What Is Success?
By Dr. Paul Semendinger
January 19, 2022
Note – This article originally appeared on drpaulsem.com.
Hey, for a moment there I felt pretty famous. My book, The Least Among Them, was listed in National Review Magazine as one of the Best Books of 2021.
I’ve always wanted to be an author. And now I am an author. And a book I wrote was in a national magazine as a best book of 2021.
Who woulda thunk it?
Little old me?
For those who have been reading my words here, you have seen my dream develop, take shape, and come true.
I mentioned, years ago, that I had this dream.
“I think I can write. I’d like to have a book published.”
I went to writers’ conferences. I went to writers’ retreats.
I paid money to be introduced to “big time” (or not so big time) literary agents. I paid hundreds of dollars.
“This is what you need to do,” I was told. “You need to interact with the literary agents.”
After meeting them, and giving them my money, I was then ignored by most and insulted by at least one. “You’re an amateur, you don’t even have a story arc here,” she said. (Thanks for the help.)
I literally sent hundreds of query letters. Most were ignored. In fact, most doesn’t even convey the amount of letters that were ignored. Legions might be a better word.
You’re heard of the Presidential “pocket veto,” I assume. Well, I received my fair share of pocket rejections.
My Yankees book was rejected.
My novel was rejected.
My picture book ideas were rejected.
Over and over and over and over and over and over (this might get tedious) and over again.
And yet, I kept trying.
And never stopped believing.
I knew I could write.
Dreams do come true, eventually.
They do and they can.
But it can and does happen.
We have to work, hard, to make our dreams come true, but when we work hard amazing things can happen.
Impossible is an illusion.
If I was going to fail in this endeavor, I was going to fail while daring greatly.
And I failed and failed and failed and failed.
I met a literary agent at a studio in New Jersey in a little city by the Hudson River overlooking the big city. She seemed to love me and my ideas.
“I will get you published,” she said.
And then she nary returned an e-mail or a phone call ever again.
One literary agent LOVED my novel. He represented Christian fiction. “But I can’t represent you,” he said. “There is a scene where an unmarried man and woman spend a night together in an apartment. I know nothing happens, but that’s a no go for a Christian story. No Christian publisher will touch that.”
I suggested we go for mainstream fiction. He replied, “The book isn’t dirty enough.”
That was my life. Too dirty for the wholesome set, not dirty enough for the rest of the population.
“You created your own genre,” he said.
“Great!” I replied.
His final response put an end to that avenue. “It doesn’t work like that.”
And then, there I was listed in a national magazine in the same paragraph as Matthew McConaughey.
(Do you know how many page view National Review gets on a monthly basis? 25 million. That’s a lot of people wondering how to say “Semendinger.”)
Here’s the first takeaway.
I’ve done a ton of things to get my writing out there. I run two web sites. I do podcasts. I never stop working at the craft.
I talk to writers all the time. I’ve made friends with many. Famous writers (sometimes) even return my e-mails. (I still don’t know why.)
I read a lot.
I write a lot.
I never stop trying.
It’s a job outside my job. (Neither ever end.)
And I have never stopped believing in my abilities and dreaming.
I will never stop dreaming.
If you believe, work hard, and dream, amazing things are possible.
I’m not famous.
I’ll never get rich from my writing.
I’d have to sell hundreds of thousands of books, and that just won’t happen.
And that’s okay.
It’s not about the money. It’s about loving what we do.
Here’s another takeaway.
Do what you love. Spend your time in worthy causes.
Seek to self-actualize.
And you will.
At least sometimes.
If only for a brief moment.
But here’s the final and most important takeaway…
We need people to believe in us.
My wife and kids have always believed in me. My parents too.
And so did a publisher.
That means one.
A small publisher in New Mexico.
One. Just one.
That publisher, Artemesia Publishing, published my novel. Then they published my Yankees book. And they are working with me on (at least) two more books (hopefully to come out in 2023, but I have a lot of work ahead of me to make that happen).
I don’t have literary agents knocking down my door.
The major networks aren’t calling me.
But they don’t have to.
I am achieving a dream because one person believed in me.
That’s all you need.
Why am I writing all this?
It’s quite simple.
In the life of someone else, you might be, you CAN BE, the one person who believes and makes a difference in that person’s life. You.
We need to be that person. Today and always. When the opportunity comes, we need to encourage.
It can make all the difference.
It will make all the difference.
That’s what matters the most.
What is success?
Success is helping others achieve their goals!