This is a rant that I’ve had bubbling under the surface for a while. Sorry.
I can’t possibly count how many conversations I’ve had with other writers, let alone creative people in general, about their struggles to succeed, whether that means getting published, getting through writer’s block, whatever.
Most people want one of two things when they describe their struggles to succeed.
1: a shoulder to cry on. In other words, they do not want actionable help or advice. Even if it’s from someone who is further along than them and who has achieved specifically what they are trying to do.
2: a magic potion. Magic bullet. One weird trick. There are plenty of names for it. A way to get through the problem fast with minimal effort.
Here’s a crazy trick.
The guy who came up with this one is Shane Hall. Lazy writers HATE him.
This hot, new strategy is available for $297 usually, but I’ll give you a special 100% discount.
Are you ready?
Have you tried SOMETHING?
Have you tried literally anything?
Or are you too comfortable being in a state of “overwhelm” or “too busy” or “stuck on what to do” or “shiny object syndrome”.
After all, once you’re making progress, you can’t whine to people about not making progress, now can you?
This is real advice, though. It’s not a joke. For most people, I even think it’s the advice they need above all else.
Most people do not try something. They throw up resistance to the idea, such as:
“I need to find the perfect tactic for me.”
“I’ve tried so much already (of course, once you dig into that for an explanation, it turns out they have a very liberal interpretation of ‘try’)”
“A friend I know tried that and he couldn’t make it work.”
You see, to me, try has a special meaning. Try means that, if you didn’t succeed, you literally have no other option but to lay back and say “Well, I tried.”
Sending your query letter to ten agents is not trying.
Talking about the painting you want to make, that you have some perfect image of in your head, is not trying.
Swearing to find “one whole hour” a week to dedicate to writing is not trying.
Buying author marketing tools or advice and not actually using it to the fullest extent is not trying.
That is called dabbling.
Trying and dabbling are different things. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling, of course, but you can’t dabble in something and expect to meet some upper-level goal in the process.
So, because I dislike ranting without anything constructive, here are my tips for breaking out of the dabbling world and into the trying world.
Dabbling In the Tidal Waves
If it sounds like this article is aimed at you, it probably is. But don’t worry. I have no problem with you. We’re good.
But I do worry about you. Chances are, you are taking on too much at once.
You see, I once knew this girl who wanted to make her own video game. But not just any video game. An MMO.
I don’t know how much you know about MMOs, but World of Warcraft is the top dog. Every MMO is an enormous project run by thousands if not tens of thousands of people, regularly employed and working to keep the game high-quality and keep the worldwide user-base engaged and coming back for more.
You cannot make an MMO by yourself. You can’t. It’s impossible.
Now, you could in theory build a team and gather funding to run a smaller-scale launch. But this is a person who dreamed of getting an MMO off the ground entirely on her own.
It may be fun to dream, but that alone is not going to curb unrealistic expectations. If you’re taking on a task that is too difficult, not feasible for you, it’s time to reassess how you can make it happen or drop it for something less extreme.
As an author, I would love to make a million dollars a year on book sales. That may be possible, but it’ll take work, and I won’t make it without connections and resources on my side. Lots of them.
When people have a big, intimidating tidal wave of a dream to take on, they dabble. And dabbling might protect you from facing the reality of what you want in life, but it definitely won’t get you anything close to that goal.
Stop Demanding Immediate Perfection in Everything You Do
We human beings are amazing. We get so hung up on the idea of wasting time that we waste time worrying about wasting time.
I can’t fathom how much I held off taking my author marketing seriously, just because “I don’t have a really confident strategy yet.” What was I doing? Just start!
Whatever you start, it’s going to be bad. Facebook ads? The first few are going to bomb. Querying agents? Expect a long radio silence.
There, I spoiled the grand mystery for you. Now there’s no need to feel tense about it. Will it go well if you just start, or won’t it? The answer is it won’t, but then you’ll learn things and you KEEP GOING.
Don’t Worry About Success
Most people who have trouble achieving their goals are afraid of failing. I think that’s pretty universal. However, it’s hard to realize that sometimes what really stops us is a fear of success.
Success, getting the things you wanted, might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Just think about movies based on major real-life musicians or artists. Success, according to what we’ve been told, can just as easily break us as it can make us.
And that’s true, success doesn’t always feel the way you expect. I had success at playing the piano, but hated performing and being expected to perform. Succeeding at that didn’t make me happy.
Plenty of people hit it big in some part of the media or business world, and suddenly people treat them differently and expose themselves as shallow and materialistic. I’m sure that’s not a fun experience.
Then there’s the fact that successful people are busy. They have shit going on. They don’t drift through life. You might think you can handle living that way only to find out that it doesn’t appeal to you.
My point is, don’t worry about either failure or success.
Let’s say I’m a gold prospector, digging for gold in them there hills. It looks like there’s a vein of gold up at the top of a cliff. Climbing up will be hard, dangerous. I could fall and die. But what feels just as bad, oddly enough, is the thought of climbing all the way up only to be wrong, that there was no gold up there.
Why are these two opposite things, failing at something hard and succeeding but not getting fulfillment out of it, both distressing to people? Whatever the reason, fear of success can hold you in place without you realizing it.
Think about the fear of success logically. Really put it under a microscope. It falls apart instantly.
So what if I climb the cliff and there’s no gold? Now I know I can climb a dangerous cliff like that. Maybe I’ll see other prospects from the top of the cliff.
If you want to think about maybes and do a little future projection, no problem. But there are two rules:
1: Make it about success, not failure.
2: Make it about why success is going to be great, and all the reasons.
It’s hard to be vaguely afraid of something while also remembering four or five good things you could get from doing it. Logic CAN overcome fear. That’s what mindfulness is all about.
Okay, I hope that helps you if you’re stuck not doing what you need to be doing.
1: Try something.
2: Work with your dreams and make sure they aren’t large enough to paralyze you.
3: Stop demanding perfection in everything you do.
4: Look forward to the detailed benefits of your ideal success.
That’s it. Thanks for listening to my rant. Now go do something. 🙂