How can I celebrate literary success without it going to my head?

daphne Du Maurier

Dear Literary Ladies,
I just got a taste of sweet success—all my work and efforts seem to be coming to some fruition. I don’t want to boast or brag, but I admit I want to shout my news from the rooftops! I won’t, of course; but how should a writer savor success once it arrives?

I believe that success and the enjoyment of it are a very personal and a very private thing, like saying one’s prayers or making love. The outward trappings are embarrassing, and spoil achievement. There come moments in the life of every artist, whether [she] be a writer, actor, painter, composer, when [she] stands back, detached, and looks at what [she] has done a split second, perhaps, after [she] has done it. That is the supreme moment. It cannot be repeated.

The last sentence of a chapter, the final brush stroke, a bar in music, a look in the eye and the inflection of an actor’s voice, these are the things that well up from within and turn the craftsman into an artist, so that, alone in [her] study, in his studio, on the stage . . . [she] has this blessed spark of intuition. “This is good. This is what I meant.”

The feeling has gone into the next breath, and the craftsman takes over again. Back to routine, and the job for which [she] is trained. The pages that must link the story together, dull but necessary, the background behind the sitter’s head; the scenes in the actor’s part which come of necessity as an anticlimax; all these are measures of discipline the artist puts upon [her]self and understands, and [she] works at them day after day, week after week. The moment of triumph is a thing apart. It is the secret nourishment. The raison d’etre.

—Daphne Du Maurier, “My Name in Lights” (essay), 1958

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