As writers, most of us are struggling with that question. Day in and day out we sit in front of our laptops, write book after book, spend time building our brands, and hope that someday we’ll have something to show for all our hard work.
Most of us have to squeeze our writing and marketing around our day jobs and other responsibilities. And when we find the time to write and market, we’re often tired, stressed, and thinking about all the other things we should be doing instead.
At some point we say something like: “I don’t want to go to all this hard work for nothing.”
Truthfully, if we didn’t want to get an agent or book deal, if we didn’t want to see our sales rocket, if we didn’t have dreams about doing well enough to quit our day jobs, then we probably wouldn’t exert ourselves to the degree we do.
Sure, we’d likely keep on writing even without success, because we love telling stories. It’s in our blood and we’d do it even if no one else ever read our work.
But . . . most of us have big dreams. We aspire to have a readership beyond just our faithful dog.
We go the extra mile, get up at 5:00am, skip our lunch breaks, give up our free time, sacrifice our favorite TV shows, let the laundry pile up, and feed our families frozen pizza, so we can chase after our dreams of successful publication.
But will all the work really pay off? Can we really achieve success?
Recently I got an email from a blog reader with some great questions: “Is it worth it? All the time, writer's conferences, writing, and editing, book tours, and blogging . . . Is it worth all the time writing consumes to finally see your novel in print and on a bookshelf? Is pursuing the dream worth the end result?”
Here are several of my thoughts about achieving success in the writing industry:
1. If we want to climb the ladder of success, we have to start at the bottom and work our way up one rung at a time. Most of us can’t skip steps and make the leap to the top in one bound. Instead we have to take small, slow, steady steps upward.
The big names on the bestseller lists didn't get there after just one book. They worked hard year after year to earn their spots on the list. And if we want to end up there someday, then we'll have to do the same thing.
I love this quote: “Don’t expect overnight miracles. But have faith. If you persevere, the chances are very good that you will achieve some success.” ~Bickman
2. Success is illusive. Once we reach the top of the ladder of success we’re climbing, we see another higher point we want to reach—and we’ll think, “Now THAT is really success.” (A better book deal, bigger publisher, two books on the shelf instead of one). So we start climbing another ladder. When we reach the top of that one, we’ll redefine success again (more recognition, bigger royalties, bestseller list). And so on.
The truth is success can’t really make us happy. Oh, maybe for a few days or weeks. But then we’ll see something else we want and discontentment will settle in once again.
Yes, keep climbing, but we need to learn to enjoy each step as it comes, celebrate the small accomplishments, and find joy in the process of creating.
3. Ultimately, the writing journey will be as successful and worthwhile as we make it. Each one of us has to determine how much time and energy we can or want to devote to it.
I’ve reached a stage in my life where I’m able to handle the pressures and responsibilities of being an author. I’m not sure that I would have been ready sooner. But now, amidst my busy mothering phase of life, writing gives me a creative outlet, a quiet retreat, a break from the intensity of real life.
So yes, writing is worthwhile to me personally, no matter the level of success, no matter if I have one book on the shelf or ten, no matter if I make hundreds of dollars or thousands.
Of course, I’m going to keep on stepping up the ladder of success one rung at a time. But ultimately, I’m not in this journey for success. I’m in it because I love writing.
What about you? Have you ever asked yourself if all the hard work will someday pay off? Is all the time you put into your writing worth it to you?