Many writers write because they want to be successful. They want to get published, win awards, have their talent and genius recognized and celebrated. They may envision snapshots of awards ceremonies, book-signings and interviews.
So, these guys with ambitions know that the reality of success isn’t so perfect and the path to it is neither easy nor sudden. A common theme among many writers giving advice to budding authors is to forget about fame and focus on the work. Self-fulfillment is ultimately more valuable than accolades and awards. And their tips can be easily applied to any area of life when it comes to being successful.
Have a look at the advice of 9 famous authors:
Live Your Life, And Write. Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild which was made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon, talks about her writing trajectory. She, like many writers, dreamed of fame when she started out. Over the years, having earned success and survived failures, she decided that her yearning for success was misplaced. She is quoted in an interview with writer Elissa Bassist as saying “You’re not supposed to have success. You’re supposed to have a life.” In fact, it was exactly that, having a life, that provided her the inspiration for her popular autobiography.
Success as Personal Fulfillment. Transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau writes about staying true to your path. As he himself did when he went to live at Walden, Thoreau encourages others to measure success by personal fulfillment. By sticking to your principles and beliefs, the rewards will eventually come. “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
Success Sours With Age. Writer Henry Miller who died at the age of 88, warned that success takes away your peace in the later years of your life. He complained of those wishing to exploit him and found himself imprisoned by his work and ideas that made him famous in his younger years. Success is also a character killer according to Miller. Rather than improving one’s personality, “success usually accentuates their faults or short-comings”.
Don’t Expect To Get Rich Quick. Victorian writer Anthony Trollope responded to a letter from a friend whose husband had just started writing. Her question was more about the financial side of writing and how to make money at it. Trollope’s advice was that writing was like any other craft or trade. It will take years of slaving, working, failure and disappointment before you see any money. Work hard and honestly and eventually your work will pay off.
Success Breeds Rabid Competition. Both celebrated and maligned writer Norman Mailer wrote of the consequences of success. He describes the bid for “top dog” status that you will be subjected to if you become successful. But he also insists that if one’s will is strong enough to endure the climb, it’s your duty to scale the mountain until you reach the top. The consequences of failing to reach the top, of allowing life’s tragedies and challenges to deter you, are dire.
Don’t Believe in Luck. Writer Amelia E. Barr who died in 1919 and didn’t experience success as a writer until she was 52, gave advice to writers on how to succeed. Her advice championed sturdy, consistent and patient dedication. She warned of setbacks, of bitter oppositions and of the dangers of despair. Barr encouraged writers to: embrace your enemies for they will make you stronger, remain cheerful in the face of adversity and make your own luck.
Work Hard, My Son. Playwright Eugene O’Neill wrote a letter to his wayward youngest son after learning that he had been expelled from yet another school. His letter hammers home in a loving but firm way the virtues of hard work. O’Neill advises his son to find that which lights him up and to dedicate his time working on it. Using himself as an example, he writes that whatever he decides to do, he will have to work his way up. Nobody starts out at the top. He writes, “Any fool knows that to work hard at something you want to accomplish is the only way to be happy”.
Success Can Kill Your Career. There are a few writers whose success actually killed their careers. One of the most famous examples of this is Truman Capote, author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. But Capote is most known for his “nonfiction novel” In Cold Blood which he wrote about a real-life murder in a small town in Kansas. Despite the book’s success and the accolades that followed, or perhaps because of them, Capote never published another novel again.
If It Doesn’t Kill Your Career, Success Can Certainly Make it More Difficult. Elizabeth Gilbert, whose book Eat Pray Love experienced enormous success, also experienced a sense of confusion, loss and paralyzation in the tidal wave of her success. She considered quitting writing when faced with the intimidation of topping her best-seller. She describes it as finding a way to ensure that her “creativity survived its own success”. She expresses the challenges of moving on and redefining her voice and creative style in order not to be imprisoned by her success.
Hope, the advice of these experienced writers will help you to enjoy doing what you love and succeeding in it.
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