Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beachbody on Writing: Succeed

Beachbody motto.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've talked about the first two words in the motto: DECIDE and COMMIT. Today I'm going to talk about the final concept.


What is it?
Success is not a universal definition. It is different things to different people. Back in school days, success was a passing grade for some people and an A+ for others. In professions, the definitions can vary even more widely. What makes a successful lawyer? For some people it's assets: house and car, for others it's prestige: partner in the biggest firm in the region, for others it's big name cases or track record or always having more demand than you can respond to.

What makes a succesful writer? There are so many facets of writing success and I can't think of a single writer who has it all. A writer who is popular with kids and adults, literary readers and commercial readers, has produced dozens of books, gets 6 figure advances, is always requested for school visits, does an interview with a talk show King/Queen twice a year, wins awards, speaks at conferences, entertains, educates, persuades, whose books will be/ are read a hundred years after publication, whose name everyone in the world/Eastern Hemisphere/ Western Hemisphere/the Americas/Europe/and so on knows, whose books are all made into movies etc. Can you think of a writer who has all that?

I can't.

You have to define your own success. What is your ultimate goal? Better yet, make a ranked list. Is the most important thing an award decided by a 10-person committee, or the popular vote decided by sales? Will it mean the world to you to know your book is translated into 17 languages. And more importantly, if these things don't happen, will it imply failure?

It's easy to always be chasing something in the writing world. There's always some milestone you haven'treached. And if you aren't careful, you'll never be satisfied.

You'll never succeed.

It's not an equation
When my brain first started formulating these posts, it zoomed in on DECIDE and COMMIT. The motto was pretty self-explanatory on the SUCCEED part. You decide, you commit, you succeed. But that's only true in the widest of parameters.
You decide to get fitter. You commit to getting fitter. You succeed in getting fitter.


But just because you decide to have a Halle Berry body, and you commit to having a Halle Berry body, it doesn't mean you're going to have a Halle Berry body.
If your decision is that specific, bear in mind that there's going to be a lot of hard work in there. And there may be external factors that make it impossible. If the bones in your calves are bigger than Halle Berry's thighs, no amount of exercise is going to change that.

It's the same with writing. If you decide you're a writer and your sit your butt in your special chair at your special desk and spend an hour every day but Sundays clacking away on your dedicated laptop, it does not necessarily mean you'll see the success you want to. If you decide to write a book and you commit to writing a book, you'll succeed in writing a book. Getting an agent and a publisher is subjective, committing to them as goals holds no guarantees.

It takes time
When you succeed at what you're going for then the formula has worked. You decided and committed, therefore you succeeded. You can't un-succeed from that point. Conversely, if you decide, and you commit, and you don't succeed, the formula hasn't failed you. It just hasn't worked YET.

There are a million and one stories about people who didn't succeed immediately. There are those who submitted for 20 years before they got a bite. Some were picked up on their 16th manuscript. Some manuscripts were rejected 50 times, before landing a deal. The end result in all of these is the same. Success.

I guess the only thing I can say here is that when you're on your 49th rejection, you just ask yourself, is the possibility of success worth this commitment, even in the face of all the failure?

If the answer is yes, you keep going.

You're not guaranteed to get what you want. You're never guaranteed success. If you were, would it even matter? But what you are guaranteed, is that if you stop committing, and give up, then you CAN'T succeed.

1 comment:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Can't succeed if you give up!