The answer to the question posed above depends, of course, on how you view success, so, shall we think about that for a moment? I’m a professional writer (meaning I work at this job full-time and more), so, what spells success for me? All would probably say getting my work published, and I would say it too, though today there is kind of a wavy line around that definition of success. Why? Because it is incredibly easy for writers to self-publish in many forms today. So, does having a 99 cent e-book you self-published give you a feeling of success? Yes? No?
See what I mean about how we view success for ourselves? And, by extension, how we view success for others–in other words, do we aspire to what they have achieved? Are we, perhaps, jealous of their “success?” This type of evaluation applies in any any aspect of life and to any profession. (In other words: not only “Does that author sell more books and get more awards than I do?” but, “Does the guy with the hot dog wagon in the next block sell more dogs than I do and, if so, why?” OR, “Are that broker’s clients gaining more than mine?”)
One of the things I stress when speaking about or teaching aspects of the writing profession is that a most important first step is knowing ourselves, how we view success, and how diligently we are willing to work for it. How do we picture ourselves as authors? If your creative self simply wants to get words out of your head and on paper or a computer screen, then your definition of success is easy. Finish a poem, an essay, an article, or a book to your satisfaction, and you have succeeded!
But then–who’s going to read your beautiful words? I don’t think any writer can help going one step further by yearning for readers. If you enter the path toward acquiring multiple readers, are you first willing to have a competent editor read your work and make suggestions for improvements and corrections? (Does this horrify you? “It’s perfect NOW?” Ooops!)
Are you familiar with all the possible avenues to publishing–from Random House to an Internet-attached computer in Granny’s second bedroom? Do you understand the probabilities, complications, and necessary steps to achieve any type of publication? Yes, it can be a long learning curve, just as learning any profession demands. Are you ready for that?
Many writers are still startled today when they learn–whether they aspire to Random House or GrannyPubCo, or something in between–that much of the promotion work for their product (the written piece) is going to be in their job description, and much of that will be on the Internet. (Ugh, records to keep, media contacts to be made, Internet intricacies to understand, and on and on.) How to start? Are you ready for this?
Do you like people? Are you comfortable reaching out, helping others, commenting (positively) on their work, going to events where people in your profession gather, listening, asking questions? Months and years of such up front activity reaps huge benefits. Life itself gives us the opportunities in many cases. Can you look back and see how your own activities in the past can work for you today? Do you see how moving among the human throng over past years can now be seen as steps toward success in your profession? From today forward we must begin (or continue) noticing others, their successes and problems. We will reach out, touch them in some way. That’s a huge step toward success, I believe. What do you think?
More on SUCCESS next week. See you back here then. Radine