The picture placed in the header of this update serves as a very visual reminder of a dream conjured long ago by yours truly; a dream that I still one day hope to achieve. See when I first started writing, long before I begun to believe myself capable of seeing my work in print I ran through a rather impromptu goal setting session with myself surrounding my new found craft. During that session I asked myself how I would gauge my success as an author, and in my humbleness I came up with a few rather simple and very achievable measures of success. The first measure was modest. I would consider myself a successful author when I could sit in my own office, a space devoted entirely to my own creative processes and construct my tales of ruin and woe. I told myself that the walls of my office would be adorned with the workings of those who inspired me, and that perched on my desk would be a crisp white notepad, a lavish ballpoint pen, a laptop, and a lamp in the shape of the world.
My second measure of success would come when I could journey to the far corners of the earth, and find a spot just like the picture above where I could sit, surrounded by nothing but the vast emptiness of the wilderness and create and consume literature. My first incarnation of this dream saw me sitting on a jetty stretching over a lake in Alaska dressed in a hooded jumper, lost in my own thoughts as my pen scribbled frantically across a tattered notebook. But overtime there would be various incarnations of this dream; sometimes I was airlifted onto a windswept summit, sometimes I was in an African jungle surrounded by the very real possibility of death.
I’m sure that if I was to ask a mental health professional about my imaginings they would tell me that there is something very sinister and somewhat unnerving that my dreams almost always had me in total isolation, but fuck, we can’t all be socialites can we? The point is that at the time of writing I’m still yet to achieve either one of these rather simple benchmarks that I set for myself and the only person to blame for that is me.
A few days ago I was afforded the opportunity to attend what was called a future leaders motivational talk run by the company that I work for. It’s a seminar styled workshop that they run sporadically throughout the year for the up and comers like me to explore our minds and challenge our way of thinking and doing in the hopes of achieving personal development. Now although I’m usually captain sceptical when it comes to things like this I actually found the whole experience rather beneficial. Over the course of the day I learned a few techniques for goal setting and how to become a better leader in the workplace and beyond. And when I walked out the door at the end of the day I found myself questioning my whole take on this writing thing that I’m constantly chipping away at.
As I drove away from the seminar and returned to the workplace, and even as I lay in bed that night I began to understand that my whole approach towards becoming successful in this game was flawed. The publishing industry is a highly competitive and cut throat business where only the best manage to rise above the sludge piles of shit and have their works printed on a commercial basis. And from there only the elite manage to find any kind of notoriety for their works. Yet here I was trying to strike it rich by occasionally dipping my toes into the oceans of agents, publishers, and literary houses and wondering why the hell I wasn’t actually getting anywhere. When I started this blog I wrote in post number one that it was time to sink or swim, yet here I was twelve months later doing neither, instead I was merely bobbing along with some fucking floaties strapped to my arms to keep my head from going under.
But why was I doing this? Why was I holding myself back from fully immersing myself in something that I want so desperately? Well, there are two reasons. The first is that I was a little afraid to commit so completely to an ideal. Because I had only ever constructed a rough set of goals for myself with no logical plan of action to get me there, I was too afraid to fully commit to my craft. The possibilities of failure were endless when the goal was about as clear as a bucket full of mud.
Then there’s the second reason. I’ve never fully committed because until this moment I never really believed that I had to. For some fucked up reason I had this misguided sense of self-worth and entitlement that led me to believe that I didn’t have to give it my all; that I didn’t need to bust my arse chasing down agents and publishers, or pushing my wares onto unsuspecting audiences, because shit was just going to fall into place for me. But here’s the kicker: life isn’t like that. Right now I’m not worth shit in the literary community, and unless I get off my arse and start really striving towards my goals (that are now more clearly defined) than I’m never going to be worth more than that. We as a species have reached a rather strange point in our evolutionary progress, a point where the youth no longer believe in the value of hard work, but rather that they are special and deserve everything.
It’s a counterproductive mindset to fall into, and one that has had me spinning my wheels for a while now. We are told each and every day by our families, our friends, and our media outlets that we are deserving of all that life has to offer, and that makes us lazy. Why goal set and bust our arses to achieve what we are already told that we deserve? It’s toxic to our souls to be spoon fed such contrived notions, but we relish it and inevitably fall short of our true potential as a result. Michael Jordan didn’t become the best basket baller of all time by simply being told that he deserved to be. Steve Jobs didn’t revolutionise the technology world because his parents told him he was better than anyone else. No, these men worked themselves to the bone and poured their hearts and souls, their blood, sweat and tears into their respective fields and made themselves the best. And if I ever want to find success as a writer I need to be prepared to do the same.
The title of this post originated not because what I chose to write about was pessimistic or overtly negative, but rather because I want each of you to step away from it and question yourself, question those around you, and question every aspect of your lives and discover if you are where you truly want to be, or if you are falling short because you’re simply not working hard enough to accomplish your goals.
Right now I, like many others, am nothing more than tiny blip amongst the constellations of stars vying for a career as an author. I believed that I was better than the other stars and I got nowhere because I mistakenly assumed that my light was bright enough to capture the attention of audiences and draw them towards me. But the honest to God truth is that if I continue to believe that I deserve everything whilst contributing nothing than I will never achieve. But if I goal set and if I work my arse off and become the best damn author that I can be not only will I see my work put into print, but I’ll also be able to make time to journey to that lake and sit by the water with my hooded jumper, my notepad and pen, and stare up at the sky and know that I’ve achieved everything I ever set out to do.