My very caring father lives in New Delhi, India. Each month, without fail, for the past ten years or so, I get these amazing packets from him. Yes, he still uses snail mail and sends me treasures each month. Each packet has clipped stories. When he first started sending it to me, it was all food news from local Delhi papers. The stories varied from being about the newest restaurant to open in Delhi to the health benefits of drinking tea to how to eat like a Maharaja.
Then the stories began to change. I had changed careers and was writing now and he began to send clips of my stories published there, any mentions of my work, stories on career changers, stories on people building their dreams, and of course, a ton of food stories from the local papers and magazines (which I loved getting).
Opening the envelope each month is like getting a Christmas present: I have no idea what I will find, what will inspire me, which new eatery will make me want to get on a plane and head back. I love that he sends me real paper that I can touch and feel and smell and not email forwards (which I tend to delete).
About five years ago, I remember, a package came, just as the one before it and the one before it. I remember one small clipping, it was a cartoon, about six inches by six inches.
The cartoon showed an old man sitting on a stone talking to a young child.
The child says, “Grandfather, there are two wolves knocking at my door. One is the wolf of abundance, pleasure, blessings, generosity, wealth, and bounty. And the other one is the wolf of anxiety, grief, sadness, lack of abundance, stress and pressure.”
The child continues, “They are both knocking hard, Grandfather. Please tell me who will come in? Who will win and gain entry into my home?
The grandfather answers, “Which ever one you feed.”
As a writer in an industry that is rapidly changing (I checked and half the publications I used to write for are gone or going away), it is easy to focus on what is not there. It is easy to let the stress in. It is so easy to say that the writing markets are gone, that there will be no work, that the new editors at my favorite magazine would not want to work with me. I could say all this and did and created all the excuses in the world about why work would be hard to find. My negativity was fulfilled by the Universe: misery attracted misery. The more I thought about lack, guess what I got? Lack. I wasn’t able to sleep, my writing lacked sparkle, my spirit lacked vibrancy. It was easy to focus on the stresses and worries about the bills that needed to be paid.
Instead of worrying (which I do oh so well), I began to focus on what I could do well. I began to relentlessly send out letters to editors, I went to NYC to meet editors in person, I read as many magazines as I could and tailored pitches, I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote some more. Instead of focusing on the magazines that were shutting down, I focused on the magazines that were thriving. I focused on what I could do instead of what I could not.
Years later, I landed features in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, MORE, Prevention, and many others.
I chose which wolf I was feeding.
Interestingly, when my stories are published, I always get a few emails telling me how lucky I am to have my name in these publications. No doubt I am lucky BUT and this is the big BUT – this luck did not just show up at my door one day. I have relentlessly pursued my writing dream sending hundreds of introductions to new editors, sending query upon query upon query. I learned to take rejection in stride and keep working on my dream. I learned (and am still learning) not to listen to nay-sayers who say it cannot be done. Let me share this with you: it took me five years of relentless trying to get an essay published in Bon Appetit (it is in the March 2011 issue). If that is luck, then yes, I guess you can say I am lucky.
Success, abundance, prosperity, love, [insert your own need] comes from what we choose to let inside our minds and then let out as actions and thoughts. The key word here is choose. No way our lives are easy, things are rough with most all I know, but how we choose to react to it, who we let in the door, is our choice.
So tell me, who is knocking on your door today and which wolf are you going to feed?
While you are here, click here and get Excuses Begone! by Wayne Dyer. It feeds the wolf of abundance.
(PS – Thanks, Dad. Love you)
(photo from istock)
Your father sounds like a very caring man. It must feel like Christmas every month for you. It’s intriguing to receive the most unexpected presents. The love of a father comes in many forms. His monthly packets are great reaffirmations of his love for you.
Such lovely memories, woven through images of history and passion. Great writing… really lovely.
Thank you for sharing these thoughts. There are two lessons on persistence here. a) from your dad who sent you these clippings and knew in his heart that this would be both useful and encouraging b) You did the same thing with your writing career persisting in trying and trying leading to the success you have now become.
of course feeding the wolf is another great lesson.
I think reading this was lovely , thank you and I am off to call my parents who live in Hyderabad India 😉
Lovely post, Monica, and a great reminder of the diligence it takes to be “lucky” in this career. I’m inspired by your focus. Bravo.
You are so right. Reminds me of the theory ” the half full or half empty glass. Mine? Its half full! Thanks for all the word pictures and for being one who makes her luck!
You’ve inspired me to get back with the fun side of the door.
What an inspiring post, Monica. I love the image of ‘the wolf of abundance’. Thank you for the wise words.
Dearest Monica —
Why is it that when some writers talk about themselves, I want to run away screaming, but when you talk about yourself, I want to read more and more? Is it because you are so different from me? Is it because you say what I wish I could, only so much better? Whatever the reasons, I thank you for this piece. And want to remind you that you have many friends who will come to your house and help you push out the wolf you don’t want inside!
I was getting my hair done in a tiny town in rural Ohio and flipped through an old issue of AARP magazine and there you were. I opened my new copy of Bon Appetit and again, there you were. I’m at a food blogging conference thousands of miles from home and your name is offered up as one of the most persistent, hard-working, food writers in the business. I read your blog and am fed beautiful, positive words that inspire me to keep at it. It takes sitting down and writing and being willing to share your story, your history, your life everyday. Some could call that lucky. I know I’m lucky to have been one of your students and I am so pleased every time I see your byline or hear a comment about your success.
What a fantastic post! Saw Wendy’s (Celiacs in the House) tweet and had to come right over. First, I love those monthly packages your father sends. (I do that with friends, but rather infrequently these days.) It’s such a blessing to be thought of constantly like that and also such wonderful wisdom he’s shared with you. I’ve heard the wolf analogy before and it’s so true. Expressed in many ways, of course, but, yes, feed what nurtures you and it will reap great rewards. Not luck at all. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story, Monica. With that attitude and persistence, you will continue to thrive. 🙂
Brilliant story and one worth memorizing! It’s so easy to feed the anxiety because it seems like it will take the scraps where abundance has a palate for the finer foods.
You’re proof that perseverance pays off.
Your success is so completely NOT about luck. It’s about talent and persistence, both of which you have in abundance. Which I guess does make you lucky, in a way 😉
Thanks for writing this. It’s a terrific kick in the pants.
Wait, you mean there’s no such thing as overnight success?! A wonderful post and a good reminder for someone like me, who tends to be (you may be surprised to hear this) a bit of a glass-half-empty girl. It’s true that the wolf is always at the door, as the song goes, but you don’t have to answer his knocks!
How interesting that you would write this post on this week, the same week when, in yoga class, the teacher shared a similar story. Only hers involved a bad dog/good dog story, and the question: which dog will you feed? Your story explains the concept much better than hers, and I will be sharing it with my boyfriend this week, who didn’t quite get it. Your story will help him, for sure.
Not only one of the most beautiful graphics I’ve ever seen (reminds me of the doors I saw in Italy), but a lovely parable. Alas, the hungry wolf is at my door so much these days, I would be a hypocrite if I said I feed the other one.
Thank you for the positive energy, Monica.
Monica! Awesome post! Reminds me of the phrase, “The outer world is a reflection of the inner world.” What is going on in my life is the direct result of the internal climate I am creating. CREATING being the operative word there. Thanks for sharing this important reminder that we CAN tweak the way we think and how that governs everything!
Sigh…I guess my thinking that things will magically land on my lap isn’t right? 🙂
I can’t even imagine how much strength, perseverance, patience and discipline it takes to pitch stories to magazines. I’ve never tried it because the process seems so daunting.
I guess I should change my thinking process!
Marvelous Monika ! With this short meaningful story you have highlighted predominating notions in our mind, whether to go for instant gratification or to choose the bigger path in life. We all so easily give up for small reasons but if persistent can really decide our fate and future. A big thank you to you and your parents for sharing such a lovely story… !
Thanks for sharing this inspiring story. I am one of those who needs to be given a dose of inspiration and encouragement from time to time. I’m glad that I gor that from you today 🙂
Great post! I often let the negativity in but when I really think about it – I am only answering for the wolf of abundance because I believe, as you stated, that there is “good luck” but really, we make our own luck. Last weekend, my daughter became a Bat Mitzvah – a traditional sign of maturity in the Jewish faith when a child becomes an adult. During the ceremony, the parents give a talk to their child and I told my daughter that I believe that people make their own luck through conviction, drive, and determination. I was elaborating on her amazing competitive spirit and how it would serve her well in her life, particularly because she never uses it to put down others, but only to drive herself to new heights.
Your post is particularly inspiring in light of recent discussions about bloggers and food writers now giving their “wares” away for free. I am fairly new to blogging, but believe that with the new paradigm that has created “free” writing we will also see new ways to be compensated. We just have to figure it out.
Thanks for sharing your wisdom!
P.S. I am a regular reader of Bon Appetit – can’t wait to read your March article. Congrats!
