Thursday, November 8, 2012

Am I Really Not Successful Because...?


A link to a blog post was recently brought to my attention. Jim Kukral (nope, not a clue who he is) lists "13 reasons you're not as successful as you should be." It's not actually meant to be aimed specifically for writers, but it was a fellow writer who pointed out the post and said it applies to us.

I agree. And I disagree. What I'm doing is putting Jim Kukral's reasons here and a partial quote from each of his explanations, along with my, um, adjustments:

#1 Reason  – Laziness
Kukral says, "I have to assume that you’re lazy. Every single successful person works their butts off to get where they are."

I say--I don't know lazy writers. I know obsessive writers. I know writers who don't sleep, and squeeze writing into every crevice of their lives. But we have day jobs. And children. Some of us homeschool. Many writers I know have chronic illnesses. Do we sometimes feel lazy because it's been three weeks since we've been truly productive as far as our writing goes? Sure. But we are usually unproductive because we are tired. Spent. Empty. From all the previous writing and from all our other responsibilities.

#2 Reason – Entitlement
Kukral says, "Quit thinking you are owed something. You’re not. Get to work."

I think many writers feel this. That because of talent and hard work we are owed success. That's faulty logic, yes. But it comes from seeing crap getting published all the time. Not just published, but famously published. And when we see crap becoming successful it is really hard not to think, "Hey! What about me?"

#3 Reason – Fear
Kukral says, "You are afraid...of looking silly. Afraid of what your friends and family will say."

I say, duh. We have put our souls on paper. We have bled from the deepest parts of ourselves. And we know that there will be readers who love our writing, and readers who will think we are talentless hacks. The latter tend to have no qualms about voicing their opinions (read: tearing us to shreds). And friends and family will think we are insane. Yes, we are afraid. Yet we do this anyway.

#4 Reason – Negativity
Kukral says, "...the people you associate with might be negative...Surround yourself with successful people. People you want to be like."

If the people I wanted to be like were willing to associate with me, maybe I'd BE successful. OK, that sounds whiny and blamerish. I admit it. But one thing I've learned about the writing business is that everyone is always trying to get an "in", which puts the successful people on the defensive. And they are right to be that way. I'm pretty low on the ladder, yet I can't do a speaking engagement without some newbie writer trying to  schmooze or get me to look at their writing and give them "feedback." I can only imagine what actual successful writers have to deal with. No wonder it seems they are cliquish. They are trying to avoid getting eaten alive. But it does make it hard to get one's toe in the door.

#5 Reason – Stop Thinking
Kukral says, "You think way too much about what you could or should do." He calls this "paralysis by analysis."

Oh, my. That is so me. And so every other writer I know.

But, listen. There is SO much conflicting information out there about how to get published. And the publishing landscape is constantly changing. It's so hard to know what to do. Sure, there are those writers who just dive in. Who write a book on a whim and, poof, they're published. Poof, selling millions of books. But they are very, very rare. The rest of us are subject to agent and publisher grocery lists. The rest of us are scrabbling for a foothold. Begging and pleading for someone to "just read it." The paralysis by analysis generally comes AFTER we've given 157% and have gathered enough rejection letters to wallpaper the Taj Mahal.

#6 Reason – No Goals
Kukral says, "You believe that someway, somehow, everything you always wanted will just magically happen."

Um, that one...well, the writers who believe this are idiots. I don't know any who do, though.

#7 Reason – “They”
Kukral says, "There’s no secret group of people that controls your success or failure."

Yes there is. They are called "literary agents." And after that "publishing committees." And after that "readers." I don't mean to say that "they" are out to stop us from being successful. I am saying that writing is one field where there are just strings of gatekeepers. Gatekeepers who say, "You can't go through here without me, but I won't go with you until you've gone through on your own."

#8 Reason – No “X” Factor
Kukral says, "The truth is even jerks, idiots and boring people can be just as successful as anyone else."

And I say, go back and reread number 2...

#9 Reason – Time Waste
Kukral says, "You spend hours and hours every day working on not-working."

Yes, I've known writers who do this. And I've been guilty of it to an extent myself. However, writing is often something that only comes with inspiration. And every writer I know feels like they are working on not working when they are actually working. In other words, when they are marketing they think they should be writing, and when they're writing they think they should be marketing. We spend so much time worrying that we're not working even when we are.

#10 Reason – Social B.S.
Kukral says, "You spend way too much time in social media land."

