Who and what determines what being “accomplished” means? I may identify someone as accomplished, but maybe they don’t think they are. Being accomplished means more than just finishing something successfully. For me it includes feelings, a connection with self and others, a sense of fulfillment from within, a sense of having done something meaningful.
As I age, some of my perspectives about what I have written and what I write change. I was sixty when I entered this MFA program. My purpose was to encourage and enhance my writing while connecting with a writing community. Amidst an active life that I shared with my husband, children and grandson, and many friends, I wanted to hold onto and nurture my creative self and writing practice. Being in the program did bring a sense of accomplished because I wrote pieces I never would have written on my own. But once we purchased our Napa house, and my husband retired, and our adult son was diagnosed with MS – all within a few months of each other – I put my MFA endeavor on hold. Even though I did continue to write in bits and pieces, what I had hoped to accomplish through the program faded into an unknown until 2020 when I decided to resume my MFA. Yes, I am again feeling some accomplishment as I take my courses and write more pieces that are well received, but until I understand my purpose – what I am to do with my writings – I’m in a “being accomplished” limbo.
I am a published author with my awards winning novel Hattie (2012), and my poetry published in Compass Roads: Poetry About the Pioneer Valley (2019). Thirty years ago when I finished writing Hattie, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment. For me, much of my writing and art involves soul work which does bring a sense of personal fulfillment and often joy.
Yesterday I made a special dinner for us and two other couples. I felt fulfilled as I served my artistically presented Tomato, Basil and Burrata salad drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, followed by my Mushroom Risotto recipe. Everyone loved everything, including the wines we savored. Our dinner was still being talked about and texted about this morning. I am pleased with what I cooked and served. I guess as a cook I see myself as being accomplished. It’s another talent. Another way of expressing myself and caring for others. Though honestly, it is different than the sense of accomplishment I feel as a writer when my words impact others.
I remember the first time I was published. I was in my thirties, working as a nurse, a wife and mother, I returned to school to expand my knowledge. I submitted some poems to the college’s literary journal and they were accepted. As much as I felt accomplishment in writing poetry, I felt greater sense of accomplishment when my poems were published. Seeing my words in published form was exhilarating. I would say being published provides another layer of accomplishment.
As I look back on my life I can identify some of the successes I have had because of my writing, but much of the time I don’t feel successful as a writer. I am rarely satisfied with my writing life and routine. I want to be more devoted to my writing like I am devoted to my family, and to helping others, and to enjoying life. Even though I do not often feel “successful” as a writer, I do feel that I am accomplished. I have written some profound pieces over the decades that have been well received by others, and even helped others in their life choices.
In trying to understand the difference between being successful and accomplished, I am realizing that when Hattie was finally published, and I held the hard copy of my novel in my hands, as I brought it to my heart I felt great accomplishment and joy, like I had birthed a child. When my novel began receiving accolades and awards, I was ecstatic and felt successful. So does that mean that success is determined by how others see one’s work, whereas accomplishment is based on how one feels about their work?