I know it was easier me for me to feel confident about my career when I was practicing law. I could define my success by the number of hours I worked, the size of my bonus and how many deals I was able to juggle at the same time.
So often, when I think about my writing career and read fellow writer's blogs, I feel like we are all groping through the fog in search of hard and fast rules, the kind found in the corporate world, that will allow each of us to climb the ladder of success for writing.
First the bad news.
There aren't any hard and fast rules. As much as we might search and wish, there's no recipe for the kind of good writing that will lead to success.
But, the flip side to the bad news is the vacuum of linear steps to writing success means we get to write our own rules, which should be fine, us being writers and all.
Most writers I know make an effort to read publishing newsletters, attend conferences and generally keep abreast with the industry. I believe these are important activities, but it's equally important for writers not to lose sight of the fact that, the industry is us.
The writers. We're the ones with the words and as we write our words, we also write the rules.
It's hard to know who's going to be the next Neil Gaiman or Ursuala LeGuin. Even Neil Gaiman and Ursula LeGuin don't have have access to that information. But at some point, some writer's work will bubble up out of the huge soup of words that is produced each and every day. Their work will be recognized as fresh, new and maybe even groundbreaking. They will, literally, have written their path to success.
Maybe it will be one of my writer friends who rises out of the slushpile to take hold of our
national conscious, or who am I kidding, wouldn't it be lovely if it were me. But the point is, as much as we'd like it to be, the creative world isn't a straight line. It's more of a mosh pit, where someone periodically gets to ride on top of the wave of hands before being deposited back down on the ground.
Instead of searching for benchmarks, rules and stepladders to success, I think we should enjoy our unprecedented ability to lose ourselves on the creative dance floor, mixing and mingling in person or via the internet with people whose ideas spark and ignite with our own, like thousands of pieces of tinder rubbing together to create a forest fire of words.
Like I said, we get to make our own rules for success, and in the process we just might redefine all the rules that came before. Which, when you stop to think about it, is so much cooler than climbing the ladder one step at a time.