Well, yes. But, we are also told we HAVE to be "out there". Accessible. Marketing and making connections with readers. Sigh. Social media is a love-hate thing for me. I have made REAL friends online. I also know I spend way too much time sludging through FB when I should be writing. What can I say--I think the whole WORLD is guilty of this one! At least I can say I'm networking ;).

#11 Reason – Think Small
Kukral says, "You are constantly looking only a day or a week ahead instead of years ahead."

To this...no. Sorry. No. Not a single writer I know is guilty of this. Some get impatient. Some publish too soon. They don't edit properly, and they slap up shoddy cover art on their books. They sign with a questionable press because they are so desperate to be published, by anyone. But not thinking of this as long-term? Of only seeing this week or today? No. Nope. We all know this is step one. That it's years and years of writing and getting nothing in return before we actually start gaining.

#12 Reason – Don’t Want It
Kukral says, "...in your heart you are afraid of what might happen if you really get it."

I think this one is valid. For writers maybe even more than others. Many of us dream of being the reclusive writer, writing at odd hours, living anonymously. But writing is so much more. And the pressure is a lot more than we expect. The idea of a bazillion people reading our books...the pressure of worrying what they'll think of the next book....all the freaking marketing and stuff that we now realize is part of the job and we had no idea when we started.....

Still--do we want it? Yes. Very, very badly.

#13 Reason – Don’t Believe
Kukral says, "Society taught you that only a few “exceptional” people get what they want. Everyone else should just settle."

Actually, for writers this is quite the opposite. Society has taught us that writing is an easy road. That talent will make doors swing open automatically. That we ARE exceptional. Our family and friends ooh and aah over every word. They are amazed by us. "How do you think of all this?" they ask in pure wonderment. And they assume we'll become millionaires as soon as our book hits the shelves.

In other words, most of us go into this completely delusional. We believe too much. And when the rejection letters start coming....flooding in....and we discover that there's about a bazillion other authors out there just like us, studying craft, writing and writing and writing, busting their tails in hopes of "making it"...the bubble bursts.

**DISCLAIMER**
Mr. Kukral, if you read this, know I am not writing it to disparage what you have said. I actually think ALL your points are valid for most unsuccessful people out there in a multitude of endeavors. I thought your post was rather brilliant, actually. But writing is a unique beast, especially fiction. Talent and hard work often still result in obscurity in writing. Success of a published book relies about 80% on word of mouth--something we can't control beyond writing the best book we can. That in mind, I am taking your advice to heart and I am pushing forward and trying to make my attitude even more positive. And I appreciate your candor on the topic.

9 comments:

bminor said...

Thanks of sharing this, Kat. A lot of great thoughts to keep in the forefront of our every day internal monologue. I'm proud to be running this marathon with you. :)

Kat Heckenbach said...

Becky, you are one person I thought of as I was writing this--someone who doesn't make excuses, and who is busting her tail. If success doesn't come to you (and I believe it will, but hypothetically speaking) it will NOT be for the reasons that guy listed. I proud to be running this race with you, too!

Caprice Hokstad said...

I would add to #3: Why is it SO MUCH EASIER for those who "think we are talentless hacks" to shred us with scathing reviews and nasty blog posts? I think, very often, the people who like the work are in the majority, but they don't take time (or they don't know how to put into words) to leave the nice reviews, so our perception ends up distorted. Instead of making it so easy to "LIKE" the book with one click, make it easier to "dislike" discreetly and give the likers the best forum for spilling their words of praise. HA!

Great blog post, Kat!

Kat Heckenbach said...

Great point, Caprice. Yes, I do think readers who love books often don't even think about writing reviews or they just don't know how. They think it's like doing a book report or something. I wish more readers would be willing to take the time. I suppose they need to know its importance first, though.

And thank you :).

Anonymous said...

Hi Kat! I believe we are all successful but just in different stages! For me, as a self published author, my greatest joy is hearing from a reader who shares that their heart has been touched by one of my devotional days. One success at a time!!
I like your "adjustments to the reasons and believe we can all be encouraged to exceed even our our own expecations!
Thank you for your encouragement!
Rick

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Rick!

Kessie said...

Ah well, as with all small business owners, we have to look at this list, note which ones are our problem areas, fix it and move on. In my own life I have various strengths and weaknesses in each of those areas. But I'm not afraid of hard work. Making any money off writing is a long, long road. I'm not expecting anything big right out the gate.

Sheryl said...

Brilliant, Kat. This is everything I've always wanted to say about writing and its frustrations!

Kat Heckenbach said...

Thanks, Sheryl!! :)