Success in the Midst of Darkness By Sarojni Mehta-Lissak

Success, for a writer, can be measured by a leap into the spotlight with a high-end book deal, or by steady publication over a long period of time. My own path has been the latter.

In 2003, after teaching English as a Second Language at a community college for 17 years, I left my profession due to a host of mysterious health problems. In between doctors’ visits to get a proper diagnosis, I spent most of my time on the couch with debilitating fatigue and cognitive difficulties that caused me stutter, slur my speech, and struggle with numbers and words. But ideas kept bubbling up and flowing out of me like lava from a volcano. The urge to write was overwhelming.

I decided to give over to this unsolicited newcomer and every day I began pouring words onto the page. First I wrote poetry, then short stories. Then I moved onto flash fiction, essays, and articles. Next, I started submitting all of it with a strategic plan in place. Each week I created goals and referred to them as guideposts along my ever-evolving path. These goals got me off the couch and writing, and in the summer of 2004, I had an essay accepted by Midwifery Today. In this piece I documented my challenges as an adoptive mother determined to bond with a nine-month old baby from India. Having this essay published prompted me to keep going.

In the midst of brain fog and muscle aches, I took online classes, read books about freelance writing, and learned how to succinctly query editors as ideas flowed forth. In time, more of my work was published and the paychecks eventually followed. This acknowledgment boosted my eclipsed self-worth, which had slipped away due to prolonged illness and the shock of losing my life purpose and previous identity.

Finally, in February 2007, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Immune System Dysfunction, also known as CFIDS. The journey back to health has been slow but steady, not unlike my journey with writing. What I have learned from this experience is that passion can bring back the spark of life, and it is from this burning flame that success–even in small steps–can truly be measured.

Sarojni Mehta-Lissak is a freelance writer based in Long Beach, California. Her work has appeared in Midwifery Today, Back Home, GRIT, Mothering, India Currents, Energy Times, Vision, The Polishing Stone, Coastal Scene and other publications. Visit her at: