As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon: It’s only the bad stuff that happens to you without effort. (In most cases; there are exceptions.) On the other hand, while bad things may rain down on you without your control or consent, you have to work really hard to make the good stuff happen. Very rarely does something wonderful just land on you without you having first put in some serious effort to make it happen.
Think about it: Death, disease, accidents, etc. are mostly things that happen to you without effort. Sure, there are times where these things are directly caused by something you did or didn’t do, but most of the time they seem pretty random. You just get up one day and something awful happens. That physical that you thought would turn out fine reveals cancer, or some bozo runs a red light and t-bones your car. Not much you can do except cuss at the universe for being unfair.
Even in the case of writing (or any other life goal), having bad things happen usually comes about because you did nothing (or at least didn’t do enough). If you get rejected it may be simply because the agent or editor wasn’t compatible with your work or didn’t have time to deal with you, but it may also be because you didn’t write a great book, or do enough research, or have a big enough platform, etc. And if you aren’t progressing in your writing career, it may be because you are doing nothing or not enough and you’re just letting the bad things (or nothing at all) happen to you.
I know I go through this more often than I should. I’ll think, “Why is nothing happening? Why aren’t I moving forward?” and I’ll get down on myself and feel that the world must be against me. But if I look deep and am honest with myself, it’s because I’m not pressing hard enough to make the good things happen. I’m sitting back and letting the bad things happen. Maybe I’m not working hard enough on my projects, or I’m not putting myself out there enough. Maybe I’m putting off doing something that might help because I’m being lazy or I’m not sure how to proceed so doing nothing at all seems safer. So instead of getting good things, bad things (in the form of rejections or complete silence from agents/editors, projects that never get finished, promotion that goes nowhere, etc.) keep happening.
But when I push myself and really go after the writing and promotion, good things start to happen. Even if it’s just working on my blogs or journaling through my problems, it’s effort that leads somewhere. Sure, it’s not always, “Here’s a publishing contract and some chocolate cake,” kind of wonderful, but it’s forward progress. An agent asks for a full. Someone sees a social media post and I gain a useful follower or make a networking contact. I solve the problem of a tricky revision and create a better story. I get a new freelance gig. Whatever it is, it’s something positive.
Of course there are still rejections, disappointments, and missed opportunities. Working hard doesn’t guarantee 100% success 100% of the time. That would be a fairy tale. But not working or not working hard enough pretty much guarantees that the bad things will happen, or at least that nothing will happen, which is pretty much the same thing if you’re a writer looking to move forward.
So get out there and make the good things happen. It’s easy to sit back and whine about the bad things, but those are the things that happen when you don’t even try. If you work to make the good things happen, they will. It may not be huge at first, but good things build a momentum of their own after a while and eventually you end up with more good than bad. And life is certainly more fun and interesting when good things are happening than when you’re sitting on the couch eating chips and watching TV.
(Photo courtesy of cohdra)