Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Are you in the game?

A close girlfriend of mine just sent me a Tennessee Williams’ essay, “The Catastrophe of Success,” which Williams wrote after the commercial success of The Glass Menagerie. 
            In the essay, Williams talks about losing sight of who his actual friends were, about getting caught up in the mirage that is success—which reminded me of what one of my professors once told me:  “Publishing a book won’t make people like you more.  In fact, publishing a book, might make people dislike or envy you.  The only thing that really changes is that more people might want to fuck you.
            I have not experienced (that I know of…) this boon of success.  J  But what both men remind me, in different ways, is that a writer’s success is not who the writer is.  In the same way that our thoughts are not who we actually are, our levels of success are far less substantial than our thoughts.  Our actions represent who we are.  Are we writing or have we become complacent?     
            As Tennessee Williams mentions in “The Catastrophe of Success”: if you’re not pursuing something, if you’re not fighting and in the midst of conflict, you’ve got nothing to say. 
            After a series of cataract surgeries, Williams’ friends—the friends he’d had before his success—came to see him.  They didn’t talk about his writing or his play.  Instead, they wanted to know how he was feeling, and if he needed anything.  This cleared his head.  He left the kidney-shaped pool in Beverly Hills and went to Mexico.  There, he wrote A Streetcar Named Desire.  “Stella!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Truman Capote said, “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” 
One must always be in the game of writing and fighting for something.  Are you in the game?    Happy Day of the Dead.

Michele Young-Stone lives in Richmond, VA with her husband and son.  She is currently completing two novels, Perfect Birds and The Saints of Los Vientos under contract with Simon and Schuster.

If you'd like to buy an autographed copy of her critically acclaimed first novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, copies are available at Chop Suey Books (804) 422-8066 and Fountain Books (804) 788-1594.  Call to order!  


  1. Great story! Inspiring me to to leave my kidney shaped kiddy pool and get to work:)

  2. What a great reminder--thanks. None of us should get too big for our friends...

  3. Wow, what a post, Michele! I love all of those quotes-- must go and commit them all to memory now....

  4. kidney-shaped kiddy pool... that's a riot. Thanks Lucy, Brenda and Karin!

  5. Michele
    A very good post. This career is a roller-coaster ride. It is so very true that the 'friends' that are there to celebrate you success are not necessarily the same people that you call when faced with adversity. I will take the second group-even if it means also taking the adversity--although you know just hanging out with the second group and sipping Champagne to celebrate a NYT Best Seller would be AWESOME too!

  6. Thanks, Maggie. Yeah, I'm a sucker for champagne!

  7. Gosh, I needed this essay. It completely turned around my mood. Excuse me, I'm going to go KILL some pages now.