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What does literary success look like to you?
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What an excellent question! This affords me the opportunity to impart some sage advice to my colleagues in the writing field: figure out what success looks like to you as a writer, be specific, and hold onto that image—cultivate it.
If you don’t know your goals, exactly how will you achieve them?
In business, managers set the goals and missions of their organization. Authors can and must do the same, because they’re a business. A lot of us get bogged down in a television/movie idea of writing, or we develop a sense of authorhood from the reader end, and have only a vague idea of what goes into being one. 90% of the fight is learning your craft, but the most important parts to your success, to achieving the Arc De Triomphe, is in the 10% business end.
The best course of action to take is to write your mission and overarching goal. Then, look at that statement and see what the smaller pieces of that puzzle are. Start fleshing out your plan, so you can tick the boxes as you go. Hang onto the write up because you’ll refer back to it with each project. Tweak and modify the plan as needed, but be very clear with yourself what each step is and what completion of those steps looks like to you.
Why is that necessary? Because, like me, you might miss your success. Yes, that can happen. When you plan too far up in the clouds, and have too clear a picture of what that will look like but no in-between check points to usher you forward toward it, you’ll have no idea where you are in the wood, and where you are actually headed.
I’ve published four novels, two of my series, with the final on the way to make a total of five. I published a couple travel articles very early on, just after achieving my Bachelor’s degree. Just before signing with a publishing company, I completed my Master’s program. I’ve extended my network through it all, and gained many readers in the process of getting out there. I’ve expanded my knowledge on marketing and outreach, as well as business management, and continue to do so. Until recently, success wasn’t what I would call all of that. I would have called it busy work done in the meantime. One day, however, I woke up to the reality that I was quite successful, just not at the end goal of my business plan.
You see, success manifests in several forms throughout one’s career or lifetime. It’s not going to be an immediate jump (or moderate amount of time from point a to point b) with no muss or fuss between the start and goal posts. But, absolutely, know what your Arc De Triomphe looks like. When you create a vision, you’ll be able to plan all the steps along the way to get there much more easily.
For instance, my goal is to have a substantial readership of a few million, and to write quality films, either adaptations of my own work or those of others, that will become classics. In order to achieve that, I needed to go to school to learn about literature and writing, and hone my craft. I chose to focus on English and History. Once I graduated, I sought an agent and began to teach myself screenwriting. The agent I obtained did not succeed in getting my work placed, despite interest from Penguin Books and others due to bad timing, so I altered that goal to finding an editor and publishing on my own, which I succeeded in. Shortly thereafter, I wanted to make my film studies official and went back to school. There were many years of wandering between the dates of the degrees, due to the lack of understanding on goal setting, vision planning, and accomplishing the mission.
Don’t be afraid to modify your plans to suit new learning. When we initially set goals, we may not have all the information, but be sure you have as much as you can, because you want to plan smartly. This will reduce the time it takes to achieve your goal, because you won’t be out there searching and struggling. Sometimes you can’t help it, either, because the information isn’t always available to you. When I started out, the internet was still quite young, and the information and networking available was not as easy to access.
Success, for me so far, has been checking off the boxes between here and there. It feels so good to keep moving forward. At times, it feels like I’m still spinning my wheels, but knowing more clearly what I want out of this has helped to focus me, and make me aware of the positive momentum.
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