We all know that making it as a writer is a tough gig. It is possibly one of the toughest around in terms of the work and commitment required to get something amazing on the page, and in terms of the likelihood of breaking out and selling enough copies to make a living, even if you do write something amazing. So as writer, I will not deny that I struggle with believing that I will be successful enough to make writing my main focus.
But we all know that believing can make things happen, and that the writers who believe in themselves are more likely to be successful. I'm not going to pitch a bunch of woo woo The Secret kind of fluff at you. I don’t think success is simply a matter of believing hard enough. It also requires consistent hard work, persistence, and no small amount of luck. But believing does matter. Your beliefs shape your behavior, they shape how others perceive you, and they shape how hard you pursue your goals. There is scientific evidence behind it. People who believe are happier and healthier, and often more successful (even if they are deluding themselves).
Believing might not make you succeed as a writer, but not believing will surely make you fail.
Despite knowing the value of believing, I’m a funny mix of believing and not believing. On the one hand, I find four-leaf clovers at least twice a week, and used to read people’s tarot cards with unnerving accuracy. I’ve seen enough of the magic of the universe to think there is something there—that belief can bring luck. I’ve also tasted the success that hard work can bring with strong sales, great reviews, and exciting opportunities.
On the other hand, just when I start to let myself consider believing, my unfailingly pragmatic and accurate view of reality (which quite possibly borders on a pessimistic view) kicks in. I review the reality. I have had failures or long periods of low sales. My day job, while fantastic, requires focus and dedication too—so I don’t have as much time as I need to write. I know how hard it is to break through. I believe in my own abilities, but I don’t believe that’s enough. So instead of pushing to the next level, I have always played it safe (in all areas of my life, but that’s another post). I am a hardened cynic who looks for four-leaf clovers.
Like Mulder, I want to believe.
I know believing would help me. And yet, I still can’t quite make myself do it. So instead I hope, and hoping doesn’t quite have the same power as belief. It seems psychologically (and financially) safer to say “I might not make it” and ensure that I have a good job and try to save for retirement in case I don't. Cushioning my aspirations in non-belief also helps me on those days or weeks when it is not going well. One only has to go to a writing conference to see a multitude of people doing the same thing—talking about how difficult the publishing world is, talking about those who do make it in a tone of disbelief and wonder. Believing is risky. But what if not believing is the exact thing that is causing me to plateau.
When I first started writing, I used to subscribe to a blog about writing by Jeff Goins. He was very positive and wrote useful posts—he was just starting out too—but I just couldn’t see how he was going to make it as a writer. He was in the same boat as me, and we were in rough shark-infested waters with a long voyage ahead. Well, guess what? He did make it, and I think he believed his way through it. Yes, there was definitely a lot of hard work involved, but he never gave up and he believed enough to go all in when it counted.
But Jeff didn’t just rely on his books, he also worked on building a brand and a following.
We all know about people in the indie world like Jeff Goins, Steve Scott or Hugh Howey, who are making a living as writers. We also all know about people in the writing industry, like Joel Friedlander or Jesse Krieger, who are succeeding as entrepreneurs, and make their living pursuing their passions. Most of us in the indie writing world have that entrepreneurial edge, that desire to set our own schedule, do what we love, be our own boss, and make enough money to have some freedom (having a boat like Hugh Howey’s wouldn’t hurt either).
Every time I see one of those people in my Facebook feed or on social media, I think “I could be them, but they probably had something special going for them.” Some special kind of luck, or chutzpah or the willingness to work 24-hours a day. But maybe they don’t. Maybe they just believed and pushed through to the next level. My inner cynic says no, but I did find a four-leaf clover yesterday.
In just five days, on June 20, Jesse Krieger is hosting a free online event called the Book, Business, & Brand Building Summit. It will have live sessions each day with a multitude of experts, including Jeff Goins, Steve Scott, and Joel Friedlander. It’s absolutely free. I’m going to attend and hope that I learn enough to make that breakthrough, and you should too. Register here. With all the great material that they will be offering (for free) you can't help but learn something. And now I must race to get ready for a work meeting—sigh. I will be reporting back in on whether it’s changed my perspectives! I believe... maybe.