Your Grade at the End of the Day

We’ve all had those days when no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to get anything done. If you had to grade your success that day, what would you think? What would be your grade at the end of the day?

Cartoon of a man showing thumbs down--one way you might grade yourself at the end of the day

Never Enough

 Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

-Henry Ford

Some days, particularly during the pandemic, you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done. You’re exhausted and frustrated and defeated. It’s too much. If you had to grade your performance, your grade at the end of the day would be a failing one.

Sound familiar? Step back a moment. Let’s rethink that.

Perfect or Victim

Perhaps you’ve fallen victim to the perfect trap. Having high standards, lofty goals, and always wanting to do your best are splendid things. They can help you become and do the best you can. But perfectionism is a two-edge sword: a desire to do well and fear of the consequences of not doing well.

According to Psychology Today, critical perfectionism manifests itself as inwardly focused perfectionists and outwardly focused perfectionists. Inwardly focused perfectionist beat themselves up for every mistake or failure. Outwardly focused perfectionists bully or berate those around them for their mistakes or failures. The emotional fallout of both creates anger, depression, and victimizing.

Improve Your Grade

Despite what appears to be perfect lives on the screen, perfect is unattainable. So quit setting yourself (and others) up for failure.

Stop comparing yourself. Remember, you don’t see what goes on behind the photo on the screen. Although there are things you may have in common, no one else has your life. Not even your spouse or children.

Stop Bullying

The negative self-critical form of perfectionism hurts you. It allows you to self-bully. to beat up yourself for what you didn’t do. The negative outward perfectionism hurts you and others. You beat up on everyone because they can’t measure up. You live in disappointment and anger. Stop the bullying, self or others.

At the end of the day, list what you did. All the things you did. Compliment yourself on the things you accomplished—no matter how small.

Stop Self-sabotage 

Stop being unrealistic on what you can achieve. Give yourself permission to be realistic. 

Make a list of all the things that need you want to accomplish. But don’t try to get all of them done in one day. Decide which ones you will realistically have time to do.

Identify Success

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

Change your focus. What is really important to you? Is it money? Your to-do lists? Or your relationship? Grade yourself on those things.

What two or three things accomplishedwould be success at the end of your day? Celebrate those successes! Yes, even celebrate that you got up and got through the day.

Embrace Failure

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

-Michael Jordan

Sometimes you’ll fail. It might be out of your control: you’re not feeling well, your child/spouse/parent is ill, or a pandemic comes along and changes your life. Be patient with yourself and others. Some skills, some tasks take time. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes. You’ll fail. And like Michael Jordan, that’s why you’ll succeed. 

Be Kind to Yourself

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

-Alice Walker

Most especially, be kind to yourself and those around you. You have the power to see yourself as successful, no matter how many failures or mistakes you make.

drawing of a paper and pen, paper has an A+ grade

So make your grade at the end of the day the one you deserve. Give yourself an A for all you do.

Are You Aiming for Their Writing Success?

These five women authors are the top five of the Best Female Novelists of All Time (adapted from Ranker)  On your road to success, you may wish to follow the path of someone who has been there. In this series of blog posts, we’ll briefly review the writing lives of these authors. When you are aiming for writing success, understanding what others’ success looked like helps. 

Virginia Woolf

1882-1941

British author, Virginia Woolf, produced at least ten novels, many short stories, plays, essays, and reviews. Virginia started writing in 1900 at eight years old. Her first published piece appeared in 1915. This home schooled author wrote about artistic theory, literary history, women’s writing, and the politics of power. Her novels fall into the women’s literary fiction category. 

Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.

Virginia Woolf

While working on her first novel, she asked friends and relatives for advice. Thereafter, she allowed no one to see her manuscripts. 

Image of the book Virginia Woolf, a writer's diary Details of her writing success and habits.

She wrote standing for a while because, like a painter, she wanted to step back from her canvas to get a better view. And she experimented with different pens, hoping to find the perfect one.  

Woolf put the price of writing at an annual £500 (about $41,000 today) and “a lock on the door.” She experienced writing success in her lifetime. She sold her work and made some money. But she was less successful than her friend Vita Sackville-West. Woolf was anxious and sensitive about reviews. Finishing a book usually left her depressed.

She suffered from depression and possibly bipolar disorder. Woolf committed suicide at 59. You can find a bibliography here.

