There’s been a lot of talk around the kidlitosphere lately about keeping your dream alive when all around you, as in this business of writing, seems to be working against you.
Some people are afraid to post their success stories because they don’t want to make other people feel bad. (Which brings to mind that great Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”)
Some people are afraid to whine about anything, especially after having sold a book or two or more because they are afraid that people won’t think they are grateful for the success they have already achieved. (I would probably put myself in the second category.)
Some writers attribute their success to everything from having a cat sleep on a manuscript, always mailing manuscripts from the same post office and kissing the envelope before you drop it in the big blue box. Sometimes it is the act of getting an agent, finding the right agent, attending the right conference, having a great critique group, not listening to their critique group, writing every day, writing in many genres, writing only one thing, writing teachers and classes and degrees designed solely around writing for children, supportive spouses, understanding children and pets who love us even after we’ve been rejected.
Some days for some writers, being a success means getting a contract, finally seeing a book on the shelves in the bookstores with their name on it. Other days, for the same writer, it might mean being able to write ten pages on a new novel that isn’t even under contract. (Hmm. I’m in the second category here as well. I’m beginning to sense a trend.)
And for all the many ways of achieving success there is a different definition of success for that writer at that particular time in their writing life.
But being a success is evolutionary process, not a final destination. It is good to remember this. Not easy, but good.
And it is a uniquely individual process. Success for a young writer, say in their 20s or 30s might be different for a writer in their 50s or 60s. I am a different writer now than I was in my 20s. And my version or perhaps vision of success has changed over the years. In some ways I am more realistic, which is actually rather sad because I thought I looked good with those stars in my eyes and the rose-colored glasses. In other ways I still remain a Pollyanna, true to the idea that a good story will find a home, that hard work will be rewarded, and that while nice folks might not always finish first, they will always finish.
So I challenge you to think about what success means to you. Spend a little time today to actually write it out, the whole vision of what being a success would mean to you. How do you define it? How would you recognize it? What does it mean, to you, to be a success? Not in how you measure up to anyone else in or out of the business. It doesn’t matter if your younger sister/older brother/best friend is suddenly the most powerful person ever at her ad agency and they wonder why you persist in playing around with this writing thing. It doesn’t matter if your mother/father/next door neighbor has bought and sold more companies than you can remember and has their picture on the cover of some fancy business magazine. It doesn’t matter.
I’ll say it again, slowly so you can hear me.
What does matter is that you have a dream. You have a dream and you are doing something, anything in any way that you can to pursue. If you get up in the morning and you remember your dream of being a writer and at the end of the day you’ve done just one thing in pursuit of that dream, well that qualifies as success to me.
No, it doesn’t replace seeing your book on the shelves at a bookstore. It doesn’t change the fact that it was great aunt Martha who called to tell you about her bunions instead of your agent calling to tell you your book has just sold. It doesn’t make it any easier to give your kid money for the book fair knowing your book isn’t going to be there, may never be there.
But it’s a start. A word after a word after a word is tremendous power.
And you can’t sell what you never write.