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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3 Responses to The Rocky Road to Success

  1. Raquelin says:

    Hi, I'm stalking you now. To some degree.Set mini-destinations! That you control! Like successfully writing a beginning-to-ending, or pulling off some technique that you've been drooling over (some really sweet foreshadowing or irony, let's say, or a major plot twist). I'd like to think that the ultimate destination of having a product worth sending out into the world and ideally earning you money is just the sum total of mastering all of those mini-destinations.

  2. cosmam says:

    Does stalking have degrees? Is this first degree stalking, or fourth degree laissez-faire stalking?Also, that's what I think I am about to do, which helps show progress and keep my nose to the grindstone, but doesn't address the bigger picture. Maybe I just shouldn't worry about that?

  3. Raquelin says:

    Third and a half degree, maybe? I think it's a good idea to have some idea of the bigger picture, but to tackle it in small bursts. At some point, once you've climbed several foothills and you've looked up occasionally to make sure you're on the right track, the real mountains are suddenly looming before you, and you're better equipped for them. /metaphor'd

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