• Chris OBrien

Three stages of writing: That something else wasn't fulfilling

Updated: May 15

"I worked so hard. I put all this time in. I paid for editing help. Paid for a really nice book cover. And, after all of that... my book sold 12 copies." Now what?

Well, I guess I need to work harder promoting it. Buy Facebook ads. Email all of my contacts. Post every day on LinkedIn.

If I could just sell 100 copies, then it would all be worth it...

Or let's say your book does take off. Sells 500 copies. 5,000. 50,000.

But then comes that first negative review. 1 star. Someone who you've never met (and probably will never meet) posts the comment: "This book sucks" on Amazon.

It's a tough fact of publishing: the more books you sell, the more negative reviews you'll see. Even Ulysses - often listed as the greatest novel of all time - has its fair share of negative reviews.

Well, you can prove the haters wrong. Look at all of these positive reviews. And you'll write another book. And another. Each one will be "better" than the one before. As writers, we start chasing a new "something else." Maybe the new goal is a glowing review in the New York Times. Once we reach that goal, then we have made it. No negative review in the future will ever hurt. We will have been validated.

So what happens if you do get there? Or, maybe a better question, where is there? Where is the finish line when you'll know once and for all, "see, it was all worth it. I'm a great writer now."

And, if you do get there, will you ever want to write another book? What if the next book is a disappointment? Do you have to start all over? Or do you retire on top, never write again, because you've already hit perfection?

Think how weird that would sound as a goal: "My goal in writing is to someday reach a point where I no longer write." That's like a chef aspiring to no longer cook or a dancer longing for the day when they no longer practice dance.

"Something else" works better as a carrot just out of our reach. A finish line that keeps moving 100 yards away.

And sure, that can be motivating. It can be used as fuel. You may work harder than ever before chasing that Something Else.

But it's rarely fulfilling. Even if you reach it.

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