As always, Monica, you managed to capture the essence of what it is to succeed as a writer — in the best and worst of times — while at the same time weaving it with the golden threads of your rich personal history and culture. You are a shining example of what it is to be a writer today, in the past, and, above all, in the future. As discrimination falls by the wayside in today’s world of too-often undiscriminating Internet writing, you hold a torch for your students, showing them that success as a writer never comes easy. It is always a fine-tuned balance of inspiration, talent, sensitivity and hard, very hard, work.
You are so right Monica – your writing always lives me inspired to do better in life myself. Thanks 🙂 and thanks to your father.
Lovely post, Monica. Next time my husband yells into my office “What are you doing out there?” Just feeding my wolf, darling. 😉
Your writing never, ever fails to inspire me, Monica. I’ve never thought about it this way, but maybe I’ve been feeding the wrong wolf! Attitude adjustment time!
Monica, you are so right. I hear all the time how lucky I am to be able to survive, and do well, as a writer in the current climate. True, many of the magazines that I used to write for are gone, or hardly assign anything, but I’ve consistently changed my business model to accomodate this. I write a lot for websites, I juggle low stress high per hour rate web jobs with high per word (usually low per hour rate) high stress magazine assignments in order to still get my thrills from being in the glossies.
The reason I’m so lucky is mostly because I work so bloody hard to make this life happen. I too meet editors face to face when I can. I invest money in conferences and joining professional organizations where I can network and I work hard to form meaningful relationships with other writers as well as editors.
I also write tight copy, don’t miss deadlines and treat people how I like to be treated. I am told by most of my editors that I am a pleasure to work with. This isn’t always easy when last minute edits come in, or fact checkers are being picky, but it is so important to be NICE.
Consequently, the majority of my work comes from referrals, and yes, I am doing well. I find it hard not to grit my teeth when people tell me how lucky I am.
A wonderful story, Monica! Indeed, writing is more a matter of writing and working and perseverance than luck! You need, as usual, also many grams of wisdom. Good luck and can’t wait for more articles and books!
Lovely words, Monica.Congratulations on your ongoing success. I’m so happy to have crossed paths with you early on and been able to watch you succeed!
I’m so happy to see your continued success. Congratulations on the Bon Appetit article, too!
lovely story of persistence and optimism, Monica, both on your part and your father’s. I am walking that same territory of continuing to write what I am called to in challening times — and going out to set another meal for the wolf of abundance now. thanks for the story, and the reminder.
Dear Monica, what an inspiring post! Really loved reading and being inspired by every word you have written! Dads are so wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you so much for this wonderful and enlightening post, Monica. We all need a reminder every now and then. You are always an inspiration!
Also, I love that your father still sends you clippings. My father-in-law has never had a computer or email, and only within the past year got a cell phone. He writes us letters each month. We so look forward to reading them and he often includes little clippings, photos and tidbits. They are priceless. My father, who is a bluegrass musician (and took it up at age 70), still composes each song in pencil by hand. One day, all of those scribbled songs and poems will be in my hands and it will be something I will forever cherish.
Congratulations on the essay in Bon Appetit. And you’re one lucky daughter. 🙂
Change is inevitable and one has to move with the times without losing one’s identiyty. In today’s scenario it is even more difficult to make one’s noise heard, no matter how unique, in all the clamour that’s going on.
I agree, luck does play a part but in the end it is passion in what one does, a belief in oneself, hard work and persistence which pays off.
Its all too easy to give into the negativity, or lose heaart and direction in the process especially when it takes a long time to reach one’s goal, though.
Monica – you made my day. Wow! I’m spending my afternoon preparing to feed the wolf!
What a lovely, poignant, and well-told tale, Monica. We often forget this simple truth, yet everything is colored by our perception…and our response to that. Many thanks for the reminder. Perhaps you could ping me every few minutes during the day to remind me of this…!
I have saved this under my “favorites” and will read it regularly. Thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on seeing your hard work pay off again!
Thank you for the pep talk! As an aspiring food writer myself I needed to hear (read) it. You are an inspiration. Really enjoyed the part about your father and his sending you “care” packages.
Beautifully woven message and it glows with wisdom and truth. My friend Kevin Cotton says, “Don’t go renting out space in your head!” I’m printing this out so I can keep it in folder dedicated to spirit and attitude tune-ups. Another friend who blesses me with fat envelopes of things-I’d-like-to-read writes under the return address: “Your Clipping Service Never Sleeps!”
Many thanks for your kind comment.
Monica, I can relate to every single word of this lovely essay! My dad used to send me newspaper clippings about his latest obsession or mine and it was a special way to connect with him, since he wasn’t always easy to talk to. And I’ve also fallen prey to feeding the wrong wolf, so he still hangs around sometimes hoping I’ll throw him a few crumbs. Too often I do. I love reading your work, my friend.
