Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Writers: Take a longer view of success

Who isn't hurrying to get some traction with their book sales. I know I am. But for me the hustle simply hasn't worked. Something's been missing. I've done all the suggestions from the "how to" books. What's wrong? I think I have an idea.

I've been rushing everything—and I got a real eye opener today. (Lately I've been learning the open source computer system, Linux. Let me tell you it has been a challenge and a half for a non-techie like me, and I've been getting stressed learning it.) In one of the forums where I've been getting help, somebody said to me today: "Remember, you don't have to learn it all in one day."

 That really helped me, and it got me thinking about writing and success.

I read a novel called The Discovery of Slowness by Sten Nadolny. It's about a nineteenth century explorer on the high seas, but what sets this explorer apart is his particular—and from many people's ways of looking at it, peculiar—way of approaching life: he was slow.

Slow to think. Slow to act. Slow to judge.

The book opened my mind to new possibilities, namely, that my rushing was counter-productive. I know the times I've made the most mistakes in my life were when I was rushing. And I thought of that saying, 'Nobody ever asks how fast a work was done. They're only concerned with how well it was done.' In Discovery the author says (which again remember is about sailing):  

John watched the work on the ship very closely. He let himself be taught how to tie knots. He noted a difference: in training, the name of the game was how fast one could get the knot tied; in real situations, how firmly it held.

Think of Russia. It is said of Russian leaders that when they can't get along with a U.S. President they just wait. They know he can only be in office eight years at most.

The great cathedrals of Europe took hundreds of years to build. Artisans would work on only a small facet of the project and would die before it was finished. Was their work no less vital? Should they have hurried (producing an inferior product)?

In in the movie "City Slickers" (three yuppies go on a cattle drive) the Billy Crystal character (one of the yuppies) tells the grizzled gunfighter, Curly Washburn, (played by Jack Palance) that he's slipping—he hasn't killed anybody yet and the day's getting on. Curly just turns to him and says: 'Day ain't done yet.'

Who knows how long it will take to get where you're going. As long as you're headed in the right direction—that's all that matters.

Back to The Discovery of Slowness. The author writes:  

John did not want to go under: he again decided to endure.

Are you struggling in your writing life? All you've got to do is endure. Do that, and you're doing plenty. You're doing fine. Ralph Waldo Emerson has a quote:  

I am here only to endure; to be worked upon.

Great things take time. It may be hell waiting them out, but they're worth it. Relax. You'll get where you're going.

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