“I allow myself to redefine what success means to me.”
– Stin Hansen, Create!
I’m a fan of daily meditation and affirmations, and this one is a favorite. It encapsulates something I struggle with regularly as a writer. Deciding how I want to define “success” for myself. A lot of people define a successful writer by whether they’re published. On one level, I completely get this. Publishing and the number of books an author has on the shelf (digital or physical) can be a good indicator of success.
However, like everything, this particular measurement has a dark side. Especially when writers judge themselves by whether or not they’ve achieved the Publishing Holy Grail. Finding themselves wanting – and by extension unsuccessful – unless they have their name on the front cover of a book. It irritates me when writing becomes less about putting words on the page, and more about finding that agent, that triple zero advance, that blockbuster movie.
Because a pile of flaming horse shit.
Publishing is not the end-all and be-all of writing. Maybe that comes as a bit of a shock to you, and maybe you disagree with what I’m about to say. I know, in this day and age of InstaPublishing that probably sounds blasphemous. Maybe it is blasphemous, but I’m gonna be honest, publishing just isn’t on my goal list.
My entire reason for creating this website – besides harnessing peer pressure and money invested to encourage more writing – is to discover what, exactly, success means to me.
If publishing is on your To Do list, I tip my imaginary top hat to you, ladies, gentlemen and those who are yet to make up your mind. I mean no disrespect to your goal of publication or your desire to achieve it.
I am with you in spirit, but let me offer a friendly warning before we go further: if you come here telling me about your great new alternative indie e-press, or how to nail that dream agent, I’m going to tell you to fuck off.
Sometimes with nicer words, sometimes not.
Not because I don’t believe in publishing, but simply because I’m not there yet. As of this writing, I have one goal that I’m pursuing. One milestone that’s hanging in front of me like a steady, shinning little carrot.
It’s ruder version of Neil Gaiman’s third rule of writing.
“Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.”
– Neil Gaiman
There’s not many writing rules that I care to follow – as you’ll see when more stories are posted – but I like Neil’s rules. They make sense to me, and I trust him as both as creator and a person, not to steer me wrong. It doesn’t hurt, that I think he’s one of the spiffiest British transplants we have living upon American soil.
No, really. He makes our country about ten times better, just by living here, even part-time. He’s that good.
Back on point.
That’s what I’m trying to do here, finish things. Putting one word in front of the other (Rule Two), until it’s done. I don’t want to be that writer friend – and every writer has one, or several – who’s been slogging over the same tired novel idea for a decade. Never completing anything in the meantime, because it might take away from their Magnus Opus.
I’m not looking to write the next Great American Novel.
Most of those are boring anyway. I do want to write damn good stories. I want them to be entertaining, and I want my characters come alive on the page and in reader’s imaginations. I want to provoke emotions, whether it’s rage, delight, horror, lust, joy or despair.
With this website I’d also like to build a community over time, connecting with people through my words. People that I can share my work with and learn from, whether it ends up published or not. But I’ll never get there if I don’t finish shit first.
Which brings us back to square one: finish what I’m writing. Not “get published”, “get an agent”, “make a million” or “make a movie”. Those things can come in time, if it’s where my choices and hard work lead me. But right now, I want to get to that milestone. The one that starts with “The End”.
Case in Point, Postscript: I have tried to write this entry an estimated six times. That count does not include revisions. You can see why I need Rule Three, yes?