From the Archives - Success Means Slaying Dragons

We're bringing out our favorite posts this week, giving them another day in the limelight.

I like this one because I wrote it while I was very confused about what to write next, after finishing the UNDER THE NEVER SKY trilogy. Despite the turmoil I was in, my compass was still working. Loyalty to art -- and to personal vision - seem like a pretty good way to make decisions about... well, making art and executing on personal vision. I also like it because it references dragons.

Here it is.

This week’s topic is defining success, and I’m going to be honest with you…

I succeeded.

About four years ago, the goal I laid out for myself was “to publish a book within five years.”

Within five years, I will have published three books and a novella. I will have foreign deals in twenty-six countries, a film deal, and made it onto the NY Times and USA Today Best Sellers lists.

Before you start gagging, I’m building to a point with all this bragginess. Also allow me point out the THOUSANDS OF HOURS I spent in a chair to achieve all of this. The wrinkles, the extra pounds and gray hairs. All the foregone fun times, and there have been many, in which I work while others play…. Anyway, that’s all for another post.

Ahem. Onward.

The thing is that I’m a crossroads. The UNDER THE NEVER SKY trilogy, almost finished, has soared beyond my wildest expectations. Now begins the task of What’s Next.

And let me tell you how tempting it is to try to replicate the braggy chapter above.

Very tempting. Very.

To do so, believe it or not, there’s a clear path that I could take in my writing. It is the path of least resistance, and it runs adjacent to the path I’ve already taken. This path is safe because I know it, and I’ve already beaten back the underbrush with my machete.

It is also the odds-maker's path. The book industry knows what sells. At least, they know what usually sells. They know which segment of the market purchases books. Their likes and dislikes. That information is pretty specific, and it points me in the direction of the clear path as well.

I have several problems with the clear path, however. The first is that I’m a fan of challenging myself and beating my way through new territory. The second is that I don’t want to write for other people. I want to write for myself. I want to follow my instincts. I want to sit down, eager to plumb my ideas, not the ideas that I think will appeal to others. How could I ever speak honestly if I’m trying to please? How could my writings be genuine if I’m following not my bliss, but the bliss of a collective pack?

In his famous commencement speech, the brilliant Neil Gaiman advises graduates:

Make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do…. the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice.  Your mind. Your story. Your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.

In this time in which it would be very easy for me to write safely, I want the strength to resist that urge. I want to write fearlessly, defiantly. I want the courage to yell yes in the face of no

I want freedom in my words and stories. I demand it. I deserve it.

My readers deserve it.

What will happen?

Of course, the monetary and career aspects will be a huge question mark. I’m heading into new territory with my next series. I’ve traded my machete for a sword and I’m heading right past the signs that read Here be Dragons.

That’s where my Muse leads me, so that is where success lies. Real success. My success.

Besides, I’m ready. It's time to slay some dragons.

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