On Fame and Success

It’s important to define success in whatever endeavour we engage in – if only so we have something to look at and gage how far or how close we are (or even whether- yes!- we are there already).

Fame and success have often becomes synonymous. How often do you read the phrase “fame and success”? (other than at the top of this blog post – smart arse) If you think of a successful writer, chances are your thoughts will first go to the famous ones, the Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings of this world. Likewise for most successful actors, singers, and most other artists.

Granted if you think of a successful accountant you probably won’t try to think up a famous one (is there such a thing? Maybe in accounting circles). Likewise for succesful actuaries (which I what I used to do, once upon a time. If it is night time where you are and you are unable to sleep, click here and you’ll find yourself dozing off from boredom almost instantly!)

And what of the endless TV shows out there whose sole purpose is to take people from obscurity and give them 15 min of fame?

I watched the first couple episodes of Lindsay, the documentary about Lindsay Lohan that’s being shown on the Oprah Winfrey Network. I’m not normally a fan of this type of TV show (I’m not that keen on fly on the wall reality shows in general) but a friend told me she found it interesting so I had a look.

It was equally sad and fascinating. Watching her spend an entire day locked in a hotel room to avoid paparazzi outside (from what they showed she did nothing all day. That would have driven me insane. If I had a whole day locked in I would probably read Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea which is next on my reading list), or not being able to go to an AA meeting because she was being tailed by the press, was just quite sad.

Now I’m well aware that she courted the media, and that part of the reason she is so (in)famous now is because of her reckless past behaviour. I’m not throwing her a pity party here, it was just amazing to see just how limited the life of a famous person can actually be.

As a very quick aside – one thing that also surprised me was that despite the vast resources at her disposal, she doesn’t seem to do anything when in between films. Days filled up with personal training and life coaching seems pretty empty to me. If I was a famous actress in between films, I’d probably be…well writing a book to be honest!

Anyway, it brought into focus for me the fact that fame and success shouldn’t be as closely associated as they are. Fame is no great thing. Sure it must be a big ego boost to have thousands, or millions, know your name, but the price for that ego boost? Looking at Lindsay Lohan’s fame, I’m not sure I would call that success.

The smaller actors who are doing what they love and making films that they believe in, and managing to make a decent living out of it whilst still retaining their private life? Now that seems more like success.

Same with writers. I think the real success stories out there are the writers that we might not have heard of at the moment, who have a few books out and are planning a few more, who are making a living off their words and having a good time whilst doing it. They have a small but loyal readership base. That’s what I’d define as success.

Sure if someone came to me tomorrow and told me they would turn me into the next J.K. Rowling I’m not going to say no. And if I write a book that jumps to the top of the best seller list I’m obviously going to be thrilled (in fact that would be wonderful!)

But for now, if I can support myself purely from my writing – well I would call that a roaring success. I don’t know, maybe I lack ambition.

What’s your definition of success, are you reaching for the stars? If you had a chance at fame, would you take it?


22 thoughts on “On Fame and Success

    • Haha, a fellow spreadsheet geek! You must be as relieved as I am to have gotten out! I have to admit I never made all the way to the end of my actuarial exams, I lost the will to live about half way through. Sometime whilst I was analysing pensioner mortality rates in Scotland………….Blam.

      Although it does come in handy being able to work your way around a spreadsheet….do you use them for organising your writing?


      • Yeah, very relieved. I earned my CPA license and spent two decades torturing myself in that field. I know what you mean by losing the will to live. I’ve often described that time as dying a slow death. It seems we were both into self torture. Ha!

        Yes, the spreadsheet skills come in handy. I actually use them quite a bit for things like character profiles, beat sheets, and timelines. What about you?


      • Yeah, although you must have been more a masochist than me to last twenty years! 😉 that said the accountants I worked with used to joke that actuaries are dull accountants so maybe that’s why I just couldn’t stick it out for more than a few years.

        I use Scrivener and so far it’s been pretty awesome so I haven’t tried spreadsheets yet. I might create a timeline spreadsheet though that’s a good idea!


      • Hate to say it, but Statistics was my least favorite class, but at least you figured it out long before I did. I just kept climbing that ladder hoping the next step would make me happy.

        I keep hearing about Scrivener. Can you attach worksheets to it? Does it already include things such as character profiles and beat sheets?


      • It’s a phenomenal software, you should check it out, there’s a free trial for 30 days or at least there was when I started about 9months ago. You can attach documents to it so I can’t see why you couldn’t do spreadsheets. Will try tomorrow and let you know.

        There are basic character templates already stored under the character folder but you can basically create whatever kind of template you like to use, and store them all as you fill them up in your character folder. There’s a lot of cool cross referencing capabilities too, like pulling up every scene that has a particular keyword attached to it (such as character or setting or anything else) very useful for multiple POV and the likes
        There’s nothing pre set up for beat sheets but it’s easy to set up yourself. There’s a great book on how to make use of scrivener for novels of you do give it a go, by David Hewson called Writing a Novel With Scrivener.


      • That’s alright. I watched the tutorial yesterday holy cow, this program is amazing. The headings in the outline include most everything from my Excel outline and now I won’t have to manually update it from Word. So far I think I’d still keep my character profile and timeline, but this will save me a lot of time structuring the story. Thanks!


    • Yes that’s exactly right, success is in the mind of the achiever – great phrase. And you are definitely successful if strangers are buying your books, that’s what so many of us dream to achieve 🙂

      To be honest at this stage I feel happy and successful any time someone not related to me stops by to comment on the blog 🙂



  1. There are times when fame and success go hand in hand but just because you have fame doesn’t necessarilly mean you are successful, you’re example of Lindsey is perfect. Look at Hilary Duff who is now not as famous as she was but has a beautiful family and seems so much happier than many other “famous” celebrities her age.

    I think we all like the idea of fame but without success to back it up it would probably be pretty hollow.


    • Yes fame without success then becomes being infamous rather than famous I guess.

      It’s quite telling that I can’t think of anything recent about Hilary Duff, she’s obviously taken a step back from the limelight…And good for her if she has a beautiful family!


  2. Glad you’re going to read Ursula’s series. It’s worth it.
    I haven’t seen Lindsay’s show, but I can’t help feeling sorry for her. It’s difficult to watch one of her movies and not think about her amazing potential and how life sagged for her. The price of fame.


    • I think Lindsay’s case shows that fame can be a huge, sucking negative that wrecks a career instead of making it.

      They showed a quick snippet of her at 13 or whatever age she was when she started out, she’s on a red carpet and being beset by photographers already – that was really sad, to see how young she was when it all started.


  3. Great post! I’m glad you found your way to a career you love. Being able to support yourself as a writer seems like BIG TIME success to me. I know writers that I would consider to be very successful who are not supporting themselves, but are getting work out there, saying what they want to say, and having people read and respond to it. For me, success will simply be finishing my book, whether or not I publish it.


    • I’m with you on that one – just finishing the book would be an amazing thing. Feels so far away at the moment!

      Are you going to go the traditional publishing route or try to self publish? (just out of curiosity)


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