Sunday Sermon: Success

How alliterative of me this fine Sunday! This little lecture applies not only to writers but also to anyone who wants to achieve something considered monumental.

Newspaper writer Earl Wilson once said: "Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure."

I remember our band director, merciless tyrant that he was, had a philosophy he jammed down our little teen throats. No reasons; results. No excuses; success.

Every now and then I hear from an acquaintance I met along my road to publication. Without exception, if I ask how the writing is going, I'll be told all the reasons they quit writing. Or they'll tell me at length about the projects they've written and a long list of excuses why they still haven't published.

Now, don't get me wrong. I, more than anyone, know how capricious the publishing world can be. I've seen writers with compelling manuscripts who never got to first base. I've had a few of those near-misses myself. I'll also be the first to admit there's an element of luck in getting a book contract.


Don't fall into the trap of making excuses for not getting what you want or that other trap of rationalizing all the reasons why you didn't have the time to write or had to quit writing. If you truly want to write for publication, then, by God, write. Put aside the rejected manuscript and write something new. If that doesn't make it, then mourn and write something new.

Don't bother thinking up all those reasons and excuses because anyone in the biz won't believe you anyway. We'll just know that you threw in the towel because we already know how hard it is. We know that sometimes things get rejected for no good reason. We know that sometimes you just have to suck it up and plunge ahead.

Now if you want to quit, there's no shame in that. Just proudly say, "I just got tired of this wacko business. Life's too short to have your mental health threatened by an editor or agent (who probably got up on the wrong side of the bed, tripped over the dog and broke her toe, and got dumped by her boyfriend. All just minutes before picking up my manuscript and taking it all out on me)."

Don't make excuses. Don't disparage another's achievement by calling it lucky. You more than anyway should know how much hard work goes into this career.

Samuel Goldwyn said, "The harder I work the luckier I get." By all accounts, he was an overbearing egomaniac, but he was right.

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