After taking time to consider occasions that will lead to the need for damage control, this week we’re going to redefine what “success” means in respect to our goals, and as a concept in general. While the assumption is often that “success” means completing a new book or successfully marketing an already finished one, this one-size fits all definition does not look good on, or flatter the strengths and weaknesses of each unique author.
The author of “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert, interestingly experienced the “success” of her book to provoked the same sense of anxiety and discomfort that is often associated with failure. She explained that the success carried a large looming cloud of expectations from her readers that she feared she wouldn’t be able to live up to in her next book. “Failure catapults you abruptly [into] the blinding darkness of disappointment,” Gilbert said. “Success catapults you just as abruptly, just as far, into the equally blinding glare of fame, recognition, and praise.”
For Gilbert, your subconscious cannot tell the difference between these two opposing poles, because they are both so far from the spectrum of our everyday, normal existence. Taking that into account, I think it is important to transform the idea of success into something more normal, more everyday, rather than something that just comes from world-wide recognition for our work.
While finishing a book or having it fly off the shelves should be appreciated as a success, this is a very long-term and difficult goal to achieve. To put this into perspective, let’s say you were training for a marathon and never considered any of your training days leading up to it as successful because they weren’t the big day–logging those miles is going to start to feel hollow and unrewarding. Sure, that first training run over ten miles isn’t a marathon, but that is a huge success compared to sitting on your couch at home, and should be celebrated as such!
Having your vision of success span from the time you begin your project, to the time you complete it will definitely keep you in a better head space and keep you more motivated and excited with each leap and bound you make! Hence why we like to stress the importance of dividing up that overarching goal into smaller, more bite-sized pieces that you can achieve along the way and count as successful mile markers to your grand finale, which may be a finished book.
What are some short-term mile-markers that should be perceived as successes for a writer?
- An outline completion
- A chapter completion
- A first draft completion
- A marketing plan
- Winning a writing competition
- Writing an awesome Tweet, blog post, or other social media post that gets a lot of traffic
- Your first piece of fan mail
- Your first royalty check
- Getting a gleaming endorsement for your back cover
- And countless other examples.
Let’s make success part of our everyday. Let’s make small goals for ourselves that we can objectively look at and say, “You know what, I succeeded today” when we’ve accomplished them. Success doesn’t have to be this epic thing that becomes almost intimidating, as Gilbert describes it in her TED talk, and nor does failure. If we become at home in our everyday successes and failures, the monumental ones won’t seem so shocking to us.
“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”
– Zig Ziglar
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