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Stuff ‘n Nonsense - The Measure Of Success

POSTED November 24, 2010 1:53 a.m.

My ninth book is hitting the shelves in December. I was recently nominated for best Silhouette Romantic Suspense for 2010 by Romantic Times magazine for my first romantic suspense, To Catch A Killer, and I’ve just finished writing my 13th book (which will come out in 2011). My publisher seems to really like my work and in a difficult business, I’m doing a good job of carving a name for myself. I have my first true speaking engagement (I’m being paid!) in February where a group of people will gather to listen to what I have to offer when it comes to writing and I hope this is the first of many future gigs.

Sounds like I’m on my way up that ladder of success, right?

Yeah, except…would you believe in spite of my apparent successes, I’m a seething knot of insecurity, that I suffer from the mindset that I’m no further up that ladder than I was when I started, which causes me to work harder than before, pushing myself to mental and physical exhaustion in the hopes of reaching that elusive goal.

That’s good, right?

I read somewhere that there are two types of successful people: those who are driven and those who have drive.

Sound the same?

Well, they’re not.

Those who are driven are motivated by insecurity while those who have drive are motivated by confidence.

When I heard this, something inside me clicked. I can give you two guesses which camp I fall into.

Yep. I’m in the driven group.

For years I struggled with the core belief — a false belief — that I wasn’t good enough. Good enough for what you may ask? Excellent question. The answer is whatever I was doing at the time.

This insidious program ran in the background of my subconscious for years and while some might hear that little nasty voice and run to find a corner to hide in, I drove myself past the fear and the doubts to grab my success wherever I could find it.

Obviously, being driven, if even by insecurity, can work to your advantage but here’s the rub when you’re using that innate fear to propel you — eventually, that nasty little voice is all you hear no matter how high you might climb on the ladder of success.

Why? Because you’re trying to fill an emotional hole with all the wrong things.

Someone with drive doesn’t have to worry about an emotional hole.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with that mean little voice. A funny thing happens as you build upon your success, you have to find a way to keep succeeding and the higher you go, the farther you have to fall.

Each book becomes more difficult because I’m conscious of all the “rules” (grammar, punctuation, dialogue, plot structure) and turning off that internal editor — which is essential to allowing your creativity room to breathe — becomes increasingly difficult. The book I just turned in, which happened to be two weeks late, is a good story, no doubt, but it was very hard to finish. First, the emotional content was very deep and in order to do it justice, I had to delve into hours of research. I scoured the Internet for resources and found myself lost a few times in websites that wrung me out emotionally for their stories were so heartbreaking. And through the research, I uncovered previously buried bits of my own childhood that stunned me with the revelations. In short, it was a difficult process.

Actors talk about immersing themselves in a character to the point that they lose themselves for a time. Something similar happened to me on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of losing myself, I found myself.

I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching lately. Not only because of my novel career and my never-ending thirst for success but because of this new nutrition plan I’ve embraced for better health. I’ve had to question my reasoning for a lot of things, from what I put in my mouth and why, to what I write and how.

Going deeper into myself to find the answers has uncovered some uncomfortable truths such as I’m an emotional eater, I’m insecure, and I’m afraid of failure.

But as depressing as these revelations are, I find strength in the knowledge, too.

How, you ask?

Well, I know that when I’m emotionally overwrought to be aware and mindful of what and why I’m putting something into my mouth because those are the times when I’m weak and apt to make unhealthy food choices. I can make better choices and as a consequence continue to succeed in my goal for overall wellness. I know that my insecurity is grounded in false beliefs about myself and when I hear that little, mean voice in my head, I can redirect by reminding myself of my accomplishments; and when I’m gripped with fear about the idea of failing I can remind myself to find joy in the moment whether it’s found in the laughter of my amazing children, the smile given to my husband, or the bounty of my friends and family.

I’m not saying that I won’t at times succumb to old habits for I know I’m human and fallible but I know with my newfound skills, if I stumble, the fall won’t kill me. In fact, I’ve realized that growing inside me is a bright spark of hard-won confidence that is slowly filling the dark spaces and someday I’ll stop needing to fill that emotional hole with anything other than love and acceptance and that’s the day I’m working toward.

Until then, I’ll keep pushing but instead of being driven…I’ll simply allow myself to shut up and drive.

 

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at kvanmeter@oakdaleleader.com or by calling 847-3021.

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