Renee Mihulka – Children's Book Reviews & Writer

Futility, Shopkins and Redefining Success


Today, I am having one of those ‘futile’ days. You know, the kind where you stare at the dust accumulating on your TV and think, ‘What’s the point of wiping it, it will be back again tomorrow.’ Or, ‘why take the kids to swimming, it’s not like they’ll ever become Olympians and frankly, its hot and uncomfortable in there.’ Or one that’s specific and constant for me: ‘what’s the point of trying to finish my novel, it will never get published anyway.” Basically the kind of day where you are fed up with trying, tired of getting nowhere and exhausted by THE WHOLE BUSINESS OF LIFE.

How to push on….

Enter blog post on redefining my success.

Experience not result

While I was thinking about how to pull myself out of this quagmire of self pity and inertia I thought about why yesterday I didn’t feel the same. Yesterday, I was full of hope and eager to squeeze some writing, reading and reviewing into my busy Sunday. As I was thinking about this, I trod painfully on a pile of Shopkins scattered over the lounge room floor. Ah yes. That’s another thing that happened yesterday; my 8 year old daughter and I ran around a shopping centre together, enthusiastically comparing options and prices for the Shopkins she was going to buy with her pocket money.

To the uninitiated, Shopikns are a range (a very EXTENSIVE range) of tiny, plastic toys shaped as various consumables (think fruit, bakery products and clothing) with faces drawn on them. As far as I can tell, their main purpose is to be collected and then neglected. Lucky for them you can also buy an extravagant range of ‘storage’ options for them to luxuriate in as your child ignores them; such as a tin shaped as a vending machine or a supermarket equipped with a slide so they can tumble happily down into plastic baskets before you shunt them down a conveyer belt, or… Well, you get the picture. The thing is, those hours before we purchased the Shopkins, and while we were purchasing them were filled with laughter, fun and purpose. My daughter was so excited to finally be able to purchase them with her own money, she was practically euphoric and this feeling lasted all the way home and for about an hour afterwards, as she was unpacking and arranging her purchases.

And so it was then, as I was rubbing my heel and cursing the purchase of Fiona Fries and Penny Pencil, that the imaginary light bulb pinged above my head. It’s our experiences as we pursue our goals rather than the end result that bring us the most joy. It was working towards buying the Shopkins and finally purchasing them that brought my daughter the most joy, not owning them.

And that’s what it’s like for me with writing. It’s the experience of writing that I love, crave and covet most. The crafting, thinking and producing.


Redefining my success

As I’m thinking about this idea; that it’s experience not result that I should ultimately pursue, (and at the same time moving the Shopkins into a less dangerous position for pedestrians); I think about my mother’s life. She passed away aged 68. She was an art teacher and an artist. Right now I am tempted to qualify this by writing, ‘she was not a successful artist, her work never hung in a gallery’ but really, why is this my and so many other peoples measure of success? I know the time she spent creating her art were her happiest and her work, especially now, means so much to me and my children. Was her life meaningless because she never achieved public recognition? ‘Of course not!’  you all cry, me along with you.

But see, here’s the trick – believing that. Actually believing, in your heart that this is true. That you can write 18 novels that no one reads and that’s ok, because the experience of writing them and trying to get them published is the true success. That just ‘doing’ what you enjoy, appreciating your experiences and having a go is what matters. If you are like me you won’t initially buy it. You will be tempted to think that it’s just another thing ‘losers say to make themselves feel better’. It will take a little time for the new skin to feel comfortable. But like me, the more you think about it, the more you remember the happiest times in your life, the more you will realise it’s the experience, not the trophy that matters. Like my daughter’s Shopkins experience yesterday, the real joy came from the planning and the buying, not the having. And isn’t being happy the most important thing? Isn’t that what we always say as parents; ‘I don’t care what they do, as long as they are happy?’

So in order to go on, to experience fewer ‘futile’, miserable days I have decided to redefine my success. I now understand that my success is in finding something in life that enriches me and brings me joy and in making the time and having the opportunity to pursue it.

I now truly believe that the joy I get from actually writing my novels, blogposts, reviews, whatever, will far outweigh any success that comes my way. And that’s why I will continue do it. Sure, becoming published is still a goal, but if that never happens I will always have the joy of the experience.

So if no one actually reads this post, and the only comment I get is from a Spanish Spammer trying to sell me investment advice, it doesn’t really matter; because the experience of writing it has brought me meaning and joy and most importantly, changed my day.


What do you consider your successes to be? Have you experience a similar ‘ah ha’ moment? What brings you joy? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

3 Responses to Futility, Shopkins and Redefining Success

  1. marinir seo says:

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!|

  2. Gervy says:

    Beautiful post Renee. It can be so hard to consider yourself successful without the external validation of publication/a paycheck/regular positive feedback. But as mothers we’ve had to learn to do a lot of that already, haven’t we? I remember that was quite a shock after having M and not working – having to learn to give myself a tick for whatever “minor” accomplishment the day brought (eg survival of child and mother).

    Part of me does define success stereotypically in terms of career achievements but I also feel “successful” for having a lovely husband and kids. Have you seen this?

    Definitely I think that the wonderful feeling of “flow” you get when you are immersed in writing and the satisfaction of “nailing” what you wanted to say in a particular piece of writing is its own reward.

    • rmihulka says:

      You are absolutely right Gervy. It’s easy to get caught up in a very public view of success and it’s good to remind ourselves of our minor (sometimes major) daily life accomplishments. I will definitely have to check out that TED talk. Thanks for your kind and wise comments.

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Book Reviews and Writer