Agatha Christie, DBE

1890-1976

English novelist, Agatha Christie created the world famous detective, Hercule Poirot, inspired by the Belgium refugees around her during World War I. She wrote over 60 Poirot novels plus the Miss Marple detective series and other books. Find her detective and thriller stories listed here.

At eleven, she fell ill with influenza. Her mother recommended she write stories to entertain herself. She published her first poem that year. And that launched her career. 

She usually had dozens of notebooks in which she jotted random notes. Plot ideas, poisons, and snippets of characters gathered in her notebooks. She spent most of her time plotting out the story. Then she wrote. She wrote by hand first and had someone type the manuscript. Later, she used a dictaphone. Her grandson said in the 1950s she’d write one or two chapters a day. She would take two or three months to write. Followed by a month to revise. Once it she sent it to her editor, she’d read a chapter or two to the family after dinner. At the height of her writing success in the 1950s, Christie churned out 2-3 novels per year. She slowed down later in life. 

Image of the book, Agatha Christie's Complete Secret Notebooks transcribed by her grandson they detail her writing success

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.

Agatha Christie

The best-selling female author of all time died of natural causes at 86.

Jane Austen

1775-1817

Austin published her six novels anonymously. We will never know the true reason she published her books by The Lady. Two facts may have influenced that decision. At the time, British society believed it unbecoming for a woman to have a career. And her father was in the clergy. 

At 8, they sent her to boarding school for her “formal education.” When she returned home, she made use of her father’s extensive library. She also began writing “First Impressions” which became Pride and Prejudice. She completed the first draft in 1799. 

Austin’s father attempted to get that first manuscript published. The editor didn’t even bother to open the package.

Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.

Jane Austen

Her books are famous for her realistic characters and relationships. They’re about love. She set the stage for literary realism. Her writing style vastly differed from that of her peers. It was groundbreaking.

She died of an unknown illness (possibly Addison’s Disease) at 42. Her brother and sister published her completed works. And her brother “unveiled” her with his loving tribute, “Memoir of Miss Austen.”

She became an authoress entirely from taste and inclination. Neither the hope of fame nor profit mixed with her early motives.

Henry Austen

He said that she was surprised that her books made any money at all.

Her books were “discovered” in the 1940s because literary scholars and feminist critics brought her achievements to light. Read more about Jane Austen. https://www.janeausten.org/

George Eliot AKA Mary Ann Evans

1819-1880

George Eliot wrote novels, poems, essays, reviews, and translations. She published her first piece of fiction when she was thirty-seven.

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

George Eliot

Following the death of her father in 1851, Eliot used her inheritance to live independently from her family. She moved to London and pursued a career in journalism. In the 19th century, her life as a single working woman was unusual. 

In 1854 she accompanied her lover, George Henry Lewes, on his travels while researching his biography of Goethe. Lewes encouraged her to try writing fiction. 

She published her first three short stories in 1857. Her first full-length novel, Adam Bede (1859), instantly became a best-seller. Later that year, the public learned her identity. That knowledge did not affect her writing success. Her bibliography is here.

She proposed using a pseudonym to her publisher. It served two purposes. It concealed her gender, disguised her irregular social position (living with a married man), and distanced herself from “silly novels by lady novelists.”

George Eliot caught a throat infection in December 1880. The illness triggered her existing kidney disease and caused her death.

Mary Shelley

1797-1816

The fifth Best Female Novelists of All Time, Mary Shelley, was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer. She published her first poem in 1801.

As a child, I scribbled; and my favourite pastime, during the hours given me for recreation, was to ‘write stories.’

Mary Shelley

Homeschooled, her only formal schooling was six months at Miss Pettman’s Ladies’ School in Ramsgate. Because of her father’s employment, she had access to an estate’s extensive library. She made use of it.

She began an affair with her father’s married acquaintance, Percy Bysshe Shelley, when she was seventeen. Her father tried to break it off, but the two met in secret. They

Shelley was eighteen years old when she wrote Frankenstein. It took two years of painstaking wordsmithing before she finished the novel. She published it the following year. The public shocked by the “atrocious” story was further shocked that such a story was written by a woman. 

