“Finding writing success is a challenge worth pursuing.”
That sounds nice. But what does it really mean?
I don’t mean the actual message behind the phrase — that succeeding in writing isn’t easy, but is worth the effort you’re willing to put into it.
I mean the actual words. “Finding writing success.”
Is writing success really something you “find”?
I’ve used the phrase myself a dozen times on this blog and any other place I’ve talked about writing. “Finding” writing suceess sounds cool, like you’re making some kind of epic discovery after a very long journey full of trials and missteps and small victories. But I have a big problem with the word “find” in this context. So I’ve decided to change the way I refer to writing success as I’m encouraging people to achieve it.
At some point either in a writing or language class or in your own practice as a writer, you probably encountered lessons about the difference between active and passive voice. You don’t write, “By walking I got to the coffee shop.” That sounds wrong somehow, even if you’re not exactly sure how. Instead of using passive voice, you turn the sentence into an active phrase: “I walked to the coffee shop.” There. That’s better.
Passive voice is clunky and confusing. It’s often unclear who is doing an action and why. Passive things are almost never favorable. Passive aggression, for example.
“Finding writing success.” It sounds like a very passive, effortless thing, doesn’t it? It implies that you were just strolling casually down the road and accidentally stumbled upon writing success. You found it! But that, furthermore, implies you put zero effort into your achievements. You simply strolled casually, and then writing success happened.
Those who have succeeded in writing, know people who have, or at the very least know what it takes to succeed as a writer are very aware that success is not passive. It does not “come naturally,” it does not simply happen because you will it to happen. Definitely not all on its own.
Writing success happens with years of hard work, of consistent time and effort put into improving your writing skills, connecting with writers and editors, and making a place for yourself in the publishing industry (whatever that might mean for you specifically).
Hard work. Time. Effort. Making space, all as you are creating works of art that have the potential to touch lives, say things that matter, and change the world one reader at a time.
The truth is, you don’t “find” writing success at all, friends. You create it.
You. Not your creative writing teacher, not your mom, not your roommate’s cousin’s best friend’s uncle. You.
No one else can or should do the work for you. That’s on you.
No one else can dictate your odds of success. You create them yourself.
Will you encounter people along the way who will help you? Of course. Every writer needs an editor, for example. But those who are helping you are part of your success, and wouldn’t have joined you on your quest if you hadn’t first ventured far enough along in your journey to realize you needed them.
It is still a path that you are creating for yourself. With enough effort, the hope is that every writer will determine the route that will most effectively get them to where they want to go, and along the way they will earn the trust and help and respect of those qualified to assist them in any way possible. Agents. Editors. Publishers. Readers. And so on.
Someday when you look back on your life as a writer and remember all that you have accomplished, you won’t say, “Wow, I really found success, didn’t I?” No. You made that. You created that. You started out with absolutely nothing and you built something from that void and you deserve to say, “Yeah, that was me. I did that. I succeeded.”
I hope you’ll get to that point someday. To the top of the mountain, where you can look back in the direction from which you came and allow yourself to be proud of all you have accomplished.
If you continue to work hard, if you set goals and figure out how to turn them into achievements, if you train yourself not to give up no matter what comes your way to try and knock you off course, I promise you, you will create the success you have always wanted. It may not look exactly the way you’ve dreamed of it. But it will happen one way or another. And you will be so glad you did that. Not all on your own, but using yourself as the ultimate foundation. Because you are just THAT strong, and THAT brave, and THAT relentless.
So, what are you waiting for? Start writing. Right now. Or get back to it. Or ramp up your efforts. Success isn’t nearly as far off as you might think.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.