s our “Tynan” on the cover

In the writing community defining success can be challenging. Many writers labour over their words in private, satisfied by their written expressions in journals and personal memoirs. For some, having their words make a difference to others is the goal as they write devotional material or create encouraging messages for greeting cards. Still others strive for publication of books that will garner great reviews and take their names to the top of bestsellers’ lists.

“For every available bookstore shelf space,
there are 100 to 1,000 or more titles competing for that shelf space.”

[OutThinkGroup]

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Not everyone reaches a specific goal. Sometimes the criteria for doing so is beyond their control. Sometimes the effort put forth isn’t adequate for the desired result. For me, what’s important is acknowledging my motivation, seeking God’s will in my decision making, setting realistic goals, doing my part to reach them, and enjoying the process en route. That’s a hefty list, but I believe each item on it is crucial if I’m to feel fulfilled and be content with my level of success.

What’s your interpretation of ‘success’ in your current endeavour(s)?

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Canine Accomplishment

I’ll bet you think this has nothing to do with writing, but you’d be wrong. Dogs make an appearance in all my novels, and so, too, do dog shows, so stay with me here. Besides, once in a while a person ought to be able to brag to their buddies about something other than writing accomplishments, right?

Our Labrador Retriever, Tynan, (officially Riversedge Tynan at Careann) is first and foremost a companion dog — a lay-on-your-feet, chase-a-stuffed-toy, and swim-in-the-lake, four-footed friend and family member. But our dogs always find their way into the show and obedience rings, too, and Tynan recently began his show career. At a Sporting Dog Specialty Show on Saturday he acquired his first four championship points with a nice “Best of Breed” win, handled by Jayne LukeWay to go, Tynan and Jayne!!!

Judge Peter Bauer (WI), Tynan, Handler Jayne Luke (WA)

Jayne’s parents, Ted and Earlene Luke, were professional dog handlers for over 35 years so Jayne has pretty much been brought up in the dog show world. Ted passed away a couple years ago, but Earlene still gives handling lessons and has written a manual, “The Making of a Champion” which is a how-to resource for many of today’s successful dog show exhibitors. On her Elderfox blog, Earlene offers wisdom and wonderings on several subjects — usually writing, life or purebred dogs — but recently she has been sharing information on preparing dogs and their owners for the show ring in a series of posts entitled Being One’s Own Self. It might surprise you what goes into “the making of a champion”. Pop over there and say “hi” if you’re interested.

Always one to look for comparisons to the writing life, I couldn’t help thinking about all the people I’ve run into through my years at dog shows… people who acquired purebred dogs and thought the price and pedigree  meant  they would be able to walk the dog around a ring a few times and come out with a champion. How hard could it be? After a few years of trying they became disillusioned and blamed the judges for their lack of success. They hadn’t studied long enough to understand what constitutes a good quality, well conditioned and well presented dog.

Do you notice any parallels to the writer’s journey?