A Lesson from Michaelbrent Collings
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I’m going to be frank, this has not been a good month. There’s a lot of reasons for this and those receiving my newsletter know why. The short version–didn’t know there was a short version, did you?– is that things are busy. The “Day Job” has required lots of overtime. The website keeps breaking, and so on and so forth.
So, things aren’t really bad, but they are certainly draining. Lately, all I can see is how far behind I am on everything. I’m still finishing the documentation for the upcoming interactive mystery The Silent City (which I meant to have done over a month ago), my website is in desperate need of some updates, I’ve got a short story due by the end of the month I haven’t even started yet, and I haven’t worked on my next novel since the birth of 2017. Oh, and I just received another couple of rejection letters for my “awards” pile.
Pretty normal, I guess, but it’s been getting to me.
Addressing these issues during my morning meditation usually helps, if only a little, but lately logic has lost its power source or these irritants have done some serious level-grinding.
I know everything is a process, I know that we can learn from our failures, and I know that I’m not alone, but I still felt shitty. Then, in a stroke of serendipity, I found the right nam-shub for the situation.
I was reviewing and organizing my notes in Evernote and I stumbled across my notes from Michaelbrent Collings’ talk at the 2017 Life, the Universe, and Everything Writing Conference. His talk was titled “Ten Steps to Overnight Success… (… or, How it Only Took a Decade to Get Paid)” and, rather than filter the message from my own cerebral waste, I’ll just give you a recap… Right after this moment of shameless self promotion.
Michaelbrent’s Collings’ 10 Steps to Becoming an Overnight Success
1) Write lots, fail lots, and make it part of your life.
2) Market yourself early and build your position for the future.
3) Sell you work, and more importantly, sell YOU
4) Make connections with your peers
5) Play nice with others!
6) Keep writing and keep improving.
7) Be Clear. Write in a way that cannot be misunderstood.
8) Be Interested and Interesting
9) Get a thick skin
Can you guess which one I want to talk about?
What’s that? What about little Timmy?
I don’t care. He can stay in the well for a while; I want to talk about step number ten. Suffering builds character anyway. He’ll be fine.
Step #10: Don’t quit
Simple as it is, this has to be one of the oldest pieces of advice out there from anyone on anything. What leapt out at me was a single line of text from Michaelbrent’s post on the topic.
The only failed writer…is a person who no longer writes.
Such a simple message, but it lit a dumpster fire inside my brain and brought back to some old memories.
Ah the Memory…
I ran cross-country in high school, and I sucked at it. While I didn’t really have a runner’s build (I was more of a pitbull than a greyhound), what really got me were my seasonal allergies and I asthma. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my ties above the “depressing” mark.
So I went and talked to my doctor.
“Clark,” he said, “You have asthma, and no amount of medicine is going to change that for you. You have to accept that every race you finish is a victory”
Needless to say, I ignored his advice and hid his body in the woods. Even I don’t remember exactly where. I wasn’t about to let a little thing like not being able to breathe stop me stop me from being a complete and total jerk to myself.
It wasn’t until this recent bout of self-criticism, exhaustion, and mental flagellation that I really began to understand.
I Can’t Truly Succeed, but Neither Can I Truly Fail. Not as Long as I Keep Writing.
I’d be lying if I said this fixed everything. It didn’t make my struggles any less real or painful, but it did give me a rejuvenated perspective on the situation. So I’ll keep on writing, not because I’ve got it all figured out, and not because it’s always fun, but because I refuse to give up this thing I love.
Next time you find yourself unable to see anything but your failings, please don’t give up. Remember that the biggest failure would be to quit trying.
I hope this little nugget helps you as it helped me. Whether you’re struggling with this exact problem or a wildly different Mental-Goblin is harassing you, I’d love to hear what it is and how you’re dealing with it. I’ll see you again in two weeks when we return to the topic of Building Marvelous Magic Systems. So far we’ve just looked at Stage 3 and now it’s time for Stage 2: Aligning Your System. Until next time, Rowenson out.