Unashamed Writing

Authentic writing from the gut - the studio of a self-taught writer

Hard work – two words I love – inspiration for writers

overnight success criss angelI watched a video with Gary Vaynerchuck yesterday where he answered his fans’ questions about social media, ebay, etc. Like everything he does, it was good.

The part that stood out to me and inspired this blog post, was the advice he gave a young woman who wanted to start her own ice cream shop: “Work your bottom off! In the first year, be prepared to spend all your time on your business. Sixteen hours a day … at least.”

I liked hearing that. It’s good, solid, cold-shower-wake-up type of advice.

Many times we read about the people who work only a few hours a week, on a sunny beach in the Caribbean islands, sipping margaritas, and making a living doing something they love. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, it is, but these stories are incomplete.

  1. It takes a lot of hard work to get to the point where you can work only a few hours a week and still be successful.
  2. These people are doing something they love. Most of the time they spend on their ventures is not considered work. They do it for fun. That’s why they see themselves as “working” only for a few hours.

When I read about someone successful, I don’t want to know what they are doing now. That’s easy to see. What I really want to know is

  • what got them started,
  • how much time did they spend on their business/dream/passion,
  • what did they have to sacrifice  (e.g. personal time, nights out, etc),
  • what kept them going.

Reading about the 4-hour workweek on a tropical island makes me want to find these people, steal their sun block, drink their margaritas, and kick sand at their laptops. Why? Because when they leave out the most important part (the many years of 80-hour workweeks in damp, moldy basements, eating ramen noodles they could afford only because they were on sale) they fool others into buying the idea of overnight success. And that’s not nice. If you truly want to inspire someone, tell them everything: the good and the bad, the laughs and the tears, the doubts and breakthroughs. Anything less is showing off.

By now, most of us should know there is no such thing as overnight success. Still, we need to be reminded of it though, especially when we are staring at a blank computer screen, questioning our dreams and our purpose.

One of my favorite quotes about overnight success comes from Chuck Wendig:

Suddenly on your radar screen is a big giant glowing mass like you’d see when a swarm of xenomorphs is closing fast on your position and it’s like, “Hey! This author appeared out of nowhere! Overnight success! Mega-bestseller! Million-dollar deal!” And then you get it in your head: “I can do that, too. I can go from a relative nobody to America’s Favorite Author, and Oprah will keep me in a gilded cage and feed me rare coffees whose beans were first run through the intestinal tract of a dodo bird.” Yeah, except, those who are “overnight successes” rarely appear out of nowhere. It’s the same way that an asteroid doesn’t “just appear” before destroying Earth and plunging it into a dust-choked dead-sun apocalypse: that bastard took a long time to reach Earth, even if we didn’t notice. Overnight successes didn’t win the lottery. They likely toiled away in obscurity for years. The lesson: Work matters.

– Chuck Wendig, The Kick-Ass Writer

I have no desire whatsoever to be kept in a gilded cage and I detest coffee, rare or not. Actually, I detest the rare coffee even more now, thanks to the TMI from Chuck Wendig and his  dodo birds. Still, I would like to know that the things I do matter. If I am to be a writer, I want to be a really good one. As of yet, I haven’t spent enough time or effort to go from mediocre-maybe-averagish to really-good. I’ve just been playing around. I came up with an action plan though. It involves a lot of hard work, reading, and writing. Someday, I might be on a Caribbean beach and do my writing from there. Better yet, I’ll be touring the world by bike, taking hiking breaks, and spending my evenings writing inspiring stories. We’ll see. Until then, I’ll just write from my treadmill in Western New York, a place with six months of cold, dreary weather a year, and no good hiking trails. It could be worse: I could be in a gilded cage drinking rare coffee!!!

Let me finish this post with a nice quote I read yesterday.

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.

– Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

Have fun writing … even through the tears, doubts, and sleepless nights. “That is your role, your gift.”

P.S. I would never kick sand at someone’s laptop. That’s way too much violence for my tiny body. I would definitely drink their margaritas though and, when I get too full, I would just pour what’s left down in the sand. There! That should teach them a lesson about telling only half the truth … or five percent of the truth, more like it.

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