The Rocky Road to Success

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.

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