Friday, August 24, 2012
~ What's more important—love or money?
~ Would you rather be a teacher or a student?
~ Are you a task-oriented person or an idea person?
~ Do you define success as recognition/reward, or happiness/contentment?
These are trick questions. We live in a binary world, where questions about success are set up as binary opposites that make us think most people are either one or the other. The truth is likely to be not so crystal-clear, either/or.
Those questions are great for helping us develop characters in our writing, especially minor characters, who might strongly display one leaning or another. But major characters, like us, will have more layers and contradictions. Plenty of us have split personalities on these issues, or maybe omnivorous personalities, if there is such a thing. We want parts of it all. And that makes us normal, if a little frustrated and confused.
So what kind of mindset does translate into success in writing? After spending my time and energy on manuscripts, and questioning myself because people who know and care about me think I must be a little crazy to keep going without that mega-$millions contract, I've stumbled across a couple of home truths.
One: It's about the work. If you care more about the quality of your work than you do about being recognized for your work, you will likely be recognized for your work. (It's no mistake that paradox is a fundamental truth in great literature.)
Two: To succeed, it's necessary to complete the project. If this is true for you, too (I say that because there are people—one or two—who don't feel this way), then, you can adopt part of a success model from 'the outside world' where people don't do 'what-if'-hypothetical work so much. A key to success there is task orientation. Get things done. One at a time. Break your project down into the pieces you need to accomplish, whatever they are (and you may find more layers and more pieces as time goes on). Focus on completing those, one little piece at a time. That was a tough one for me to get my mind around for a while, since, as a young adult, and even well into my business career, my answer to the third question at the beginning of this post was "I'm an idea person, of course!!" Seriously? Who isn't, in the writing world? Writers who know how to make their ideas work are successful. And 'work' here means completing the tasks of writing.
That's what works for me. But we are not all the same, thank goodness. What mindset works best for you?