Monica, What an inspiring essay. I so needed this today–one of those days when yet another rejection by the same editor leaves me feeling defeated and vowing “never again.” Your persistence with Bon Appetite inspires me to keep at it and keep the doors open to editors who are receiving. You are lucky because you are talented, hardworking and determined. It takes courage to keep your head up and pushing forward when times are tough. Congratulations on the well deserved success and here’s to more.
I am really touched and overwhelmed by all the love and support.. here, on FB and by email.
I ask that you please remind me of this essay when I begin to complain about rejections and things being hard. Which I will. I know it. But I will try to follow my own advice (hard as it is to do!)
Thanks so much!!!!!
Inspiring and uplifting, Monica. When I read your posts, I always want to lock myself up in my study and just write!
Your dad’s quiet way of supporting and cheering you is amazing 🙂
I always get discouraged when I am writing in English since it is my second language. Then I have to lift myself up and go on in spite of it.
Great post Monica! I’m sharing it!
What can I say that others haven’t? Lovely story, important message. And a very timely reminder for me.
Thanks for posting!
Many thanks for your advice on this post. It really helped.
What a marvelous read and what a life’s lesson to learn. How often do I get into the pits and whine, but it is really upto us. Your dad, your post and you are inspiring Monica.
Love this post Monica. It’s my first visit to your site. Won’t be my last.
Gorgeous, wise, necessary read. Thank you! And for the record: I couldn’t possibly love the snail-mail factor more!
I, too, see some of my old favorite writing markets going away, but am feeding the better wolf: I’m feeling freer than I ever have to write about what intrigues me or brings me joy. My blog gives me the wonderful opportunity to choose all content and to serve editor, writer, and food stylist. I’ve written many fun stories that I never wrote in the past (like the recent “maple man” story you liked)–simply because I didn’t have a ready market for them. Now I do.
Nicely put. I agree — it’s important to notice that there are indeed two wolves and it’s up to you to choose which one to feed (no matter how much things really do suck.).
Your story of success reminds me of Woody Allen’s quote — “Eighty percent of success is showing up”. Showing up and pushing through — that sometimes does make one pretty lucky. 🙂
Monica, a wonderful reminder. Thank you. Where we put our attention and energy is from where will reap. I have a dear friend who always says, “Remember, there’s no use waiting for your ship to come in if you haven’t sent any out.”
I was lucky enough to stumble on two pieces by you recently, this one included. Thank you for saying what I need to hear so often in this thankless job as a food writer, and for helping me remember that nothing is impossible if you just try.
Very apt. Kudos to you.
Monica, I love your essays – and this one in particular.
Monica, thanks for the wonderful post. This is indeed a question that we are posed with often times in our lives and the result depends so much on the choices we make.
Discovered your blog today! helpful and very good to read through.
You are lucky to have a father who sends packages that inspire you; we are lucky to have you and the gems you create from that inspiration. “Inspiration” is a thriving flowering tree – beautiful petals, lovely fruit! – in your care, my friend. (Thank you.)
I totally agree with you..I like how you said that the Universe was feeding what you were thinking. It is so very true and living with that awareness can make us chart our course better! Love this article! We are manifesting our reality with every thought of ours!
Dear Monica, This is likely an issue many people struggle with on various levels. I certainly have been lately. Thank you for the lovely, uncomplicated analogy. And I love the story of your father’s packets. Thank you so much.
I am so happy that you liked this post. Means a lot to me. THANK YOU all!!
This is so odd. Yours is the third thing I’ve read in three days that has hit me between my eyes or rather a jolted me. I have been stalling since this past fall to put up a blog with my quasi-food photos. I’ve let circumstances beat me to a pulp.
I think I’m back on the way up thank you for your article.
Definitely something I struggle with every day. Your posts like this always come just when I need them the most. Thanks to this post I will pick myself up and start sending out submissions and pitches now at a more rapid pace. I need a kick in the seat regularly and I always find it – and inspiration – here. xo
As you know I have been struggling a lot with health issues regarding my mum n myself. Today I had nearly given up… vowed never to ask again for help because I couldn’t get any. What I got in return was humiliation and great sadness at what the perception of people was when they had been approached for help. And then I came across this beautiful link. It has really given me the strength to pick up myself and again start looking for help. This was the universes way of telling me that I need to go on… Thank you dearest Monica, for this amazing, Inspirational post. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to realise that I am letting the wrong wolf in. And above all thank you for giving me the opportunity to read this amazing essay n get the courage to let the right wolf in. Your writing is an inspiration to me as it is to countless others. xo