Tuesday, 31 January 2012

What he said... aka thanks for that

While there is no magic formula, there are certain recurring themes in the 'How I Made It' stories of successful writers. They all had absolute faith. They all wrote with almost religious zeal and they all refused to take 'No' for an answer from life. Most drew upon their own personal experiences and few seem to have had a carefully controlled game plan. Many wrote several novels before getting their big break. Some hit paydirt on the first time out. Many have journalism as a training ground. All love words and felt compelled to tell their stories.

Use what you have. Get what you need. Tell your stories your way and learn your craft as a writer. That will make you more fulfilled, irrespective of whether it gets you published.

The problem with identifying paths and models of excellence is that we are also looking at the matter retrospectively - recognising someone who has achieved something and then asking how they did it. The assumption is not only that those positive behaviours and strategies can be replicated, but also that replicating them will, of itself, lead to some similarly quantifiable success.

Other problems arise in the process of quantification. If we look back at our own lives and achievements, the road to our goal is both hard to chart as a linear journey and excludes the elements of chance, timing and connections.

Add to that the lack of objectivity - for example, how do we even know when something can be considered a success at all - and it becomes apparent that definition of terms, factors and common perceptions is key. Perhaps all we can safely say is that some behaviour - discipline, goal setting, and an attitude of positive expectation about one's inner resources - is that these all make our success (chance, timing and connections - or the lack of them - notwithstanding) more likely. But a two-in-a-million chance is still more likely than a one-in-a-million chance, even though it is - to all intents and purposes - infinitesimally small.

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