Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Meaning of Success

Guest post by Echo Klaproth

How do you define success? The only person who can answer that question is you. I am neither able nor willing to prescribe the ultimate definition for others because every person’s thinking is different and we each must define what triumph means or how it is achieved for ourselves.

For many, perhaps most, success is the opposite of failure and is the status of having achieved and accomplished an aim or goal. I believe it is important to make ourselves aware of what that in general means in our life. Some might define it as luxury and title, whereas others might consider a life full of joy and happiness with their family as the true meaning of success. Once you have figured out what is important for you personally, you are able to focus on your visions and goals.

How does this pertain to me or you as a writer, whether novelist, playwright, poet, journalist, or critic?

As I sat in on different workshops at our 2017 Wyoming Writers Conference in June, I couldn’t help but appreciate a truth that was stated by the presenters regarding their success as determined by the number of times they’d been published or the number of books that they’d sold, or the number of awards they’ve received over the years for their writing. With numbers being a key player.

The truth is, they all stated that they started by experiencing something that moved them to put pen to paper. Whether that something ever amounted to much either as an article, poem, or chapter in a book was secondary to their thinking at the time. They simply were moved to save the experience with words. And whether or not a work won a contest, was published, or sold was secondary to the effort and eventual accomplishment of getting their thoughts saved, maybe for no one else but themselves, in a cohesive form. The reward was extended whenever and through the sharing of their writing another person(s) enjoyed and likewise was able to experience an emotion, a reaction, from their effort.

For me, that’s enough. That’s success simply and succinctly defined.  Over a 40 year career of writing, it has been my pleasure to work and play with words with no other intention than to save them and maybe share them with someone else. If a particular piece doesn't raise much of a reaction, so be it. If the writing is well-received and someone tells me that it touched their heart, then and in the cowboy vernacular, WAHOO!

My point is, one of the most important and key steps to achieving success in writing is to define what success must look like in your personal life. It goes beyond any common definitions such as: being wealthy, owning a lot of tangibles, having earned degrees, or selling thousands of books. Quite the opposite for me: true success in life is measured instead with the reaction from people who are able to smile, shed a tear, or feel they are not alone in their emotions because of a piece of writing I created. For this writer, that’s the meaning of success.


Echo Klaproth is a fourth-generation Wyoming rancher, writer, retired teacher and ordained minister from Shoshoni. She served as Wyoming’s sixth Poet Laureate from 2013 to 2015. Her writing reflects stories of her family’s heritage; of her struggles, gains, and growth as a woman, wife, mother, friend, and Christian; and of the blessings she experiences because she was born and raised in Wyoming among good and honest folks. She loves to travel around the state meeting people and celebrating her love of life through poetry, through programs, and/or writing workshops. She is the author of Words Turn Silhouette, a collection of prose and poetry. She edited Scattered, Lasting Remnants, a collection of "fine lines" excerpted from modern cowboy poetry and songs, and produced A Nameless Grace: Poetry and Songs Honoring Women of the West, a CD book devoted to ranch women past and present.


  1. Another wonderfully appropriate blog, Susan. I echo (pun intended) the comments Echo makes here that the real reward in writing is the feeling of having seen something that moves one and almost capturing it in words. I say almost because we never completely capture it. And if that moves someone else, so much the better. But success for a writer must be defined a personal, emotional reward, not a numbers or dollars one or the success is hollow.

    1. Whether you make a living as a writer or not, I believe if you don't love the writing itself, the spirit won't be there. Thanks for stopping by, Art.

  2. I do agree with what you say, Echo, but my own view is coloured by the fact that, wisely or unwisely, I set myself the target of making a living by the pen. That was thirty or so years ago. So, while 'success' has often meant something as simple as encapsulating a thought or a description in a form of words that's musical or poetic, it has also meant getting through another financial year in one piece. That has meant that I have celebrated all kinds of work: a corporate history requested and completed satisfactorily; an interesting life story ghosted to the satisfaction of the client; a TV voice-over script delivered on time. During the early years I took on various day jobs - full-time and part-time - but over the past ten years or so haven't needed to. While the works that have my own name on the cover sell in dribs and drabs, and while I do from time to time compare myself to more celebrated writers, I was flattered to be told by a friend that I am the most successful writer he knows - because I have hardly ever had to take on any non-writing work to stay afloat. It'll be interesting to see what other responses you get.

    1. It is indeed a different experience when you're writing for a living. I owned a small newspaper once, and remember telling myself sometimes that moving fingers on the keys was no different than digging ditches -- it was a job that needed to be done. Congrats to you for making a go of it in words. That's definitely an accomplishment

    2. I made a living as a writer for 30 years. I was a tech writer, writing manuals and website material for computer and other high tech companies. I honed my skills there and made a good living. And I enjoyed it. But now I write poetry and spend more than I bring in. But I love the writing.


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