Breaking Down Success

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I realize I owe you a post about ways to combat burnout, and another one about essentialism versus mutual respect…but I’m on deadline. The end of this month marks a milestone for me that I can hopefully share with you at one point. Instead, today I want to talk about yesterday and why I feel it’s important.

A lot of people wonder what it takes to be successful. I hear a lot of talk about getting published, or the right vs. wrong way to tell a story, etc. etc. etc. To me, unless you’re looking to fulfill a specific goal, all that can get in the way of productivity because you start worrying about what you should be doing than focusing on what you’re actually doing. I get into trouble, sometimes, because I tend to oversimplify complex concepts. I remove the flotsam and jetsam because as a creative, I have to be conscious about what I’m putting in my head and what’s coming out of it. (I’ll talk about more about that in my post about burnout.) Part of that, too, is not worry about what success is or isn’t, but focusing on what matters to me.

My world is very simple when I’m staring at my keyboard. I have a deadline. Did I meet that? If not, why and what can I do to be better about achieving it? I have people I work with. How can I be a better collaborator, leader, and co-worker? I have bills to pay. Did I pay them? If not, what do I need to do to pay them? If I don’t have a deadline, how do I get another one? How do I assign deadlines to my spec work so I’m pushing myself further? Then, when my novels come out, with any luck I’ll be focused on engaging readers, too.

When I look “up”, however, there’s a whole ‘nother world out there. There’s a world where I am judged by fans, by people I don’t work with, by potential publishers, etc. That world doesn’t know what I’m doing on my keyboard, or what I’ve done that hasn’t seen the light of day, or any of my experiences in business or music, etc. That world doesn’t care about what I did in the distant past or what I’m doing right now because it’s not out yet. That world? Only cares about what I did yesterday. Or, more specifically, what I released yesterday.

Again, I realize I’m oversimplifying here… I do think about (and plan for) what I want in the future, but that impacts what I work on rather than how other people perceive me. My point is that it doesn’t do me any good to worry about anything other than creating more “yesterdays,” because that’s the only thing I can control. There are so, so, so many writers out there who are hustling–and they’re unknown–making a full-time living at this. Are they any less successful than the writer who writes an award-winning story? Does that really even matter? Sometimes, I think we get so worked up about defining what is and isn’t successful, that it winds up hurting us because that word–success–is incredibly subjective.

I try to worry about what I can control and what I can learn from my mistakes. (Like my terrible comma usage in this post, for example.) I don’t aim to be perfect, because that’s not realistic. Over time, I realized I can’t make up a publisher’s mind by talking about what I haven’t finished yet, and it hurts me to stop writing because I’m “waiting” for a release to happen or for anyone else to validate my work. Yes, awards will help my career, but I’d much rather focus on putting out work I’m proud of, because I feel that’s better for my definition of success and to serve readers, fans, etc. If I haven’t hit that sweet spot yet where readers are happy? That means I have to do something new and fresh that will, and I will keep doing that. In a way, I hope they never are, because I can’t imagine not writing or not trying to make something happen.

In order for me to be productive, I feel it’s more important to care about what I can focus on right now, the readers and the fans and the people I know right now, so I can continue to make a living and have more yesterdays. I cannot, and will not, be able to control what other people think. (I wouldn’t want to, anyway.) That way lies madness, and crafting a careful marketing image/persona is secondary to my work. The work has to come first. Being “popular” is not my focus, because I am not a celebrity who is honing my image based on “who” I am. Being a celebrity is a job, and very few writers are also actual celebrities. That’s not how I get paid, and everything I do in public feeds the work.

Time to hustle!

    Mood: F-f-f-f-f-f-feisty
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: On my third cup
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: There was walking!
    In My Ears: White noise.
    Game Last Played: Kingdoms of Amalur: Age of Reckoning
    Book Last Read: Commedia della Morte by Chelsea Quinn Yarbo
    Movie Last Viewed: Can’t remember…
    Latest Artistic Project: Chainmaille!
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing.
    Latest Game Release: Gothic Icons and Smuggler’s Guide to the Rim
    What I’m Working On: Read my latest project update.

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

Want an interview? If you’d like to interview me or request a guest blog post, please connect with me via the contact page, too. Due to time constraints and other communicative concerns, I typically don’t follow up on requests via social media.

Keen on sending fan mail? I am also happy to engage with readers and fans. Please note that I am unable to reply satisfactorily to certain types of queries related to the companies I work for due to the agreements I typically sign. If you have a question about a TV show or a line of books, the best way to get your answer is to contact the studio or publisher directly.

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