The Real Story Behind Any Overnight Success

If you’ve turned on the television, even by accident, in the last ten years you’ve seen The Voice, (Insert Country)’s Got Talent, American Idol, etc.

There are many reason people watch these shows. One reason is the rags to riches tale that encompasses the life of the winner. They were John Doe and now they are Sebastian Cool with a record deal and a million bucks.

They cue the music, show a misty eyed youth, tell about how ____ happened to them or their family and now they have just scored a record deal.

It’s a great story but only half of it.

My Poetic Tragedy

We get to see the story unfold in a matter of months or a thirty second backstory clip. What we don’t get to see is the back stage.

The back stage often goes forgotten. To the audience it appears as if they got up off the couch, decided singing would be fun, then won a Grammy.

I get it. The backstage has no pizzazz. It’s unflavored yogurt, not Greek, key lime awesomeness.

But because of these quick overnight success stories, we forget about the toil. The hours, days, and years singing/writing/painting alone.

No one shows us the gig attended by seven fans, the book signing with one person who asks us for a pen. But, these too are the stories that happen.

Stephen King threw his book Carrie in the trash. It went on to become an international best seller.

Van Gogh created over 900 paintings and over 1100 sketches but sold ONE in his lifetime. He is one of the most recognized artists in the world today.

Be consistent. Go for resilience. Build rhythmic practice in the shadows so when the light shines you can look like a pro.

Because at that point, you are.

Just remember the back stage, where you came from.

To Be A Writer You Must Suspend Disbelief

As writers we are bombarded with questions and self doubt.

What was the reason I decided to do this in the first place? Why do I keep going? Am I good enough? Who would read this anyway? I could never afford to write full time, right? A writer’s day is filled with these questions and more as we continue to write. It can be difficult to drown out this noise as we forge ahead.

Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about how silly that process is? One of believing without seeing? Of doing when the odds are stacked incredibly against us?

Photo Credit: faungg's photos via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: faungg’s photos via Compfight cc

This is the process of suspending disbelief. I heard a great podcast from Michael Hyatt about it the other day. It’s the process of marching forward even though we know in the back of our minds what we desire is near impossible.

He shares a conversation he had with his doctor. He just returned from a sabbatical and she replied that it would be wonderful to do that some day. He challenged to think not about how it is impossible, but what would have to be true in her life to make that very thing happen.

Does this also apply to you in your budding writing career? What would have to be true for you to be a full time writer? Pay off student loans? A house with more space? A job with more flexibility? My guess is that with a little hard work, you can get there.

Don’t believe me? How much could you make if you took a few more shifts at work and then cancel your cable to pay down that debt? What if you did some work on your house to sell it? It’s a great time to do that. Why not look for another job with more flexibility?

This process may not be one that happens overnight. But would one to five years of odd jobs, scrambling, and searching be worth getting to do what you want to do for the rest of your life? Sounds amazing to me.

Today, do not think about what is impossible. Think about how you can own your career, book, dream, etc., and take just one step in that direction. Make sure it is not selfish and self serving but measurable and freeing for you and your loved ones.

Step today.

Why You Should Tidy Up Your Blog Occasionally

I recently read a post by Chad Allen that changed my perspective of blogging. He’s an editorial director at Baker Publishing Group and a two time presenter at Jot. He said the first thing he does when he gets a manuscript is he Googles the author’s name.

You are building your blog for your books, right? What if an editor pulls up your website and sees nothing updated in a month and a picture from six years ago? Or worse, finds nothing?

Creating content so you look engaged does sound a bit sleazy but as pointed out in the article (which I recommend you read straight away) a book is about the art but it’s also a business partnership and it’s the editors job to ensure a sound investment.

Your blog is an extension of you and your writing. It tells them if you have an engaged audience and that you are committed to the craft.

So when you blog, keep your virtual lawn clean. Post the strongest content you can as regularly as you can and know that if you send in a manuscript, someone important may be popping by, even if it’s only for thirty seconds. Leave the best impression possible.

Writer, Why Do You Keep Writing? Find Your Why.

In yesterdays post was about treating your writing like a job. This I said will help you get out of bed, stay up late, and place it on a higher level of importance. But one commenter brought up a great point that I failed to mention. Getting out of bed and getting to work is much more compelling when we know the reason we are doing it.

