Monday, November 19, 2012

Do You Deserve Success?

 "I deserve success as a writer."  Say those words to yourself. Write them down. How does that make you feel? For most writers, you will have negative thoughts popping into your head. "I'm not a very good writer." "I don't work hard enough at my writing." "I may WANT success but I don't DESERVE it."

Let's think about the sentence. What does it mean to deserve something? Perhaps the first thing that you think of is a negative example. If you drive recklessly, you deserve a traffic ticket. If you, as a child, hit your baby sister, you deserved a spanking. A bank robber deserves to go to jail.

Think about examples of deserving positive things. A worker who does the amount of work agreed upon deserves to be paid his wage. A person who does volunteer work at the local food bank deserves thanks. A mother who has tended her children lovingly when they were small and helpless deserves, when she is old and sick, to be tended by her children in turn.

But what about you? You sit down at your keyboard day by day, spending hours every week to create new worlds of fiction. Is the work you do worthless? You may feel that way most of the time. When a writer sends out his very first writing efforts to publishers, the publishers may not believe that particular work is worth rewarding with money. But is it worthless? Or is it more like the effort made in a vocational school class--- it doesn't earn a paycheck, but it leads to earning a paycheck.

No matter how weak your very first writing effort was, as you write, day after day, you will write things that people are willing to read--- that they might PAY to read. If you write a short story worthy of being included in an anthology, and people have to pay money for the anthology, do you deserve the payment you received for the story in the same way as you'd deserve the paycheck you would get if you worked for a week at Walmart? Or is the payment just charity?

I think we would agree that the payment for the short story is like the payment for a week clerking at Walmart. You put in some work, and that work deserves payment. The hard part is that the short story work is work that is uniquely YOU. People tend to have internalized negative thoughts distilled from all the critical thoughts they have heard from others over the years. If, deep inside, you think YOU are not as good as other people, you might feel that while your Walmart work is good enough to actually DESERVE a paycheck, your you-revealing writing is less so.

"I deserve success as a writer." What does 'success' mean to you? Success clerking at Walmart means that you work hard enough, and well enough, that your boss is pleased with you. He will have no problem giving you a raise as time goes on, or keeping you employed during hard times when other workers are getting laid off. You probably have little difficulty believing that you'd deserve that kind of success if you worked hard as a store clerk.

What about success as a writer? The wider world sometimes views success as a writer as being a James Patterson or a Stephen King--- hitting the best-seller lists and becoming wealthy. That's why some people who don't even like to read books sometimes declare that they want to become writers.

But a would-be writer who has done his homework--- who has looked at a few how-to-write books to see how the job of being a writer really works--- knows that expecting the career path of a James Patterson is like spending your last dollar on a lottery ticket expecting that your winnings will enable you to pay the rent and the grocery bill. NOT a wise move.

The vast-riches definition of writing success is taking things too far. Many would-be writers don't take the idea of success far enough. They don't dare anticipate more than a few publications in non-paying markets. Some even become victims of subsidy publishing scams, because in their hearts they believe they OUGHT to expect to have to pay money to get their book published rather than get paid for their book.

I suggest that your first definition of 'success' for your writing be similar to that of success as a store clerk. It's a job. Something you can pay the bills with. Think of a number of writers such as Lawrence Block or Marion Zimmer Bradley who spent many years writing genre novels to pay their bills. In time, their writing skills grew, they got recognition, and they became more than mere entry-level genre writers. Aim for that, not for the moon.

"The laborer is worthy of his hire." Every time you think of the sentence above, also think those words. You are not puffing yourself up, being proud, or asking for more than is fair when you say "I deserve success as a writer." It's just another way of saying "The laborer is worthy of his hire." Keep these thoughts in mind as you write this week. Say them to yourself, or write them down, ten times each, every day. Let them sink in.

Positive thinking:
The laborer is worthy of his hire.
A writer is a laborer.
A writer is worthy of his hire.
A writer deserves his hire.
A writer deserves success.
I am a writer.
I work hard at my writing.
I deserve success as a writer.

This is the first post in a series called 'The Inner Life of a Writer.' It will deal with issues of low self-esteem, self-doubt, self-hatred, negative mental programming, and how to overcome them. Your reactions and comments about this first post in our series are ESSENTIAL. Did you find anything in this article you could relate to? What topics might you want to see covered in this series? Have you ever had trouble believing you deserved to succeed as a writer?

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