One of the biggest roadblocks to success is trying to control the outcome.
E.g. This book will be the one that lands me a deal. This social media platform is bound to be the one for me. This painting will go viral on Etsy and launch me to stardom.
Maybe that’s true.
And maybe it’s not.
What is certain: If you fix your hopes and dreams on any particular creation, you will fail. Because even if that creation does reach a level of wild success that meets your greatest expectations, it won’t last forever. Eventually, you will be back where you started, wanting to produce something and not knowing whether or not it will work. Possibly you’ll even be several million dollars richer (go you!), but as a creative, it amounts to the same thing: You are once again faced with a blank slate, and you never know which of your next endeavors is going to lead to success as a write or any other type of creative.
Therefore, it’s critical to give up control. Trying to manage the outcome of your work isn’t going to get you anywhere. It won’t work, because too many other factors are at play: the market, the culture, the competition, the audience, the timing. There’s physically no way to juggle all of those variables, even if you did have the power to affect the Universe in such a way.
Which, newsflash, you don’t.
So what does that mean for you and for your success as a writer?
Worrying about the outcome is not your job. Showing up and producing every day is your only job.
That’s it. Not waiting for “luck” to strike. Not prognosticating. Not getting addicted to the idea of one project succeeding. Not quitting if something fails.
Because that’s the other thing: When you set your sights on one single goal, and that’s the only goal that will do thankyouverymuch, you endanger your dreams overall. If it doesn’t work out, what does that mean for you? Well, if you’re a single-goal type-of person, it quite simply means you’re finished. Dream dead.
That’s why you need lots of goals and lots of projects. Not so many that you can’t keep track of them all, but enough so that your emotions never become tied to a single creative endeavor. That way, all you have to do is show up and work each morning or afternoon or night, and you can let success take care of itself. You don’t even have to worry about it, because becoming successful is not your job. One more time: You don’t get to pick the timing of your break. It will come when it comes.
(If you’re ready to stop waiting and start doing, go ahead and click that pretty image below and get access to the Free Resource Library. It’s full of tips, tricks and tools to help you gain success as a writer. Gain traction, practice your craft and master your approach with the help of checklists, worksheets and downloads. Check it out!)
So remind yourself of the true nature of luck: It’s pure stick-to-it-ness and just-not-stopping-ness. That’s it.
Even if you fail. After all, a lot of successful people end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but with the right idea. Or some other combination of right/wrong. You won’t really know if that happens, though, will you? It will seem like the wrong time, the wrong place and/or the wrong idea. Unless some very kind mentor is willing to clue you in, all you’ll know is that this time, it didn’t work.
That’s cool. Because chances are you had at least one of those ingredients: idea, time, place, but not the others. Back to the drawing board. Very few people work hard from dawn till dusk their entire lives and never come up with something that works.
Point being, if you give up, you’ll never know what would have worked. But, in the interest of “giving it time,” we creatives often adopt a particularly insidious approach …
We “wait and see.” It’s important, right??
Wellllllll …. Keep in mind that procrastination is all about waiting when you shouldn’t be, and that’s not good.
“No, but see, this is waiting with a purpose!” You say. “It’s so much better! It’s totally legit! You’re waiting because it’s the right thing to do!”
It’s easy to buy this line of reasoning. You do need to give things time to work out. You shouldn’t throw in the towel too early.
Nevertheless, you can’t wait forever. You can’t idly sit by watching reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation (What? Stop looking at me) while pretending you’re actually doing something worthwhile. That’s dumb. It’s a waste of your time. You do not have my approval for this approach.
But still your brain says: We won’t know until we wait a while! Let’s not be hasty! Give it time! Go pick up the latest Dan Brown in the meantime!
(Which, to be clear, I do approve of. But still, you should be reading Dan Brown after your creative work is done.)
Problem is, if you “wait and see” long enough, anything will prove to be a bust. You’re not working on it, after all. How much can your goals really progress while you’re Da Vinci Code-ing in the next room? Not much. Hence, they will wither. Soon enough, you will need new goals and new projects.
Yay, shiny objects!
Neither approach pays. You have to work consistently, all the time. You have to show up even when nothing is happening. Even when it feels like you’re wasting your life champing at a bit attached to a ghost bridle hitched to a wagon of failure headed into a steep, dry gulch of utter nothingness.
Wow. I think I gave you too clear a window into my soul just then.
Because most of the time, the creative endeavors we pursue do not hit the big time. At most, they gain a little traction and earn us a little attention. Most of the time, you don’t even get that. You get – I shit you not – the satisfaction of a job well done, and not much more.
It turns out our elders were right.
If you think about it, though, this makes a lot of sense.
So stop trying to tell the future. Stop squinting and poking and prodding at all your projects, whispering and shouting at them: “Are you the one? Is it you? How about you? Raise your hand if you’re my lucky break!!” That gets you nowhere, because until you reach the end, who can say?
That means you have to take all your work equally seriously. Whatever you’re doing, you should be doing it well.
So commit to giving up control over your break. If you need to, bolster your courage with this list of authors who got a whole bunch of rejections before becoming insanely famous.
Feel better? Okay, so do it. Commit to giving up control. Then share that with someone. A significant other, a creative friend, a sibling, a parent, whoever. Hell, you can even share it with me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’m happy to hear all about your successes/failures, so come on down. Whomever you tell, I strongly urge you to tell someone and put that intention out into the world. It might do more than you think.
Did you do it? Great. Get to work.
(Oh, and if you need some tools in the meantime, go ahead and check out the Free Resource Library. You’ll get lots of tips, tricks and hacks to jumpstart your writing career today. Just click that pretty image below.)
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