Photo Credit: Roberto.Trombetta via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Roberto.Trombetta via Compfight cc

Discovering Your Why

Do you have a dream or project that you enjoy and want to work harder at but just cannot bring yourself to do it consistently? I totally get that. Many writers bail after the first year or so. I once read that the average blog lasts eight months.

Writing day after day without recognition or any growth that we can see is tough. Part of the reason is the “I want success now” mentality of our western culture. The other part? Maybe we don’t have a ‘Why’, a reason we are doing it.

Have you ever sat down and thought of your Why? The reason you are writing or chasing your dream in the first place? If it is money you have most likely figured out you may have a better chance of making more money doing part time shifts at Starbucks for years than making millions on your creative endeavor.

Okay money may become part of the equation, but I firmly believe your Why must mean more than this. It must give you a thrill or a tickle or a vision of a life worth living when you think of it.

Give Your Why Some Space

Don’t know what your Why is? It can be tricky if you haven’t given it any thought. I encourage you to take a chunk of time and go somewhere you get clarity. Go visit a park, a coffee shop, or a dark closet where no one can find you.

Then think for however long it takes you to give you clarity. You’ll most likely have to revisit this time and time again and it may change as you grow. But the overall purpose of discovering your Why will go a long way toward motivating you to work harder and invest more in the life you want.

My Why

My Why is twofold. One, I love encouraging people. I love to bring energy to projects and help people realize their potential. Second, I’d love to write and speak for a living and hopefully elbow out more time with my family.

These are the reasons I write.

What is/are your Why(s)?

Begin Your Writing Career Today

I work in sales. When a month is going slow and my confidence is waning the normal thing to do is to look for “low hanging fruit”.

The term low hanging fruit is the simple act of looking for a customer who needs to purchase within the next week or two. This is not a ploy to harass anyone but a redirection to give you a boost. In another sales-ish term a “win-win.” You get the confidence that comes with making a sale and you provide a service to someone who needs it anyway.

Why do I mention this? Because confidence is essential to the writer and it does not always begin with grandiose things. It starts with a first step.

I remember my English teaching in high school sharing a story about spilled dog food.

photo credit:
photo credit:

The way she described the event and aftermath was a war zone and enough dog pellets to easily fill an Olympic sized swimming pool. It would take a lot of work and time to clean up. So she started piece by piece, not worrying about the whole bag, but only the next piece to get in rhythm with the task. Soon, it was done.

Any discipline requires this.
Take writing for instance.

If you want to be published and have yet to do so, or simply want to build your credentials as a freelance writer, I suggest starting somewhere small. Begin with a short story or an article. I started with a novel and for several years all I had was a goopy mess of words. It has since solidified but the task took much longer than I anticipated and I struggled with confidence throughout.

Recently I read an article in Writer’s Digest that instructed the wannabe writer to write a list of people in the writing world they know and periodicals to which they could possibly submit. In a matter of minutes I realized I knew the main writer for a local paper, the editor of a journal, and I knew a lot of people who blogged or had websites. It is important to have publishing credentials if you are shopping a novel. So I fired off some emails.

In a day or two I had responses from several of these places asking for submissions. Shortly thereafter I published an article in a journal and a website.

So, why do I mention this? What is the purpose of this post?

The message is to start somewhere. A novel might seem overwhelming to some of you or you might need to become the master of something small to gain experience and confidence to move to the next big thing.

Sit down and write a list of who you know. Send out emails and begin. Writing credentials are essential to anyone who wants to have a solid writing career.

Start today.
It could mean you are published tomorrow.


Writing Above Your Means

When my wife and I were looking for a house, we decided to get one we could afford. Shocking, I know. What I mean is, we agreed to buy something within our means and have realistic expectations about this purchase. We knew it would be silly to try to have what our parents have now in regards to a house and the things in it as they have had thirty plus years to accumulate them.

That got me thinking. Do I do that with my writing? What sort of expectations do I have for my novel? Are they unrealistic? Do I give myself time to grow and become the novelist I want to be? Or am I working too fast and too hard trying to get there? Do I compare myself with Patterson, Dickens, Rowling or the next millionaire author?

Something to think about.