The Need To Succeed

I’ve written a book.  It has taken me over a year and a lot of work, but I’ve written a book. 

I’ve said I wanted to be a writer all my life, so this is a big deal.  I’ve sent this collection of my brain nuggets off on its first wave of agents in attempt to interest someone in representing me.  My research suggested a strategy of soliciting about ten prospective agents at a time, continuing with query letters to a new batch of people every four weeks or so.  The guru I consulted implied that it is not unusual for a new writer to receive 20-30 rejections from agents before receiving an offer of representation.  The responses to the first wave of queries are starting to flit into my email. I am well on my way to those 20-30 rejections.   

When I started work on the book, I told myself that I was doing it for fun. I told myself I was doing it for personal satisfaction. I told myself that I was just ticking off a box on my bucket list.  I told myself that I wouldn’t be disappointed if no one wanted to represent or publish it.  I told myself a lot of happy hoopla that people tell themselves when they are trying to force themselves to feel rationally. 

I think feeling rationally may be an oxymoron. 

At any rate, despite my best intentions, I do feel a little deflated as I collect my rejection replies.  It isn’t that I am completely demoralized or depressed or anything so dramatic.  I don’t even feel like I’ve given up yet (although maybe I should!)  Still, I have to admit to feeling a bit dispirited.  Maybe even vaguely ashamed.   

I think it has a lot to do with the ingrained “need to succeed” that drove my every action and emotion while I was working.  During my work life, so much of my worth seemed tied up with results and achievement.  It was easy to feel exposed and ashamed when something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, no matter how hard I tried for a good outcome.  It was as if any sub-wonderful result would mean that everyone would know I wasn’t as smart or talented or strong or whatever as I was supposed to be. I don’t think I’m the only one who carried that world view on her back.  I’ve heard many people voice similar weird concerns that everyone would “find out” they weren’t all they were cracked up to be.    

Now, with the book, I am wondering if I am voluntarily taking on this burden again. I remember that my stomach clenched when I hit the send button on the first query email.  I knew, going into this project, that it was very likely that I would not find an agent willing to represent me.  There are a lot of reasons why writers do not get representation contracts or publication deals.  I’ve read that only about 2% of writers who submit their work for consideration are successful in obtaining agents.  My writing may not be good enough to make it into the top 2%, which doesn’t make it bad.  My writing may be good enough, but my subject or format may not be commercial enough to interest agents and publishers.  My “platform” may not be strong enough to provide the credibility to convince publishers that I have sufficient built-in customers to reduce their risk.   All of these are possible, even probable, reasons why I may never attract an agent.  None of them should be shameworthy, however. 

If the rejections continue, more and more people in the literary world (people who I don’t even know, by the way) will discover I am less talented or less commercial or less savvy or less something.  I have to figure out a way to be okay with that, if I am going to play out the entire scenario.   

There are things I could do to shore up some of my “lesses” that would probably increase the likelihood of attracting an agent and publisher.   I could attend writers’ conferences.  I could pursue speaking engagements more aggressively.  I could figure out how to promote myself on social media. When I was working, I even had some experience and skills that would probably translate very well to this new challenge.  The thing is- I’m just not that into doing any of them. The idea of attending writers’ conferences has some appeal, but I’m sure I’d have to mix and mingle at the conferences for it to do much good and mixing and mingling holds no appeal whatsoever.  As an extreme introvert, it is difficult for me to even ask people to read my blog.  The idea of aggressively trying to put myself in the public eye makes me cringe.  I can challenge myself a little and I probably will try to expand my horizons a bit in the promotion arena, but I really don’t want to cause an earthquake in my comfort zone. As far as social media goes…. My idea of hell is dealing with technology.    

If I am not going to do much to reduce the likelihood of rejections, maybe I need to concentrate on what I’ve already accomplished to evaluate the outcome of my goal to be a writer.

·       I have grown personally and built myself a more satisfying retirement life through writing.

·       I have been writing a weekly blog for just about two years. 

·       I have more unique visitors to my blog each month than I ever thought possible.

·       I approach 30,000 hits on the blogsite each month.

·       I have wonderful, thoughtful readers who leave generous and supportive comments.

·       I have people contact me who say that something I’ve written has helped them.

·       I have written a book that pleases me. 

There isn’t anything wrong with having a need to succeed.  You just have to be discerning about how you define “succeed.” 

Do you feel the pressure of “the need to succeed?”  How do you define “succeed?”  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at

Have a successful day!

Terri 🙂


14 thoughts on “The Need To Succeed”

  1. My idea of “succeed” is to do the best you can. When I was working it meant to please everyone with the position I had. I think I’m still trying to succeed to this day by being a better person and not offending anyone in any way.

