One of the frustrating things about writing – or any area of the arts – is the difficulty of being concrete about achieving success. There are any amount of motivational gurus who can fire you up with your unlimited potential and assure you that anything is possible – Anthony Robbins or Christopher Howard to name two. These fellows will happily sell you CD sets that include short hand instructions on how to rewire your brain and change your belief systems (so they claim) and also include various sessions in the way of Goal-Setting Workshops or ‘Strategic Visioning’ exercises. But this is where things get tricky.
When it comes to setting out goals for something like making a business more profitable, or to say learn a new language, there are concrete steps to take that will get you to the chosen goal. They contain elements that are quantifiable. For example, having decided you want to increase profit by a certain percentage, you can go in search of new customers using a range of media. Letter drop-off and business cards might net a 1% response, other forms of advertising might be more effective. But you can quantify all that. Advertising costs a certain amount, you know you need a certain amount of time to write the add etc.
Switch this to writing. If your goal is to get published by GoYouGoodThing Publications, the elements might run as follows: 1)plan book, 2)write book, 3)get feedback on book, 4) re-write book, 5)send book to publisher and 6) get GoYouGoodThing to accept it. Now you can use any goal-setting process on the planet for steps 1) to 5) (lets forget for one moment you spend two years repeating 3)&4)), but once you hit step number 6) – IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLAN.
People like Anthony Robbins or Christopher Howard might waffle on about ‘putting energies out there’ or ‘manifest futures’ or perhaps it’s the attraction principle of The Secret. It seems to me that these people have a lot to gain (i.e book and CD sales) in whipping people up into a state of belief, but in the end the hopeful aspirant is left to pick themselves up of the floor. The fact is getting to the far off future called ‘Publication’ or ‘Successful Publication’ involves the judgement of other people which most writers do not have the ability to influence. This last step – is the land of the Unknown.
Slinging your best efforts into this mysterious zone may yield sporadic success, years of stony silence, or a sudden spectacular success. The result remains unknown. I guess the only thing you can really say for sure is that the likelihood of success goes up the more you sling, and that if you sling nothing into this strange Unknown zone then you can be absolutely sure NOTHING will come back.
So – have I got this all wrong? Can someone give me the formula for 6)? Failing that – how do you cope with the Great Unknown.