Bitterness of Success.

Several writers in my so called “circle” have, in the last three or four years, met with financial success. For some it came fast, others it came after a while. Some of them, yes,had connections, from what I have since learned that I have no doubt helped their careers happen. Others, as far as I have ever heard, lacked such connections.

This particular small, anonymous group have in fact only two things in common beyond their current level of sometimes impressive success.

1) They were each, at some point in the not too distant past, in some level of my social circle.

2) I have heard nothing from them since their respective success.

Let;s get a few things out of the way, first and foremost, before your assumptions lead you in the wrong direction.

I’m aware they don’t owe me anything, and I don’t begrudge them their success most of the time. There is some professional jealousy in anyone with enough of an imagination and desire to share same when others succeed so close by, but on the whole, it’s folly to get too pissed off about someone “making it,” even if they did so with help not available to most of us.

That being said, it’s difficult to do backflips for the success of people that were cordial before success, and now are “too busy” to be so afterward.

We, those who have not achieved our artistic goals yet, or often counseled to “be happy for them!” And to not let their success change our view of them. Fair, on the surface. But if we are not to change our view of them, is it especially odd to expect the same? If the professional thing to do is to care about, inquire of, encourage those of our writer brethren whom we know personally during our long journeys, should it not continue once one (or more) of them attain that success?

I don’t want to suggest that no highly successful author has ever kept in touch with the so called “little people.” I’ve no doubt that it has happened. But let’s all be just a little bit frank here; a star’s interest in our personal projects is usually quite diminished, or vanished entirely as compared to the level they showed in us when they were still not where they wanted to be along with us.

All by way of saying; I accept the advice from this side of the tracks, usually. But should you, or I, attain success in our literary labors, let us remember to maintain our interests, our affections, our overall connections with those writers within our “circle.” We may not be able to maintain the same schedule, but let’s put some effort into encouragement and curiosity and advice for those who haven’t made it yet. Not every stranger who becomes a fan, and not someone you feel is stepping coattails, but colleages. True colleagues before and after your “number is called.”
Because in the end, success is no better reason to leave colleagues out in the cold than failure is.

1 Comment

  1. Shelly

    A 2 cents thought about success and mentoring…

    It is my belief that when someone gets a break and experiences some success, and if they haven’t fully accepted their success, or if they attribute their success to mostly luck and not merit, then they see their ability to offer their colleagues guidance or encouragement or even acknowledgment as limited and impoverished. So they avoid and say nothing. Success can be extremely disconcerting and disorienting. Not that I’m making excuses for those who can’t express basic gestures of human decency.

    Since I come from a big family, and I am the oldest sibling, I kind of relate this to how an older sibling might feel toward a younger sibling. When you’ve just mastered a skill and are still on shaky ground, not knowing if you can keep repeating the skill at a competent level yourself, there’s this feeling of insecurity and impatience toward younger siblings. I remember hoping my brothers would learn to dress themselves, share, be patient, learn to read, etc, etc, and hoping they would do so soon, and efficiently, so they could join me in my success as a child, mastering those most basic of life skills, precious and hard-won, but at the same time I didn’t have enough self worth to see myself as a teacher or mentor to them.

    I might just be an asshole. In fact, that is a distinct possibility. But, nevertheless, I wanted to offer a perspective of someone who has had some version of what could be called “success” and yet felt unable to extend my role to that of friend, supporter, teacher, to those coming up behind me, not because of arrogance of any kind, but because of the disorientation and rewriting of one’s self image that success can bring down on you, and my own inadequacy to overcome that and expand my Self into a more noble role. So it wasn’t due to any personal judgement toward anyone else.

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