She revised and republished it twice. The original with notations from her and Percy is at the Smithsonian Institute. The British publisher SP Books  published a facsimile of that manuscript last year. A limited edition, it honored the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein’s publication.

Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.

Mary Shelley

The archives are full of her attempts to get published. Editors rejected her over and over because of her gender. Some surmise there were rejections because of her relationship with Percy. Some people felt she distracted him from his literary endeavors, others disapproved of their unmarried relationship. Even after Percy’s wife died and she and he married, they faced societal and family disapproval.

Still, Shelley wrote seven novels and many short stories. Her bibliography is here.


1775-1976. Five independent women over a 200 year span of time. They empowered themselves and were authors despite the social expectations around them. Did any of these women inspire you? Are you aiming for their writing success? Or is your idea of success something different?

Nonviolent, She Made a Difference

Dorothy Cotton (January 5, 1930–June 10, 2018) was born at the beginning of the depression. No one could have predicted the woman she became. Nonviolent, she made a difference in the U.S. civil rights movement and in the world.

Photo of Dorothy Cotton, nonviolent, she made a difference in the Civil Rights Movement
Thanks to the the Dorothy Cotton Institute for the image.

Early Life

Dorothy Lee Forman knew at an early age that she didn’t belong. She was an alien in time and place, destined to leave her hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina. She speaks of the fighting and horrible things that happened in her neighborhood. But is unable to articulate exactly why she felt alien. Her mother died when she was three years old. 

Her father did the best he could to raise his three girls, but she remembers him as a harsh disciplinarian. She also remembers a pivotal event in her childhood. She was about ten years old when a white boy rode his bicycle down her unpaved street, kicking up dust and singing (to the tune of Deep in the Heart of Texas) “deep down in the heart of niggertown.” It made her angry, an anger she felt long into adulthood. She says it gave her “a consciousness about the wrongness of the system.”

A Mentor

Her next pivotal encounter was her high school English teacher. Ms Rosa Gray became a surrogate mother whom Dorothy never wanted to disappoint. Ms Gray helped Dorothy get into Shaw University. She also got Dorothy two jobs, one cleaning the teachers’ dormitory. A teacher in the dormitory, Dr. Daniel, became President of Virginia State University. He took Dorothy along as his housekeeper. She continued her schooling at VSU.

While attending VSU, Dorothy met George Cotton. They married after her graduation. 

An Introduction to the Civil Rights Movement

It was while she was in college, Dorothy first attended a local church. Wyatt T. Walker, the regional head for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led that church. Not long after that, Walker asked her to help organize and train children to picket and march for the movement. She says she didn’t really know how to teach it but she knew how to be peaceful.  

Through Walker, she met Martin Luther King Jr. When King asked Walker to move to Atlanta to help form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Walker brought two of his trusted assistants along. One of those was Dorothy.

Her Life’s Work

MLK Jr asked her to help a troubled school, Highlander Folk School. And there she met Septima Clark. Together they created the Citizenship Education Program. That became a large part of her life’s work.

The CEP focused on training disenfranchised people the importance of civic and political participation. They taught and organized methods for voter registration in southern states where requirements purposefully excluded the illiterate and undereducated. They also taught how to take part in nonviolent protest. “This program was one of the most effective but least well-known components of the movement.” 

She continued at the SCLC for three years after Dr. King’s assassination. After that, she became the Southern Regional Director for ACTION, the federal agency for volunteer programs and worked under the Carter administration. She was Vice-President for Field Operations at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Change, then she was Director of Student Activities at Cornell University. and later she founded her own consulting company. She traveled and taught based on her philosophy and practices of “nonviolence, reconciliation and restoration, and grassroots leadership development.” 

Ms Cotton received the National Freedom Award from the Nation Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in July 2010. 

She wrote a book, If Your Back’s not Bent, published in 2012. 

Ms. Cotton died on June 10, 2018 in Ithaca, NY.

Learn More

 Learn more about Dorothy at the Dorothy Cotton Institute. Her oral history is available online at the Library of Congress.

She Made a Difference

An influential figure in the Civil Rights movement, Ms Dorothy Cotton remains relatively unknown. One of the unsung heroes, a role model, and a leader, she persisted. In her book she quotes the Negro National Anthem, saying she has come “over a way that with blood and with tears has been watered.” She may have walked the bloody road. She may have shed tears. But non-violent, she made a difference.