To call someone an overnight success is to ignore the blood, sweat and tears involved in writing and publishing. It implies luck and a force beyond talent. Now, I’ve heard all of the stories about how manuscripts get tossed out without ever being read and that it really is the luck of the draw to being noticed by a big publishing house. But, it’s not that to which I’m referring.
I hope that passionate writers who aspire to publishing their work will look to someone like JK Rowling, not because they think there is a short path to financial success in writing, but because she represents the long, hard, lonely, yet passionate road of the writer. Rather than looking at the success of the Harry Potter books, look to her Harvard Commencement speech. Measure your journey by her failures first. Better yet, don’t measure your own journey by someone else’s at all.
There is a reference in the Gilmore Girls television series to a first boyfriend being a “first pancake”. This is describing that first one you toss on the pan, that often comes out as an undercooked, pale test case and not the golden, perfectly-round flapjack to which you aspire. JK Rowling wrote just as many first pancakes as the rest of us. I’m sure she crumpled up some of those napkins and growled in frustration when the words didn’t flow as sweetly, thick and fragrant as maple syrup.
We all have first pancakes. We all have to start somewhere. We don’t usually serve someone just one pancake, either. We serve a stack. Start with that as your image. Don’t publish one book and sit back waiting to be an overnight success. Write it, publish it, market it, and then get to writing the next one. And the next. And the next.
Focus on your recipe, your skill, your process and improve it each and every time. Serve up a stack of great writing. Keep going and keep writing. Try other genres. Push your boundaries and stretch your comfort zone. Let the passion for writing be your muse and she will eventually take you where you want to go.
Focus on the writing. Always on the writing. Write for you, as you did in the beginning and the tell stories or pen the poems that only you can tell. Let the sales be a surprise and the accolades be a bonus. Let the writing be the goal and you will keep discouragement at bay.