I know, I know. Pretty soon these posts will cross the divide between praise and stalking. Lately I’ve been writing about getting my mind right when it comes to writing, reading, and long-term career goals (see here and here). These posts have been prompted by comments made by Myke Cole (Twitter, blog). And here I am again, calling attention to something Myke said. But, good advice is good advice.
So with that out of the way, here’s the latest bit of advice. It comes courtesy of Episode 59 of the Pros & Cons podcast, featuring Myke and Dave Robison of The Roundtable Podcast (Twitter). The whole thing is worth a listen, but at about 8:05 in, Myke starts talking about the questions he had to ask himself when making the decision to write professionally. And he talks about the mental and behavioral changes he made as a consequence of his answers.
Now look, I’m not bringing up his comments just to act like an cheerleader. Hell, Robison and the podcast hosts question Myke’s opinions and beliefs. So if you take a listen and you think he’s full of crap, you’re not alone. Heck, even Myke points out that the decisions he made carried terrible risks. But he confronted them, and pressed on despite them.
Anyway, there’s one quote in particular I wanted to focus on:
…my goal was not to be published. My goal was to write so well that I couldn’t help but being published. That’s a very, very important distinction. And what that all coalesced into, the one thing that I could control was the work. And I worked, and I worked, and I worked.
And the reason that stood out for me is that I had heard something similar on the Nerdist podcast when Aziz Ansari was the guest. He talked about how early in his career, he was worried about taking headshots, getting tapes to the late night shows, and that sort of thing. A club owner told him to focus on his performance and focus on getting better, and all that other stuff would take care of itself. As Aziz says, that manager was right.
And heck, Steve Martin said it years ago:
Note: in the Nerdist podcast, the quote gets a bit mangled. And in the Pros & Cons podcast, they even mention Steve Martin, but for different reasons. Still, it was nice to see it circle back.
So what does it all boil down to? (Oh, and just so we’re clear again, I’m going to start saying “you” and “your, but I mean me and my. This post is about me getting my mind right. But if it helps you in a similar way, bonus.) Stop chasing some idea of fame or success. Just stop and focus on your work. Get so good they chase you.
And that is really a freeing idea. It’s not about trying to turn my stories into something that will cater to an editor’s interests. It’s not about trying to get publication credits to earn my SFWA status. It’s not about chasing a market or a trend. It’s all about the work. It’s all about my effort. And it’s all about my story. When my story is good enough, it will find a market. It can’t help but find a market. And all that other stuff–publication, SFWA membership, all of that–will take care of itself. And with that deceptively simple twist in thinking, it becomes easier to focus on the task at hand: getting better.
And if it wasn’t clear already, I probably listen to too many podcasts. And I’ve rambled on far too long. Time to get back to work. Keep plugging away. Get your mind right. Stay focused. Work hard.