What Is Success in Creative Practice?
A conversation with Rosemerry and Christie
“No longer talk about what kind of man a good man ought to be—be such.” —Marcus Aurelius
Preview: Episode 74 on Success
What does success look like in your creative practice? How has that definition changed over time? What markers do you use to define or quantify a person’s success? What happens when you reach and surpass those markers? Who is a role model for you—someone in your creative field you look to and think, Wow, they’re successful?
In this episode of Emerging Form, Rosemerry and Christie explore all these questions and more. In the end, hear Rosemerry squirm as she calls into question everything she’s just said. An episode with no answers, but lots of questions to wrestle with yourself.
What We’re Reading and Listening to:
I am unreasonably wildly mad for VOCES8, a British acapella ensemble that sings classical, pop and jazz music—and this month they came out with a youtube video of Emily Dickinson’s “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers” arranged by Christopher Tin. It’s, well, it’s heaven.
I was recently gifted the classic William Stafford collection Traveling Through the Dark—a collection deemed by scholars as “as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.” And, especially on the heels of TA Barron’s podcast which has a spectacular story about rejection, the poem “Traveling through the Dark,” also was rejected many many times until Stafford basically strong armed a journal into publishing it. It was later named by many of the leading literary minds of the time, the most influential poem of the decade. Stafford is one of my poetic heroes—he also wrote a poem a day for many years and was famous for saying “Lower your standards.”
I love Lynn Steger Strong’s essay “The Unbearable Envy of the Published Author” so much. Strong writes about the angst and envy that can grip an author as her book is about to be published, and shares her perfect antidote: find another writer to cheer for. Trust me, this works!
I recently met Courtney Martin at a conference on intellectual humility, and I’ve quickly become a huge fan. This piece on her Substack about why you still haven’t written that thing really resonated with me, particularly this:
you don’t even need to do the thing you want to do every day in order to be successful; you just need to build the muscle memory and neural pathways to begin to trust yourself as a person who does that thing every day. So if you want to be a person that writes a book, write one sentence every day for 30 days, and your body/mind/heart/spirit will learn that you are a person who sits down at a computer or in front of a notebook and writes every day. Now all you have to do is expand duration and output.
Hopefully, the single richest resource of all available to you is: community
I recently wrote about why science journalism has been especially challenging over the last few years, and why it matters more than ever. This op-ed, “Every Story is a Science Story” from Scientific American is the perfect companion piece.
detractors are telling us to “stay in our lane,” that scientific inquiry is a pure, clean, completely objective enterprise, and that what we publish should be devoid of politics or the perspectives of people who are affected by the culture of scientific research. But the truth is that science is relevant to every element of society, including policy and politics.
Telling us or scientists or other science writers to “stay in our lane” is a tactic to silence people with relevant expertise from weighing in on divisive issues. In some cases, the criticism attempts to maintain the power of wealthy, white, male members of society… Science is everywhere, and we at Scientific American are going to continue to cover the science relevant to social justice and the most vital questions facing human society.
After the Tortoise Won the Race
—Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
It was the strangest thing.
She’d never cared before about winning.
Life had been about basking in the sun
at the entrance to her burrow.
Sometimes when she was warm enough,
she’d plod off in search of leaves.
Now, she thought about finish lines.
The feel of the ribbon on her prehistoric nose.
The roar of the crowd as she crossed.
They say tortoises don’t have feelings,
no hippocampus in their small brains,
but she’d felt it, the thrill of success.
She spent decades looking for another race
she had a chance to win. None of her friends
could understand. Come dig in the sandy soil,
they said, but it wasn’t enough anymore.
She wished she’d never said yes to that race.
She wished she could race the hare again tonight.
She wished she could stop defining her life
by that one moment. Wished she could stop wishing
for any life beyond the life she had now,
sleeping in her burrow, cool and moist.
Wished all she wanted were soft weeds and long-leaf pines.
Wished she could hear that crowd just one more time.
published in ONE ART: A journal of poetry
A Note About Paid Subscriptions:
First, we want to thank ALL our subscribers! We are so grateful you join us in this conversation about what it is to engage with yourself, the world and others in a creative way. And a BIG thank you to our paid subscribers. You make this podcast possible. Only our paid subscribers receive our bonus episodes as a thank you for their financial support.
This week, we share and discuss the diverse responses from our Facebook Group. The question: How do you define success in your creative practice? If you are not yet a paid subscriber, you can go now to our website, EmergingForm.substack.com or by clicking the button below. Thank you!
(share your answers with us here on Substack or in our FB group)
Who is your creative role model, and what have they taught you about success?
How have your ideas about success changed?
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