Note: This is one of two posts I wrote last month for the Boise Novel Orchard blog. Because I've picked up a few more followers since then (Hi, guys! *waves*), I thought I'd repost them here. Enjoy!
Like a lot of you, when I decided to get serious about writing, I started dreaming. Publication, awards, recognition, success.
But success is a tricky beast, as difficult to catch and hold as vapor. And there are three things about it that I didn’t know.
1.) Success takes time
Writing is such a personal thing. Especially when you’re first starting out, everything you write feels so true and deep and precious. You want to argue when people point out weak points, want to believe that this thing you’ve poured your soul into is wonderful.
But the fact is, writing, like any other art, requires practice. You probably won’t play a concerto in your first month of piano lessons, and most people can’t draw a portrait the first time they pick up a pen. It takes time. In fact, studies show that you have to put 10,000 hours of work into an art or discipline before you achieve mastery.
But patience and time are not the only things that success requires.
2.) Success requires a day-by-day commitment
By time and practice I don’t mean rewriting your first book over and over and over. You have to write something new. New words on a regular basis are the best way of improving as a writer. You can always take what you learn and apply it to your older work.
One thing I learned when I started blogging was the importance of consistency. You can’t build a good blog without posting regularly. Exercise is the same way; a long exercise session once a week is not as effective as smaller ones throughout the week.
Perhaps you work better in long stretches. That’s okay, everyone is different. But whatever you do, keep it consistent.
It’s hard to be persistent though, when you feel you aren’t getting anywhere. And that’s where my biggest lesson came in.
3.) Success is something only you can define
Here’s the thing about success. It’s always the place you want to get to next, always the step right past where you are. The unpublished writer wants to be published. The small-press author wants to be published by a bigger house. The unagented writer wants an agent, the agented writer wants a book deal. Most writers would love to write full-time and still be able to pay bills.
There’s always something more to want.
What does that mean? It means that if you measure your success as a writer by those things, you will always fall short. Goals are good, don’t get me wrong. But you have to be able to appreciate your achievements for what they are without getting discouraged.
This is the most important thing I’ve learned about success. To quote the immortal John Candy in Cool Runnings, “A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you're not enough without it, you'll never be enough with it.”
Have you learned anything lately about writing and success?