Defining Success

14 Aug

I read an article the other day about ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.  In it the author debated whether McCartney should be considered among the greatest of solo artists since the Beatles disbanded.

The debate went something like this: on the one hand, there can be no denying the body of work McCartney has produced since 1970, nor can there be any debate about records sold.  For forty-eight years now he has been one of the most productive writers/performers on the planet.  The other side of the argument, though, had to do with the quality of his work, its pop status, and the relatively weak lyrics.

Now I actually have no horse in this race, and I really don’t have a strong opinion one way or another, but I did find the whole discussion to be interesting.  I know I’m always picking on James Patterson, but I’m going to return to him as an example of this debate.  There can be no doubt that Patterson has been wildly successful and prolific, making him one of the most successful authors in the last thirty years, but is he a good author based on the quality of his writing, or a successful writer based on his sales?

Just something to think about!  I really am just tossing it out for something to think about and talk about.

TURNING THE PAGE (does anyone remember the song by that name by Bob Seger?)

And then I was watching a YouTube video of a “release party” by Jason Mraz, who happens to be one of my favorite performers.  He’s releasing a new album, and he was talking about the process of writing songs, and he mentioned his muse usually takes him in directions he never planned during the writing process, and I’m sure most of you can relate to that.


And then I was thinking of a musical group out of McMinnville, Oregon, called “We Three.”  They are currently competing on America’s Got Talent, a sibling band, two brothers and a sister, and their music has touched me in a way I am not often touched.  It’s a bit odd because I’m not sure why.  Is it the arrangement of the music, or their voices, or the lyrics?  Is it their charming personalities and their obvious humility?  Or is it a combination of all those factors.  Give them a listen if you get a chance. I’d be interested in what you think.

Relating that to writing, I often wonder what it is that attracts a reader to a particular book, or why one book is considered a classic while another will never be . . . there are so many factors which play into success . . . and the conclusion I came to is that it is random and it is particular, it is ethereal and it is visceral . . . toss in random luck and a kiss from fickle gods, and you just might find success.

Have a great week!


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly

26 Responses to “Defining Success”

  1. Janine Huldie August 14, 2018 at 2:07 pm #

    This thought-process is an interesting topic for debate. I may be bit biased as I happen to love Sir Paul with or without The Beatles. But still can see and value the discussion here that you are making. So thank you for the food for thought if nothing else and now wishing you a very, Happy Tuesday Bill 🙂

    • Billybuc August 14, 2018 at 4:51 pm #

      I thought of you, Janine, when I thought of Sir Paul. Just one of many reasons why I like you.

  2. Greg Boudonck August 14, 2018 at 3:54 pm #

    Personally Bill, I believe it come down to timing and a measure of luck. If the writing is at least good, it has chances of going huge and even better chances of going nowhere.

    Marketing also plays a huge part.

    Now I will be thinking on this subject the rest of the day… Lol

    • Billybuc August 14, 2018 at 4:52 pm #

      Join the crowd, Greg! I’ve been thinking about this for a week now,ever since I read that piece about McCartney.

  3. Mike August 14, 2018 at 4:30 pm #

    Hi Bill – Success has to do with the timing. Paul McCartney and The Beatles came along at the right time with enough talent to carry them through a musical revolution. As for Patterson, I don’t read him, just as with Stephen King, I view them as writing factories. Nothing will convince me King writes all the work published under his name. Their approach is industrial versus art. The fickle gods have their hand in an individuals success at their chosen field.

    • Billybuc August 14, 2018 at 4:51 pm #

      Writing factories…I like that, Mike, and I agree. There is a world of difference between a product made in a factory and one made by a craftsman in a small shop.

  4. Lawrence Hebb August 14, 2018 at 5:20 pm #

    I’d rather ‘take my chances’ with writing a book than buying a lotto ticket!
    I listened to the group, and I agree with Simon, they have talent IN SPADES
    Thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Billybuc August 14, 2018 at 5:28 pm #

      I love that, Lawrence, and I don’t buy Lotto tickets either. 🙂 Glad you liked the group.

  5. Shauna L Bowling August 14, 2018 at 7:26 pm #

    Of course I remember Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”! It’s one of my favorite songs. In fact, the radio station I listen to at work just played it.

    Bill, I love We Three, too. I’m glad they made it to the finals. They sing from the heart. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve sung an original song every time they’ve been on stage. Usually, Simon prefers bands to do covers, but I think he’s probably as moved by the sibling trio as you and I are.

    • Billybuc August 16, 2018 at 4:34 am #

      Of course you remember Seger Sha; you have good taste! I always knew that. 🙂

  6. 1authorcygnetbrown August 14, 2018 at 10:04 pm #

    Sometimes I think that in order to be a great artist of any kind, you need great PR and good timing.

    • Billybuc August 16, 2018 at 4:35 am #

      Toss in some luck, Donna, and I will totally agree with you.

  7. Sageleaf August 15, 2018 at 12:46 am #

    When I used to work at a bookstore, (they all have a certain aroma, too…they should make some kind of room spray with that scent, lol) I totally gravitated toward the more cerebral authors: Morrison, Evans, Kingsolver, etc. When we had to put the bestsellers out, they usually were the “entertainment” mass paperback fiction works by Patterson, Sue Graham (i.e. A is for Alibi), Alexander McCall Smith…those folks. There’s nothing wrong with either type of author, and I even wrote a ghost story that might have fallen into the latter group of author works.

    It’s similar in the art world. You have the commercial works that you see printed on cards, shirts, shower curtains, and the like (classical works can fall into this, such as Van Gogh’s works), and then there are the more cerebral, esoteric works. When I create my paintings, I do the more cerebral kind: the sort of paintings that take days, weeks or even months to complete. It’s good food for thought – what defines success? The person who spends their time creating more esoteric works meant to last ages, or the person who creates work for mass-consumption so that they can survive in this life?

    I’ve spent so much time trying to find a sweet spot between the two – between my writing and artwork. And…I’ve not straddled them very well, probably. I suppose the one who wins this race isn’t the commercial success or the esoteric creator: it’s the person that can stay in it for the long haul, despite long odds, and keep at the craft, improving upon each work until they become masterful – in whatever that may look like.

    It can be arbitrary, though. People study Harry Potter in college courses now and I wouldn’t call that high brow writing. But it did stir up a cultural phenomenon. I don’t think anyone would debate Dostoyevksky and his investigation into Crime…and Punishment and whether that is a classical work. But reading about the mind of a murder was…hard to read. Haha.

    • Billybuc August 16, 2018 at 4:37 am #

      Lil Sis, I have no answers. Nor am I bothered why one makes it and another doesn’t. It’s just the way life works. My only job…my only job…is to be the best me I can be, and that is a full-time job.

      You are a joy! Thank you for being the best Lil sister a man could ask for.

      Hugs from smoky Olympia

  8. Manatita August 15, 2018 at 10:20 am #

    Intersting discussion about Paul and others. There are so many variables in life!
    Zuckermann isn’t doing too bad neither is Besof. Perhaps the Divine willed this for Its own reasons. Peace.

    • Billybuc August 16, 2018 at 4:37 am #

      Manatita, the Divine is as good an explanation as I have. I am quite happy not knowing everything. 🙂

  9. phoenix2327 August 15, 2018 at 2:33 pm #

    You had a lot on your mind, didn’t you? lol

    Call me old-fashioned (go on, I dare you) but with regards to James Patterson and all others who fall into this category, I feel if you didn’t do the work, you don’t deserve the praise.

    On the other hand, the ghosties may view this as an opportunity to get their foot in the publishing door. With a bit of experience and luck, they may just be that one in a million who cracks the NYT Bestseller List. Assuming, of course, that authors like Patterson haven’t clipped their wings by including a clause in the contract that forbids them from revealing their contribution.

    I suppose it boils down to what someone considers success. Is it the quality of the work or the quantity in the bank account.

    • Billybuc August 16, 2018 at 4:39 am #

      Zulma, you have no idea how much space debris is floating around in my brain. It wears me out sometimes. 🙂 I do have a real problem with Patterson and others who use shoddy advertising and marketing to “dupe” buyers. Maybe I’m being too hard on them…maybe not.

      Have a great Thursday! We are “enjoying” 90 and hazy, smoky air right now. In a word, “miserable.”

      • phoenix2327 August 18, 2018 at 3:17 pm #

        I’m sorry you’re still wilting in the heat. 😦 Our heatwave broke about a week ago. I thought yours would have by now.

        Have a good weekend, Bill, and try to stay cool.

      • Billybuc August 18, 2018 at 3:18 pm #

        Weird weather for sure. The heat will leave for a couple days and then return, Zulma. Monday and Tuesday of this week we will again have 90s. Sigh!

  10. phoenix2327 August 18, 2018 at 3:21 pm #

    Weird indeed. I wonder if we’re in for another heatwave soon.

  11. Andrea Stephenson August 18, 2018 at 4:02 pm #

    I do think there’s an element of randomness or luck in anyone’s success, though it does help to have some talent as well! I’ve never liked Paul McCartney, don’t know what it is about him but I find him extremely irritating! Finished your book Shadows Kill and really enjoyed it Bill – I put a review on Good Reads, I’ll definitely read more.

    • Billybuc August 18, 2018 at 4:04 pm #

      Thanks so much, Andrea! I’ll go check out the review. As for McCartney, it is interesting, individual tastes. I never like Mick Jagger…some feral instinctual thing. 🙂

    • Sarah Potter Writes September 13, 2018 at 1:51 pm #

      Likewise, Andrea. I really enjoyed Shadows Kill and intend to read more in the series.

  12. Sarah Potter Writes September 13, 2018 at 1:49 pm #

    Speaking of writing factories, according to an article in the Daily Telegraph, James Patterson has only been the sole author of 23% of his books. But then rumour has it that J.S. Bach didn’t write all the music attributed to him, which is why it’s of such variable standard. Paul McCartney … one of the greatest solo artists? D: His lyrics are so tame. How about Van Morrison and Rod Stewart, to name two artists who know about lyrics? But my favourite song, The Fitter’s Song, sung by my favourite artist, Eliza McCarthy with the Wayward Band … you gotta hear it, Bill, those lyrics are so cool. What do you call it — funky folk, I guess?
    And, yes, I agree with you about random luck re someone’s success, but I also think it has something to do with having a finished product completed and its content coinciding with a new trend. I’m hearing a lot about successful crossing of genres at the moment, so am keeping my fingers crossed that I might stand a chance thirty years on from daring to go down that route!
    My apologies for being so behind with reading your posts, my dear friend. Am now going to luxuriate in them all this afternoon, if nobody disturbs me first.

    • Billybuc September 13, 2018 at 1:56 pm #

      All great points, Sarah my friend. Thank you for the link. I will listen this morning.

      I do love brilliant lyrics. I’m afraid they are disappearing from the music scene, and that would be a shame.

      I have two weeks to go and then I will have the time to devote to many things…comments, reading, creative writing. I am looking forward to that freedom.

      Hugs from Olympia

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