Do You CRAVE Success?

We’re going to take a look at success and your concept of it. If you can determine what kind of success you crave, and weigh how important it is to you, you can then set some goals–practical goals–that will help you achieve that sense of success.

I believe it really is possible to feel successful even if your books aren’t getting sold or are selling “poorly.” And of course, in time, maybe your books will sell in a bigger way that will bring you some great joy.

With the trends in eBook publishing, a good book has a chance of growing in sales and gaining faithful readers over time. Using the concept of 1,000 true fans, a writer can find great satisfaction in interacting with and writing to a core group of devoted readers. I’ve posted some key thoughts about this in earlier posts, if you want to take a look , but in the meantime, let’s take a look at CRAVE.

If You Crave Success

I created this acronym as a tool to look at the way we feel about success. We write because we have

  • a need to channel our Creativity.
  • a need to Reach an audience.
  • a need for a sense of Accomplishment.
  • a need for Validation.
  • a need to Express our heart feelings and/or beliefs.

We all have these basic needs to some degree. But in order to have real joy in our writing, these needs need to be healthy and balanced. If we have such a deep need for validation, if we must have others’ approval in order to feel okay with ourselves, then anytime we are not validated (read: rejection letters, unsold novels, bad reviews), we feel terrible.

If it’s essential our writing gets to an adoring audience, we will suffer each day we don’t have some reader tell us how wonderful our book is (see my story on the writer who couldn’t take a bad review). The only way, in my opinion, to find real joy in the writing journey, year after year, is to watch for warning signs that any of these five needs might be getting out of hand and robbing us of joy.

Dangers of Success

We’ve all seen how success has brought a lot of grief to the lives of famous people like actors and rock stars. Maybe you’ve wondered why so many famous people are so miserable and messed up. Obviously, there are some dangers to becoming successful. And I think it relates to CRAVE. Once someone gets a taste for adoration, they may find it addicting. That need to reach an audience for a sense of accomplishment and validation becomes an obsession. The initial desire to express their creativity now becomes tainted with the trappings of success–the fame, money, and glamor attached.

I think, for some, their obsession with success causes them to lose their simple joy of creativity–which is where I believe our joy originates. If we can’t find joy in the creating process anymore because we are so wrapped up with success, why be creative?

Find Your Priorities and Treasure Them

Of course, there are many successful, even famous, creative people out there who know how to feel joy in what they do. They’ve found a way to keep centered and keep their priorities straight. They don’t let success go to their head or contaminate their heart.

I am not knocking worldly success. I hope every one of you who dreams of “making it” as an author sees those dreams realized, just as I hope my lofty dreams are realized one day. But in the meantime, we have to thrive in the place we live, and right now that might not look at all like success. For many aspiring writers, it looks a whole lot like failure.

Adjust Expectations to Mine Your Joy Each Day

It took me twenty-three years to get published (from the completion of my first novel and getting an agent until I was offered a publishing contract). So I consider myself an expert on feelings of failure. Now I’m in that stage of trying to build readership and audience and realizing I’m not going to be an overnight success. I’ve had to shift my attitude and adjust my expectations to redefine my definition of success and to examine what I need to validate my sense of self-worth. I am still working on this and believe it, like writing, is a lifetime journey.

If you’re finding you are too often frustrated, depressed, feeling like a failure, you might want to look at how you crave success and try to shift your thinking. I wrote some posts on how aiming for 1,000 true fans is truly the way to go, and it’s a doable goal. When you have some time, if you missed those posts, go back and read them. Here’s the article Kevin Kelly wrote a few years back, and I encourage you to read about his concept of true, satisfying success. It’s a better way.

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  1. Another important aspect to attain success in literary activities is to know someone who can push you in our journey to fame.
    A highly creative piece remains unread as people do not have any time to try something new. But when the creation is recommended by someone who has already established himself in the field, journey becomes interesting and hopeful.
    I have professional background as an Engineer in my earlier ‘avtar’ for more than four decades. Good work was noticed as there were people whose job was to discover the worth of the work done or proposed.
    But my present world is extremely complicated and difficult to pursue.
    I am trying my best to get in to the loop.
    What is your take on my views?

  2. Of course it helps to have “connections” in the publishing and marketing world, or even someone influential in other spheres. Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” does a great job explaining how someone or something can explode into public view. If you haven’t read that book, I’d recommend it!

  3. It did not take me all that long to get published, but I happened to get lucky and meet someone who had ham radio in common with me, and who also happened to be the vice president of a medium-sized publisher.

    It took me 10 years of hard work before I could support myself (modestly) from writing alone; another 10 years before I actually got to the point where I could call myself middle class; another 10 years before piracy, changes in the publishing landscape, and other factors brought about the current steep economic decline for me.

    Nevertheless, I have found one thing that stands out when it comes to my definition of success: If you enjoy the day-to-day work, the very act of creating something and refining it, the fascination of finding out that your well of ideas has no bottom … If you get to that point, then you have attained success.

    By the time the pirates and the plotocrats completely pauperize all of us hapless scriveners, I should be about to coast through my final years in a little cabin somewhere with a satellite Internet connection, still writing to the very end, for the sheer joy of it.

    To me, that’s success.

  4. I think you make some very wise points here. The majority of people who expect overnight success will be bitterly disappointed, and I think that’s a common reason why so many people give up their dream after a short while. It was my first year of self publishing yesterday, and my sales figures show that I’ve sold just under one book per day. While many writers sell hundreds per week, I don’t think my figures are too bad for a first time author with only one book. I am hoping my second book will be ready soon. I measure my success on the knowledge I know I am doing everything in my power to sell my first book, and I work on my current one everyday. I am also more confident this year after I have received several fantastic reviews from complete strangers. Now that is a very good feeling of success indeed.

  5. Naomi, those are great points. If you can think about building your 1,000 true fans over a few years, you will get to the place where your writing is helping support you both financially and emotionally. That’s what I strive to do, and just want my novels to touch hearts and give something of value to my readers. Stan, you are right–it’s learning how to find the joy day to day, keeping a balanced view of creativity and success. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hey,

    I love the CRAVE acronym. As a freelance writer and author, I think the success I crave comes from “C” and “A.”

    Also, I tend to feel most successful as a writer whenever I notice that my general writing skills have improved – or I’ve grown as a writer – somehow.

    Great post! Glad I found your site!

  7. This is a great, well-thought out post. I’m looking forward to reading more on this site and also checking out the books/articles you suggested.

    I’m about to start a writing class (gulp!) and am hopeful that I can share some of my failures with students. There are a great many things I’ve learned which I wish I’d known before stepping out full-time as a writer. On the other hand, maybe if I’d known those things I never would have taken the leap!

    Thanks again for the thought-provoking post . . . I’m off to explore more of the archives here.

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