Tuesday, February 12, 2013
There are a lot of important qualities that writers must have to succeed including patience, perseverance, and diligence.
But recently I was reading a fantastic post over on the Kill Zone blog titled "I Want to Succeed Now" that made me realize there was one quality that rises above all others.
The article was filled with examples of famous authors and how long it took them to reach success. It contained statistics like:
"Before Dean Koonz published Whispers, his big breakout hit, he wrote thirty-eight novels in twelve years."
"Tess Gerritsen wrote nine novels over nine years before she released her first NY Times bestseller, Harvest."
"Janet Evanovich wrote at least twelve novels before hitting it big in One for the Money."
First of all, I loved reading the article and getting the backstory on these bestselling authors. So often when we read bestseller lists, we don't realize just how many years and books most of those authors had to write before reaching that point. It gives us hope that our own struggles are not in vain.
And second, I loved reading the article because it helped me to see a common thread in most of those authors.
No, not all of them were on the cusp of a new genre that sky-rocketed them—although being on the cutting edge can help.
No, not all of them have fantastic, spell-binding stories that knock our socks off—although that doesn't diminish the critical aspect of having riveting stories.
No, not all of them were literary masterpieces—although that doesn't take away the need for learning and honing writing techniques.
And no, not all of them had hordes of marketing dollars poured into their book campaigns—although strategic marketing can be beneficial.
I think we can all agree that genre, stories, technique, and marketing can help books become bestsellers. But they're NOT a necessity. We've seen books hit bestseller lists without one or another of those traits.
So what is THE most important ingredient in helping authors and their books reach success?
If you look at all the authors listed above (and even more in the Kill Zone article), perhaps you'll be struck as I was at the TENACITY of each author. They kept going, kept working hard, and kept writing books even when they weren't hitting it big.
What if they'd given up when their first couple of books didn't do as well as they'd wanted? What if they'd stopped after five books because they weren't yet on the best seller list? What if they'd thrown in the towel on the eleventh book (not knowing that it was the twelfth book that would bring them success)?
Without TENACITY many authors crash and burn before they have the chance to see where their careers might really take them.
So what does TENACITY really look like?
I like the definition of tenacity from vocabulary.com: The quality displayed by someone who just won't quit — who keeps trying until they reach their goal.
Miriam Webster defines it this way: Someone who is persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired.
In other words, tenacious people STICK to their goals like superglue. They're bonded to the dream, they don't let go of what they're seeking.
Tenacious writers keep going, keep striving to write the best books they possibly can, year after year, and book after book.
That's not to say that simply putting out twenty books in twenty years will automatically qualify a writer for the best seller list. Because obviously tenacity involves more than just putting in the time. Yes, success requires a tenacity to time and effort.
But it also requires a tenacity to become the best that you can be. A tenacity to push yourself beyond mediocrity. A tenacity to weather the storms of the market and publishing industry. And a tenacity to stick it out even when you hit rock bottom.
Of course, there may come a point in our careers where we need to make a decision to change the course. But there's a difference between giving up in frustration and despair and consciously choosing to stop something.
So, dear writer friends, I encourage all of us (myself included) to stop expecting overnight success. And to stop complaining when it doesn't happen. Instead, we need to gear ourselves up for the long haul. And in order to do that we need an infusion of TENACITY!
What about you? How tenacious are you with your writing? Will there ever come a point in your writing career when you finally decide you've had enough?
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