When I first met Bob Mayer, I read his book, Who Dares Wins—The Green Beret Way to Conquer Fear and Succeed. In the book, Bob talks about the statistic of success…5%. Only 5% of people who say they desire to write a book will finish an entire manuscript. Of those who finish, roughly only 5% will ever publish. Of that 5%, only 5% will ever be successfully published to the point where they can make a good living as an author.
That is a statistic to really make one take pause. Did you know you have better odds of winning a seat in Congress than you do of becoming a best-selling author?
I found that terribly depressing. What is even worse is that this 5% number holds true in all other areas. Only 5% of obese people who lose weight actually keep it off. Only 5% in debt end up living life in the black. Only 5%…
Okay, you get the idea.
I remember being so horrified by this statistic when I first read it, and yet, I have watched it play out as true time and time and time again. And we could discuss the reasons behind this all day long, but today I want to narrow our focus to the world of writing. Ask yourself one question and be honest with your answer.
Do you really want to be a successful author?
Are you in love with the idea of being a successful author?
Please do not feel bad about your answer. I think all of us are in love with the idea of being the next James Rollins, Stephanie Meyer, or Sandra Brown. It is what fuels us to keep going, to write before dawn or long after the family has gone to sleep…
…or is it? Lately, I have been blogging on social media. I am in the process of editing my soon to be released book, We Are Not Alone—the Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This book will strip away all of your excuses, and give you a plan for success. Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate that there are real reasons why writers are not using social media effectively. That was what propelled me to write the book in the first place. But let’s set that aside for a brief moment and look at the core issue—you.
Go back to my 2 questions. Do you really want to be a successful author? OR Are you in love with the idea of being a successful author?
Well, you might argue and say, “Hey, come on Kristen. That’s basically the same question.”
No. Not even close.
Ideas do not make us face our fears. Ideas do not make us admit we are wrong and that we need help. Ideas allow us to procrastinate into perpetuity with no plan of action. Ideas are, just that, ideas.
Agent Rachelle Gardner recently posted a blog that really made me think. She asked, “What are you willing to give up in order to be successful?”
This is where the difference between the two questions becomes painfully clear. If I am in love with the idea of success, then I don’t have to make the hard choices (I have been guilty).
This is why we end up with that awful number…5%.
I think it is like so many other things. We want to have a beautiful body, but only if we don’t have to work out and can eat anything we want. We want to be debt-free so long as that doesn’t interfere with our eating out and our vacation plans. Well, after we get home from summer vacation on the Carnival Cruise, we’ll tighten our belts and eat sandwiches. And so often, the idea of being successfully published gradually overtakes a genuine ambition to be successful. We must guard against this.
So I will ask the same question as Ms. Gardner, “What are you willing to give up in order to be successful?” Maybe you should grab a piece of paper and jot down a list. Then tape it next to your computer.
Are you willing to give up your free time?
I hold a novel writers boot camp every Saturday for four hours. We rip apart your idea, help you create all the necessary arcs and sub-plots, story-board the whole novel, and by the time an attendee is finished, the novel is practically paint-by-numbers. At first, when I created this group, I was worried that it would grow too large to be effective. Yet, to date, that hasn’t been a problem. Why? Very few writers want to give up a Saturday morning to work on their novel.
I would say, about 5%.
Are you a 5%er? Do you have “the right stuff?”
Are you willing to write every day no matter what? Are you willing to put writing as a priority? Are you willing to get up an hour earlier or stay awake an hour later in order to make your daily goals? Are you willing to blog every single week no matter what? Are you willing to build and maintain a social media platform, regardless of how you feel about Facebook? Are you willing to dress in clothes from Target and do your own nails so that you can afford a faster computer? Are you willing to give up eating out and save money to attend the better conferences that will make you a stronger writer? Are you willing to hear honest opinions about your writing without being defensive? Are you willing to give up your Saturdays?
Those are the crucial questions that separate the wheat from the chaff.
If we want to be the best, we need to think like the best. Our life must be structured to support our goal, or it is, by default and definition, a hobby. A hobby is something we do when we feel like it. Hobbies can get put on the back burner with no consequences.
Olympic swimmers don’t go do laps at the pool when they feel like it. They structure their lives to support the big goal…bringing home the gold.
I had a tough time with this for a long time, but it came to a point where I had to make a choice. I am not a best-seller yet, but I am adopting habits that will get me there sooner. I give up my Saturdays to hold a novel writing workshop, even though it means I don’t get to sleep in–EVER. I read countless books and blogs to get better at my craft instead of going to the movies. I write a blog every week, even if it means giving up swimming on a Saturday because I had a couple of sick days and need to make up the time.
I still have a lot more room to grow. I have my list, and some family members aren’t going to be happy. I think they are more in love with the idea of me being a successful author than with me actually being successful.
But, I MUST get out of my comfort zone and put down boundaries (wish me luck). It isn’t easy, but I am willing to give up short-term comfort for long-term reward.
So, for those of you who know you have what it takes to be in the 5%, what are you willing to give up to get the gold? I’d like to hear about it.
Until next time…