I am not a successful writer, at least not in any conventional definition of success.
I have a slew of published essays, a published memoir, and an essay collection set to come out in early 2024, but I lack the criteria for writing success:
I don't have a fan following. I don't have much of an audience at all. I've made no money from my writing. In fact, it has cost me a small fortune in my MFA tuition and submission fees.
It's exhausting, lonely, and sometimes depressing to write, and I get many, many rejections from literary magazines. So why the hell would I want to spend my time writing?
To be completely honest, I don't know how to fully explain it, but I'll try. For one thing, I love words and wordplay and putting words together in new ways to make new meanings. I also love reading, learning about the experiences of other people, different lives, different ways of being and thinking. That's what I want to send to others through my work. Reading makes me feel less alone and more alive, and I think that's what writing does, as well.
More than anything, through writing, I process the events of my own life. Recently, my husband of 35 years was in a serious bicycle accident. We were both very lucky: he has no permanent brain or spinal cord injury. But he spent almost two weeks in the surgical ICU with chest trauma, and is now completing inpatient rehab to get back to normal strength and functioning. These past several weeks have been harrowing and isolating, but I know that as we emerge from this crisis, I will have a way to manage my stress and my feelings and my perceptions: the gratitude that we have come through this, the fear and strangeness of the ICU experience, the wonder of modern medical care, the anger at losing weeks of our lives to this misfortune, and the sadness of loss and change.
I write for the same reasons I read: to feel less alone and more alive.