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Monday, May 2, 2011


As you know, I've been mulling success and failure on this blog since I started it. Last summer, my mullings, and my feelings of failure intersected with an inquiry from my college alumnae magazine asking to hear from people who didn't feel they measured up to the illustrious alumnae usually profiled in the magazine (Hilary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Cokie Roberts, Diane Sawyer, Linda Wertheimer, etc, etc). E-mail us, the magazine asked, and we'll see what kind of responses we get, and decide what to do with them - and if we like yours, we'll contact you. Well, I had a lot to say on failure to live up to the Wellesley name, and so did many other women. I got a nice reply to my e-mail, but no follow up. My letter on failure FAILED. But I have persevered. And I'm making it a little more formal.

I've been advised by various professionals, that one way to stop feeling like a failure is to reframe my definition of success. Or to broaden it. Or to uncouple Success from Publication. I've usually brushed off these suggestions, while assuming their implication is that these professionals can look through my blue, myopic eyes, down my throat, into some part of me, probably in my solar plexus, and SEE that I am DOOMED to FAIL, and that therefore, they are doing me the service of prying my fingers off of the pretty toy hope I clutch to take it away and replace it with something more mature. After all, they are paid professionals. Turns out I have very strong fingers; but I am listening a little better now.

Before reframing success, I had better define it for myself. I've been talking to people about how they define success and whether they see themselves as successful. I'd love to see comments here on the topic, too. Success or failure.


  1. Whoa, tough question, Hope. I will take the easy way out and sidestep it by saying I will have to think about it. I have a long train trip facing me this week, and now you've given me something important if somewhat uncomfortable to muse about.

    I haven't read the articles on failure in the alumnae magazine yet, but I'm sure yours is better!

  2. well, Susan, I'd love to hear your thoughts! So if you don't want to commit them to writing, maybe we can meet when you get back from your trip!

  3. Your letter on failure failed? I think that means you are a success! Or at least not a failure ... As I told you, your last message came though at exactly the same time as the latest forwarded message from my agent containing another response from an editor rejecting my manuscript. Four down, six to go. So does that mean I'm failing? Well, I succeeded in interesting an agent and some other people in my novel, but so far I have failed to interest an editor. Which is not easy to swallow. But I'm still glad I wrote it. So maybe that means I successfully wrote a novel. I think the issue of success versus failure is fraught with contradictions and complexity, and therefore worthy of your focus ...

  4. So, I'm catching up a bit late here, but wanted to share.

    I remember vaguely my mother saying that she was writing poetry again, and that she was hoping to be published.

    I remember, vividly, her bringing a grocery bag of rejection letters to the dining room table and saying that she could burn them now that she had an acceptance.

    I wish she were here to see that Jeremy has read poems of hers in his class this year, and that Harry has discovered writing poetry himself.

  5. Anne,

    What a grand and poetic gesture - burning the rejections! I look forward to it. Although I do have a librarian streak in me that would balk at the actual destruction of them. I haven't amassed a grocery bag's worth of rejections yet, but I'm applying myself to that now.

    Also lovely that your boys carry on their grandmother's words and interests. There is more than one path to recognition, I guess.

    Thanks for commenting, Anne.