Can I ask a question that is partially rhetorical and entirely directed at myself? Is that acceptable? I’m hoping so, because I’m going to anyhow.
If you knew that, after a certain amount of effort, you would be guaranteed a certain amount of success in something, would it make you work harder for it, or at least to give it a higher priority?
For instance, say you want to learn carpentry. If you could be guaranteed (by the gods of hypothetical situations) that, after 500 hours of work you could make a table you’d use for generations, or a china cabinet that you could sell for good money, would it make you want to work harder and faster through those 500 hours?
I think, for me, it would. If I knew what I had to go through before succeeding, if I knew how long the road was, I think it would make me want to walk it faster, even if it were long. If I had to write another dozen novels before one was publishable, I would probably work on them faster and with more spirit. Maybe I just like knowing there is a reward out there (to get my stories out into the world).
To abuse the metaphor some, I think I am more discouraged by not knowing what progress I’m making. I can see where I’ve been, and a little ways ahead, but I don’t know if my destination is over the next hill, or the hill three miles away. Even worse, I don’t know if I will ever get there, if I have what it takes. It’s an incredibly intimidating thought: what if I will never be good enough?
The irony, of course, is that the harder you work, the more likely that you are to succeed. If I worked like my success were guaranteed, that I had to do X before breaking into the publishing world, then I would be more likely to, and morel likely to faster, but the unknown is intimidating (really, I think the unknown is the root of most of our fears). So how do I maintain that drive with no reward in sight (I’m not talking monetary here – I’m talking other people reading and enjoying my stories)?
I think, at this point, what I need more than anything else is to finish a story I want to show to people, to get beta readers for. I’ve had trouble with that; one so-so experience with an alpha reader and one beta read is the grand sum of my experience in having other people read what I write. I have two stories that could serve here, and could even have them done (written for one, edited for the second) by summer. So, that’s the goal, I guess, the concrete step.
The next hill, maybe.