Friday, 5 March 2010

The Secret to Writing Success

Earlier this week, when I was taking a break from editing my speculative fiction novel, I flicked through the channels and came across an episode of Criss Angel Mindfreak. The show was almost at an end, so I didn’t to see many of his stunts and street magic tricks. What did interest me, though, was a comment he made just before he hopped into his fancy sports car and the credits rolled in. He said something along the lines of there being three factors to obtaining the type of success he has:

  1. You must have a dream
  2. You must have passion
  3. You must work hard

As I went back to my study, I keep thinking about how true his words were. Suddenly I remembered an article I’d read in Writer’s Digest many years ago. I don’t recall the name of the writer being interviewed (and if anyone can help me with this, I’d appreciate it), but one piece of advice she gave has stuck with me and is one I use in my classes. The interviewer said there are three elements to being a successful writer. The first is Talent. (Notice Criss Angel doesn’t mention this.) The second is Luck. (Again, not mentioned.) The third is Perseverance. As she pointed out, whatever talent we have we were born with and so is not something we can do anything about. We also can’t, by definition, do anything about luck. The only thing we have control over is our level of perseverance, how much we persist in our writing and everything associated with our writing. This means, as far as I can see, applying ourselves to learning the craft of writing, which allows us to use whatever talent we may have. It also means doing those things that belong to that stage of The Writing Cycle I call Business. The more we get our work out there and promote ourselves (‘Wiggle our bums’, as a friend of mine says), the more we may be able to make our own luck. So, of the three elements, the only one that matters is the third one, Perseverance. Yet, by persevering, the other two elements come into play and we’re likely to succeed in finding the audience we deserve.

How does this fit in with Criss Angel’s list? Obviously, for writers the dream is already there: to be a successful writer, whatever that means to each of us. His other two factors, Passion and Hard Work, are related, for we are unlikely to put hard work into something for which we don’t have a passion. Also, these two factors are related to that interviewee’s third element: Perseverance. Hard work is just another name for perseverance. We keep learning the craft, we keep writing, we keep submitting because we have a passion for what we do and, in a strange way, the hard work, the persistence at our passion, at our dream, doesn’t actually feel like hard work. Well, not often.

Thomas Mann once said that a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. And Juliet Marillier echoes what most writers feel when she says, ‘I write because I can’t not write’. These two writers are indicating that writing is difficult and yet, for a true writer, is unavoidable. And what Criss Angel and my unidentified interviewee suggest is that to be a success at the writing dream requires us to work hard and to keep working hard till that success, however it is measured, comes.

Enjoy your writing.