Success Begins with an S, Not a $

I usually try to give you all advice and information that you can go out and use in your writing life. But sometimes I like to give you points to ponder, as well. And since this particular point has been the subject of much pondering in my life recently, I figured I would pass it along as some food for thought. 

Right now I still write a lot of non-fiction for Constant Content and even some longer non-fiction works that I’m planning on releasing on the Kindle under a pseudonym. But as for my actual name, I’ve found that I absolutely love fiction writing. I’ve always had a ton of ideas and characters that bother me in my sleep (this only sounds crazy if you don’t write fiction, I promise) and worlds I want to build. But I always pushed it aside for the “real” stuff. 

However, last week I finished a short story. And my friend said “You should publish it.” 

“No,” I contested “I just wrote it for me.” 

“Well what good does that do anyone? Publish it.” 

“But what if people hate it?” 

“What if people love it?” she said. 

So I published it. 

I was terrified! And it’s still nerve-racking to know that people I know and talk to on a daily basis are reading the works the come straight out of my head. Non-fiction is a safety blanket for me. After all, don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just compiling facts into a readable format. 

But publishing fiction is like giving away a part of you. It was “born” in you, so to speak, even though inspiration likely came from within and without. 

Someone said “That isn’t making you any money, though, is it?” I’ve heard people tell others “You’re never going to be successful writing your stories.” 

Really? J.K. Rowling would beg to differ. And before you say “But I’m not J.K. Rowling”, consider that at one time, neither was J.K. Rowling. Sure she was herself, but she wasn’t rich. She wasn’t doing well at all, actually. She just had an idea and nothing left to lose. And now? Well….we all know what happened there. 

The trouble is, J.K. Rowling was always a success. All authors before they became able to make a living on their writing were a success. They just didn’t know it yet. 

What if J.K. Rowling never wrote the “Harry Potter” series because she was afraid nobody would like it? 

Take another example. Stephen King, he says, was flat broke and just about at his wit’s end when his wife fished Carrie out of the trash can. (The trash can!) She pushed him to publish it, it got published, and the advance he got turned his life around. 

What if Stephen King had given up and never published it just because he was broke and decided that “guaranteed” money was more important and became an insurance broker. Nothing against insurance brokers, but Stephen King just needs to be a writer. 

My little story is currently on a free promotion. Altogether some 45 people have downloaded it. It’s not insanely high, but it’s honestly higher than I thought it would be. Over the course of it’s two days (this is the third) it’s made an appearance on three best seller lists. Short Reads/Science Fiction – #15 as I write, although it changes all the time – in the #40s for the duration of its publication so far on the Genetic Engineering Science Fiction Free list (hey it’s technically a top 100 list, I am not complaining), and a couple of times wound up, if barely, on the Short Stories by a Single Author list. 

No, I’m not independently wealthy yet. No, I haven’t made much off of it yet. But I consider that some measure of success, because it means I’m building a readership, people are downloading it who don’t know me (because they did it on day one haha), and it’s showing up on lists that it never would have been on at all had I never published it. 

Also, short stories contend with full-length novels on the Kindle. So….while i’ts not crazy successful, it’s still pretty awesome to me because the only list it was on before was the list of files on my flash drive. 

I can’t help but write. It’s what I do. It would drive me nuts to not write. 

J.K. Rowling was a success before she ever knew it. Stephen King was a success before he ever earned a dollar, before his wife fished that novel out of the trashcan. Everyone who was ever successful financially was successful by definition because they were full of ideas that other people related to and were talented in how they communicated them. 

Any writer on the planet could be successful and not know it. But success doesn’t start with a dollar sign. 

I’m so sick and tired of hearing people tell creative types to stop doing what they love because it’s not a 9 to 5 with a 401k. If we wanted that life, we’d all be in that life. Building dreams, achieving goals, and getting where we want to be means taking risks. It means writing things that we have no idea if anyone will ever read. It means putting our heart out there when it might get totally torn apart my trolls on Amazon. It’s not guaranteed. It’s not comfy and cozy. But that is not what we signed up for. 

If you write one thing and publish it and sit back refreshing the “sales” screen on Amazon for the next month, that’s not going to get you anywhere. Publish, write, keep publishing and keep writing and don’t listen for a second to people who tell you to give up. 

(But just to be nice, if you’re ever in the position to have a book signing, send them one. Just for kicks.) 

The problem is most writers have this “Stephen King status or bust” mentality. Like if you’re not rolling in buckets of royalty money, publishing through a ‘traditional publisher’, and showing up on the New York Times best seller list you’re not successful. 

That’s bull. 

If you can make a living and support yourself, you’re successful. And you might be on the verge of a highly successful novel or short story series or poetry anthology or whatever it is you’re doing and not even know it. 

So keep after it. 

Because $ is just an S with an arrow through it – so keep shooting. 😉 

Until next time, happy writing. 

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