Definition of Success in Dictionary

How Would You Define Success?

My good friend Gina Barreca just made an AMAZING discovery: she is quoted in today’s entry for Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day. Now, if Gina were being quoted used so that readers could see the word “hegemony” or “dialectic” used in a sentence, I would admittedly be a little less thrilled. But the word that Gina is quoted to demonstrate is “chilblain,” “an inflammatory swelling or sore caused by exposure (as of the feet or hands) to cold.” You really can’t get more awesome than that.

If you go to her website, you’ll see that Gina is the author of 3,052 things, including a groundbreaking work on humor They Used to Call Me Snow White, but I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor (first published in 1991 and now enjoying a 20th anniversary revised edition), It’s Not That I’m Bitter . . . or How I Stopped Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World, and Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Co-Education in the Ivy League. She also blogs for Psychology Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Huffington Post. She’s been on Oprah and Dr. Phil and in The Washington Post and The New York Times and . . . oh, I’ll just let you look at her long list of accomplishments yourself. The point is Gina has already “made it,” but for some reason, appearing in Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day seems to be better proof to her of this fact than many of her other accolades.

I get this. Do you? I would love to have my description of a couple’s “xeric relationship” chosen by

Gina’s glee has made me very curious about how all of us define “making it” in whatever field it would be our dream to “make it” in. For me, it might involve writing something that both Alan Ball and the Nolan brothers fight over the rights to direct. It would be Tina Fey (or Gina Barreca, for that matter) saying that my newest book was pee-your-pants funny. It would be coining a word or phrase that would later appear in Urban Dictionary.

What would it be for you? What would cure the chilblains of past rejection for evermore?

5 thoughts on “How Would You Define Success?

  1. First off, your long post has convinced me that I have to read something by Gina.

    I’ve really accomplished nothing toward my field yet, so anything I say is bound to be naïve and basically a dream outcome. Nothing wrong with that, but I thought I’d warn you.

    I’m a harsh self-critic, so maybe I’ll feel like I’ve made it as a writer when a reader says my work made them know that it’s okay to be messed up. Or if I could write an interesting and complex book about being happy. I dunno, this question has really flummoxed me. Perhaps I’m taking it too seriously.

    I would like to write a comedy. And I’d love to write a children’s book that my own nieces and nephews enjoyed. No luck so far.

    Damn it all this question is difficult! Okay, here’s a funnier answer–I want to have a book published, watch it go out of print, and then see it reissued by NYRB classics because they only republish interesting and unfairly neglected books.

    Maybe I’ll make it when I write a book that scandalizes my conservative family members. Even if only they read it. Maybe I’m just one of those wannabe writers who gets a kick out of alienating his readership? Hey, at least the family would be reading for once…

    1. Ouch about what? My weird desire to go out of print or to scandalize my family? To be fair, I could scandalize half of them by writing about religion and I could offend the other half by not including thinly-veiled portraits of them.

      Autoclave: a device used to sterilize equipment and supplies by subjecting them to high pressure saturated steam

      Example: I’d sit at the Thanksgiving table every year expecting the same thing. Their mouths spouting half-racist opinions and fully bloated gossip between bites, I would sit, arms folded on plaid napkins, and feel the pressure of the dining room turned autoclave. My mind sterile in the mist of holiday turkey and stuffing, I was too full of food to be comfortable and too full of my mother’s warnings not to talk to look anyone in the eye. I sat and waited for store bought pumpkin pie.

      That is seriously overwritten but I don’t care!

      And where is your xeric relationship sentence?

  2. Ouch about the last line, of course. Okay, here’s mine: “She stood gazing at the perfectly made bed, the sage green comforter like a high desert plain, and she some xeric plant enjoying rainfall when it came.” Also overwritten but there you have it.

    1. It may be overwritten but at least it’s one sentence. It has some nice poetry to it. I’m not counting syllables because I’m lazy and it’s getting late, but I could see that being a haiku.

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