A lot of time and effort go into writing a book. Regardless of the genre, much needs to take place prior to when that work of art arrives in the public’s eye to be consumed. The writing process is grueling: outlining, picking character names, developing those characters to become who you need them to be, killing off characters that don’t add anything to the storyline or content, researching anything and everything having to do with every topic you decided to include within the front and back covers of your project, pounding out page after page of your horrible first draft–because every first draft is horrible–editing, cutting and pasting, throwing out your manuscript and then retrieving it from the garbage because you can’t bear to give up on something that initially seemed to mean so much to you. But the preparation for my novel began years before I knew I would even write it.

My life changed forever when my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Until then, AD was something that happened to other people. I had friends whose parents or loved ones were diagnosed with it, but I did not think it could get close enough to harm me. You see, I had hoped my professional work in the assisted living and memory care field would be as close as I would ever get to the dreaded disease that is always fatal, but I was wrong.

Years after my father’s death I prolonged my involvement with all things dementia, venturing forth into an extraordinarily competitive field–writing. Competition is stiff because everyone…everyone…has a story to tell, and many have chosen to tell it. With over 8 million books currently available on Amazon, and just a fraction of those touted as Best Sellers, a person would have to be crazy to even think about adding to those numbers!

Or that person would have to be brave.

Bravery sounded better than crazy to me, knowing that putting myself out there would leave me vulnerable, exposed before every critic who would not shy away from tearing apart my completed labor of love. I wanted something positive to result from my father’s and my family’s Alzheimer’s experience, so rather than shy away from failure, you know, doing nothing that might prove disheartening, I chose to lay my heart out on the line.

Am I a success?

Yes, I am a success, but not because Requiem For The Status Quo made it to Oprah’s book club, or the New York Times’ Annual Book list, and certainly not because of any wealth publishing a novel has brought me…relatively few authors make money in this field. I am a success because I let my love for my father be translated into a novel, creatively based on my family’s experience, so that other–whether a million in number or just a thousand–could find some encouragement and hope through the ashes of my family’s grief.

And guess what, others read my story and told me time and again how much it resonated with them; how my writing seemed to mirror what they too went through, or were currently going through. Readers thanked me for my story. They thanked me! If that isn’t success, then I don’t know what is.

All I can say is, “You’re very welcome.”


Irene Frances Olson writes from passion and experience. She was her father’s caregiver during his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Having previously worked in memory care, she was not new to the disease, nor was her family immune. Irene hopes to make a difference in the lives of others by writing novels that encourage and support those who just might need another person in their corner. As a matter of fact, she has her own byline, In Your Corner, in the Australian online publication, Grandparents Day Magazine. Ms. Olson is on the Management Team of the 501(c)(3) non-profit, AlzAuthors, an organization that through a digital platform and community events, uses the art of storytelling to light the way for those impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. For updates on the author’s current projects, please visit www.irenefrancesolson.com, or on Facebook: @RedmondWriter.

2 thoughts on “Writing Success…It’s Not What You Think

  1. bethkvogt says:

    One thing each writer must do — among a myriad of others — is to define success for themselves. You’ve done so beautifully.

    1. Irene Olson says:

      Thanks so very much, Beth. I was filled with joy once I figured out the whole S-U-C-C-E-S-S dynamic.

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