I’m often asked by aspiring writers what it takes to get something published. Is it luck? Timing? Connections?
While all three admittedly play a role to some degree, the real reason someone becomes a published writer is because he or she paid the price. What do I mean by that? Simply this: Nothing is free in this world. Every dream comes with a cost. And that cost can be defined in terms of money, time, effort, energy and resources.
In general terms, the bigger the dream, the higher the cost.
What I have observed over the past quarter century is that successful people – those who actually achieve their dreams – often do what others will not do. They are not ones to talk things to death but, rather, take action.
- Ray Bradbury paid the price. He wrote the first 25,000-word version of Fahrenheit 451 in nine days. He had to. He only had $9.80 in dimes, which he paid to rent a typewriter in the basement of the U.C.L.A. library. The library charged a dime for every half hour.
- Anthony Trollope paid the price. Although he worked full time as a clerk at the post office, he forced himself to achieve a nightly writing quota, at the rate of 250 words every quarter hour. By observing this regimen, he published more than 70 books in his lifetime.
- David Rice paid the price. It took him more than a dozen years to graduate from college. He struggled as a student because of dyslexia and attention deficit disorder. He has since authored three books and two of his screenplays have been released as movies.
- J.K. Rowling paid the price. She drafted her first novel when she was nearly penniless on welfare, clinically depressed, divorced and trying to raise a child on her own while attending school. She did most of her writing in a coffee shop, because it was warm, her child snoozed, and there was an ample supply of coffee to stimulate her creativity.
- Stephen King paid the price. After college, he supported his fledgling family by working at an industrial laundry (earning $1.60 an hour) – and later as a high school English teacher – and wrote at night, on weekends and even during some lunch hours. At the time he and his wife owned a car with transmission problems they couldn’t afford to repair, and they didn’t have a home telephone. He wrote three novels before his fourth, Carrie, was finally published.
- If you sincerely want a writing goal to come to fruition, then you must pay the price it requires:
Identify The Mountain
- Search for the writing project that excites you. The one that will make your efforts meaningful and, more important, keep you motivated in the days, weeks and months ahead. Do your best to ensure that the project is worthy of the time, effort and resources you are going to pour into it.
- This is a two-fold process. First, you must totally commit to doing everything in your power to see your dream come true. You can’t be halfhearted. More often than not, it’s as simple as putting your ass in the chair every day and writing. It sounds simple, but it’s not. Doing just this one step alone will get you 80% of the way to seeing your dream come true. And second, you must commit to changing
- . If it’s a successful, published author you wish to become then you need to change yourself. For you cannot become what you want by remaining what you are now.
Make Writing Your Priority
- Give up your television time. Give up your sleep. Give up vacation time. Do what you have to do to achieve your goal. You’d be amazed by how many published authors got to where they are today simply by waking-up two hours early and then writing until it was time to go to their day job.
- When you fail or stumble – and you will! – reevaluate your plan, adjust, and develop new strategies to succeed. Sometimes that may mean rewriting your manuscript, taking an entirely different approach; doing more research; attending a workshop to learn new skills; or acquiring new resources to improve your productivity (e.g., Scrivener). Regardless, keep the momentum going. No excuses! Believe in yourself, and take comfort in knowing that the only difference between a little shot and a big shot is that the big shot kept shooting.
- In the end, if you are not willing to pay the price – if you are not willing to sacrifice your desires and give-up part of yourself to succeed – then your writing dreams will die. And frankly, you will have no one to blame but yourself. Success can only come at the expense of personal commitment, risk, change and action. §