By Mark Pepper
Well, everyone, it’s 2010, so a Happy New Year to you all. I trust you’ve made some powerful resolutions and you are now looking forward to a prosperous year ahead.
Unfortunately, nothing is going to change just because the clock hands have ticked over into another year. If you are expecting 2010 to bring good things when 2009 might have come up short, that’s only going to happen if you do something about it. The New Year is purely symbolic – at least I’m hoping that’s the case with what the Mayans have predicted for 2012.
It is, however, an excellent time to take stock. In terms of your writing, what have you achieved in the past year? Personally, my creative writing (I use the term very loosely) has consisted of these blogs. If that seems pretty lame, so be it; I’ve enjoyed writing these a lot more than I enjoyed writing the novels.
So, what does my achievement actually consist of? Half a dozen blogs over the past three or four months? And you’re thinking: What? And he’s happy with that?
It depends on how you take stock. Nowadays, the definition of success for my writing is enjoyment. You may define your writing according to a word count, a page count, chapters completed, whether you finally managed to find the time to complete your beloved writing project, or whether you got interest from an agent or publisher.
All of that’s perfectly valid, but I believe the key to success in your writing is how you feel about it. Have you enjoyed what you’ve done, or have you allowed a lack of forward movement to ruin the whole affair? Or have you experienced success but been so stressed getting there that you lost your sense of fun?
Remember that there are very few writers who can devote endless and uninterrupted hours to their writing. If that sounds like heaven, think about it: would you really want to have so little else in your life that all you can do is write?
For those of you who have been scribbling creatively for years, especially with a view to getting published, you know what it’s like to have a love-hate relationship with your writing. It’s a dysfunctional relationship full of frustrations.
Happier New Year
This year, how about changing your perspective? I’m not suggesting backing off or giving up. I would never suggest that, and I hope I have not been misconstrued these past months when I may have seemed a bit “down” on ambition.
It is the form your ambition takes that matters. Does it fire you up and make you more fun to be around, or does it fill you with angst at what might have been and what could still be but you fear probably won’t?
You have to enjoy your writing, no matter whether you “succeed” or “fail”. These are labels plonked on you by society. Are you a success because you have a hit U.S. sitcom under your belt, a novel accepted by an agent, or a screenplay in pre-production? This may make you a successful writer, but how has your personal life been affected? Life is full of trade-offs.
It’s not about being unambitious, it’s about enjoying the challenge it poses. It’s about going for it with a smile on your face whilst not having any expectation that the results will be favourable. It means forgetting all notions of what you think you “deserve” in life.
I’ll leave you with a favourite piece of mine, by Theodore Roosevelt. I imagine it is in reference to battle, but it has a powerful message you can apply to every aspect of your life, from career through to love. I hope it strikes a chord.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Enjoy 2010, everyone. Have fun writing.