There is a fine line
(an almost imperceptible crack)
which Men waver precariously on
throughout their lives,
watched, from below,
by those who have fallen before them:
23 November 1978
Success. I thought a lot about success back in 1978. Since I no longer had a religion I needed something else. And getting somewhere in life seemed to fit the bill. I wanted promotion. I didn’t mind working for it. I expected to work for it. I wanted to earn it and I wanted to deserve it. And a few years later—longer than it should’ve taken but there was an embargo on promotions at the time—I got my new post. And I was disappointed.
A man applies for a job. He gets it. He was the successful candidate. But that doesn’t make him a success. Successfulness clearly comes in different flavours and my life has not been without its little successes. On 23rd November 1978 I successfully wrote my 500th poem. A benchmark. Well done that man. But was I a successful poet? I was getting stuff published—not this one as it happens—but enough and on a regular enough basis that I was feeling a bit cocky by this time. Not that any of the big journals had taken me but that was there loss, wasn’t it?
My friend Ken Armstrong wrote a blog this week, about, to use his expression, “cracking it”. He doesn’t think he has. Like me he’s had middling successes along the way, plays performed on stage and on the radio and not just one or two or once or twice, but I know he’s been trying to get a novel published for a while with no… what’s the word? Ah, yes… success. I wonder if he manages it he’ll feel successful? I hope so. I wonder, after some fifty novels, if Stephen King feels he’s a success. Probably, yes. King says, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” And hard work takes time, the kind of time blokes with kids and mortgages don’t usually have.
Maybe ‘success’ is the wrong word. Maybe it’s ‘satisfaction’ Ken and I should be measuring ourselves against. If I dropped dead tomorrow would I be satisfied with what I’d achieved given the obstacles that have been in my way? Maybe. Or maybe satisfaction’s the poor man’s success.