    1. That’s a very high bar, Susie! When I was working, we’d call it a “stretch” goal. I’m sure you’ve achieved your goals. Please just remember to please yourself, too!

  2. Interesting results in your up coming book! I will buy one when it is out!! One of our pastors in my church writes books and has them printed and not usually published. Is that an idea you could pursue? Just a thought. He has classes to study the subject about which he writes. I am in one right now and of course i buy the book and study the subject and take part in the discussions in class. There are 35 students in our class right now.

    As to the possibility of you writing and being published, it takes time, I’m sure. My granddaughter wants to be a writer as well, and writes short stories for several magazines and they are good. Maybe you could do this??

    You are a successful person since you led me into working in an area I thought would not continue, but I did and retired successfully in writing letters in the congressional field. You are an encourager and well liked. I will never forget going from teaching in the language arts to young students and going into a field of mathematics where I didn’t think I belonged! What a gret leader yu were to me!!!

    1. You give me way too much credit, Lois! Your career was exactly what you made it.
      Yes, I am considering self-publishing. We will see how the plan plays out, but I’m pretty sure that is the direction I’m heading.

      1. So happy to hear that you are advancing in the field of writing. You will do well, I’m sure.

        1. Thanks, Lois. It is going to be a journey and I am just going to go where it leads me and take one decision at a time.

  3. What is your book about? Congrats on finishing it. that in itself is success in my “book.” sorry about the pun. I’d be interesting in learning more about what you have written in it.

    1. I was pretty psyched to finish the book, I have to say. Just completing it was a “bucket list” accomplishment for me. The book is called Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement. The content is similar to the blog. The book is a little more structured and organized and contains some new material.

  4. As you said, be discerning about what defines success to you. Lois’ comments seem spot-on. Does being a successful writer mean being a published writer? A blogsite with ~30,000 monthly hits sounds like quite a readership to me. Is that not success? The measure of success is so subjective.

    1. I feel successful. I am finding writing the blog and engaging with readers to be more satisfying than I ever dreamed it would be. The key is to not let outside forces change my own definition of success! Unfortunately, I have a hard time holding on to my definition of success when others start crying “failure.”

  5. Congrats on completing your book! I too am writing one – similar topic – retirement transition. I’m in the “editing” part – actually trying to make sure it flows from beginning to end with some coherent theme. And I have no duplication of content since I did a lot of cut and paste from my blog posts! I think I’m going the self-publish route, just to say I’ve completed a book. I put it aside for months because I worried about trying to publish and getting rejection. I already suffer from Imposter Syndrome a lot and rejection letters would not be at all helpful! Hence the decision to self-publish. My goal this winter is to finish the editing. I’m not sure I even need it published, but I do need to say “it’s readable”! That to me will feel like success.

    1. I figured, from the very beginning, that I would end up self-publishing, but I wanted to go through the process. I wrote this blog piece a couple of months ago and I now have my 30 rejections. I am sorely in need of some positive feedback, as it was a bit stressful to reveal myself to be rejected. On the other hand, my main goal was to finish the book and be able to have a professional level copy in my hands. That is my achievement. Sure, I hope to sell some. It would be great if I could make the money back that I will likely put into author services like typesetting and cover design. Even if I don’t, though, it is worth quite a bit to me to just produce this book. I had a plan where I was going to make myself vulnerable and see if I could get an agent. Assuming that didn’t happen, I was looking into self-publishing. You can self-publish basically for free if you just do an e-book and don’t need any additional services. I wanted to go a little further, if I go through with the whole project, but I still have a budget in mind for what I am willing to spend for the self-satisfaction. We should make a pact to buy each other’s books, just so we can both say we sold at least one copy!

      1. I will buy your book!

        And how did you find a cover design person? I’ve found a source for book type setting already, so I’ve been personally editing in that format already. I also need to find a true editor I think to make sure I’m not delusional on my personal editing.

        I’d like to go beyond e-book and have a hard copy printed. I have a colleague who did that … I need to find out how!

        1. Thanks, Pat! I’m going to send you an email addressing your questions. I learned quite a bit in researching the self-publishing thing. I don’t want you or anyone else thinking I am an expert by any means and I haven’t done the whole process yet, so I could be misunderstanding something. On the other hand, if you are anything like I was and had no base knowledge about how it works, I do have some information that might help you as a springboard to figuring out what you want to do. I don’t want to put it all here because it is a bit involved and I don’t want to give the impression that I am endorsing any particular author services company, but I do want to share information with you if I can help.

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