12 May, 2016

Next Step: Success?

The idea that success is whatever lies just out of reach cannot be unique to writing. The feeling of being satisfied with what we've achieved if we only reach the next milestone is, I'm sure, something everyone understands. With writers it is easy to always be straining for the next goal: an agent, a publishing deal, a three-book deal, a place in the bestsellers, a proper income, a Hollywood blockbuster movie deal. Therefore I'm not sure if reading the story of Jojo Moyes in Good Housekeeping magazine this month is encouraging or discouraging.

Jojo Moyes had published eight novels.To many of us, that screams of success! To have an agent and to be traditionally published eight times would be a dream for so many writers. But she wasn't considered successful at all. None of her books had sold well and her publisher didn't want to publish her again. Another publisher told her agent that they thought her career was probably over. Then she had an idea for what she feared would be her final novel. That novel - Me Before You - ended up selling more than five million copies (so far!) and was turned into a major Hollywood film.

At first I was a bit discouraged. Jojo nearly didn't have the success she's had because it took too long coming. This wasn't someone who took wrote several novels before finding a publisher but then had a great career; this was someone who'd done the "hard bit" and found an agent and publisher (as I have) and still struggled.

Then I decided to be encouraged instead. Jojo mght have had to wait for her ninth novel to be successful in the eyes of the world, but it did happen on the ninth. And, who knows, if it hadn't happened then, maybe she would've kept going anyway. Maybe her 10th would've been the blockbuster, or her 15th. She kept on going.

Most of us, of course, will keep on going and never write a novel that sells anywhere near the number of copies that Me Before You has. But we will keep going too. I will keep going. I'm struggling to write my second novel. I'm finding it dispiriting at times, and it might end up terrible and unpublishable. And it might not. It might be OK. It might be brilliant.

My friend Dan, published a great post on not giving up on his blog the other day. My favourite bit was his plan to get back to writing (following a disappointment) after a cup of tea and a sulk. I think that encapsulates the writing life perfectly: Write. Don't succeed. Sulk a bit. Write some more. Repeat. Succeed (maybe).

Let's write!

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for the mention, Chloe. I had no idea Jojo Moyes had written eight books and was on the verge of being dropped by her publisher before she broke through with Me Before You. Just goes to show what a brutal industry this can be!

    What you say at the start of your post (about "success" feeling like it's always just out of reach) is very true. It always seems like the thing after the thing we've just managed to achieve is what we really wanted all along, which can be quite a dispiriting process to go through.

    I guess the key thing is to remember to look back regularly to see how far we've come, and be proud of and reassured by that progress, rather than only ever focussing on how much farther there is to go.

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