The Feeling That Follows Success


Today, we need to have a serious conversation about success.

As many of you will have heard by now, earlier this week, three of my poems were accepted for publication in the May 2015 issue of Indiana Voice Journal.

While I’ve had nonfiction essays and articles published before, this is my debut as a poet.

In the past couple of days since I heard the news, I’ve become aware of some persistent questions banging around inside my head: “What’s next?” and “How can I top this?”

I thought they were just fleeting thoughts, but if anything, the urge to rush onward to the next milestone has only gotten stronger.

I think there’s a degree of this urgency in every productive writer’s life, and it’s healthy to a certain extent. It’s the drive to keep writing, to continue answering the call that’s been placed on our hearts.

But the feeling I’m describing now does not feel like a healthy one. It feels like an inability to stop in the moment and enjoy and celebrate my success. It feels like discontentment. Worry, even.

So, where do I turn to explore this phenomenon? Where do I find rest from the voice inside that whispers that this achievement is not good enough?

Looking for scriptural encouragement and instruction, I seek and find:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6)
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19)
“Cast your cares on the Lord, and He will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22a)
“The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” (Romans 8:26)
“But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.” (Psalm 68:3)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, emphasis mine)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Besides reading these verses, and offering up prayers, I am also trying to remember that I am not the only writer who has felt this restless discontentment, this feeling that a modicum of success is not enough, this realization that achievement does not equal happiness.

I've a hunch it’s partly why so many writers and artists battle depression and addiction. We forget, continually, that our creations can’t fulfill our every need.

To state this struggle of disillusionment is not a solution to the problem. It’s a reminder to stay alert for this temptation when and if success comes knocking again.

I will need to reread this post someday, when I have again forgotten that publication doesn’t bring complete satisfaction. I pray I'll have a copy of the scriptures nearby at that time, to connect me with the only One who can.

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