Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Making It

“Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.”

- Albert Einstein

I’ve been thinking about what will happen at some point when I “make it” as a writer. Making it means different things to different writers.

Is it when you have an agent?

Is it when agents fight over you?

Is it when you get a publishing contract?

Is it when publishers fight over you?

Is it when you get a big advance?

Is it when your book hits the stores?

Is it when you sell 100 copies?

Is it when you make back your advance?

Is it when you’re on the New York Times bestseller list?

Is it when you sell a 2nd book? 3rd? 5th? 10th? 100th?

Talli Roland pondered this last question recently.

When these things start happening (and I have to think when and not if), I wonder how I’ll feel. How I’ll react. We can never plan our reactions in advance.

I recall when I anticipated having my son. I pictured him with brown hair and eyes, just like my husband and me. I’d look into those brown eyes and cry.

Here’s what happened:

He came out after 20 hours of labor with 3 hours of pushing. His eyes and hair weren’t brown. And I didn’t shed a tear. Instead I felt relieved. (Can you blame me?)

I don’t know how or when it will happen or exactly what will happen. But I do know that I will be one of the most grateful writers out there when it does.

And this is what I, future published author, VOW:

- I will NOT post about my book every five seconds. (Except for the week or two before the book release.)

- I will NOT have a Twitter account… still.

- I will NOT take it personally if you don’t want to be a part of my book tour.

- I will NOT comment on bad reviews I receive, even though I will probably cry in the privacy of my own home.

- I will not brag about any success because I’ll be too busy pinching myself and waiting for something to go wrong. (Irish people – even half ones - know not to get too big for their britches.)

- I will still comment on blogs, especially to the bloggers who comment on mine. (Though maybe less often.)

- I will still follow people who follow me on Blogger and Facebook.

- I will respond to all e-mails. (Though if you ask me to read your work, I may not have time for that).

- I will remind you that I was where you are and I kept at it. So you can too.

- I will give back in small ways and BIG WAYS.

There’s nothing more warming than seeing authors and agents give away critiques for free just because or to view auctions to raise $ for victims of disasters. We have the power to help. The more power I have, the more I want to help others.

I’ve been blogging long enough to see some authors change when they get agents or become published. I’ve seen others endearingly stay the same. I’m sure it’s not easy. There are deadlines, school visits, filled inboxes, and who knows what else. And often the $ hasn’t exactly poured in so you’re still juggling these responsibilities with a job and/or a family.

Here’s more proof that becoming published isn’t the end all-be all. Read this great article by Therese Walsh at Writer's Unboxed.

Writers, what’s your definition of “making it”?

How do you think you’ll handle it when you get there?


  1. I don't ever want to think I've "made it". I'd rather be working on new goal, after new goal until I'm all dried up and I can't write anymore. Then, I want to look back and see valleys and peaks and be pleased with what I've learned and achieved.

  2. so you think you will be published before me? i know thats not what you meant, but you probably will =)

    noble vows, cant say i would be able to do as much.

    and i will feel like i've made it with every step of the process. having followers makes me feel like i've made it!

  3. If I ever land an agent, etc, I'm still going to be me. And I'll still challenge myself to do better and not become a sloppy writer like some *ahem* best selling authors. ;)

  4. I hope to follow your vows, too (except that I have a Twitter acct). Great words to live by.

    I guess making it to me means I can have a career as a writer. So it will mean multiple published works, but it doesn't have to mean fame.

    Thanks for posing the question.

  5. I am going to try to always stay me, no matter what. People do change sometimes but I just want to be me, always.

  6. I don't know if I'd ever feel like 'I've made it," Theresa. But if ever I did, I'd follow the same vows. Except for Twitter, I think I may get tempted to open an account, haha!

    When you make it to the New York Times, can I have a copy of one of your books with an autograph? *winks*

  7. I don't know if I'll ever feel like I've "made it," even if I publish a book, but who knows! And I love your resolutions--a great list to keep in mind!

  8. I think there will always be something just around the bend that I'll want to accomplish.

  9. I like your plan to stay grounded when your star is born, and wish more would think about such things.

    I can't answer your comments from a writer's perspective, but here goes from a reader.

    The Mrs. created and has been building a children's toy and book lending library that is used by area agencies that work with children--especially those with special needs. She has been talking with experts in children's lit and reading lots of books to consider.

    Tonight, she had me read a new book by Michael Hall called "Perfect Square." We were both filled with joy after reading his work.

    I think that is when an author makes it--when he/she can leave a sense of joy or a realization of time well invested after reading their work.

  10. I don't know when I'll make it, but I want to make sure I still give back when I feel like I'm there.

    I've stopped trying to imagine that moment because, like you said, it will probably be much different than I've envisioned!

  11. Okay, chalk up another one for one autographed copy of your book when it hits New York Times!

    Your list is awesome, Theresa!

  12. "The more power I have, the more I want to help others."

    I feel the same way for if I ever get to a point when I can help and I love it when authors do that. I think the people I met in the blogging world have helped me so much already.

    As far as "making it"? That's such a great question. I don't know if I ever want to feel as though I have...but there is something to being satisfied with how far you have come.

  13. Theresa, I agree. The Irish in you definitely won't let you get 'too big for your britches'. We might just be able to afford some nicer 'britches' with any success we achieve.
    My main motivation to write is to find a career that works with my family, so for me that would be enough.

  14. For me, a fiction-writer has made it when they've joined the 8 percent of writers who can make a (good or bad) living just from writing fiction.

    Of course that's a personal thing, most likely each author has different goals, and consequently, only make it when they achieve their personal goals... Some setting goals that are impossible to reach and spending their lives striving for excellence or whatever other lofty goal they set for themselves.
    Perhaps we only make it, on a personal level, when we achieve our goals... And living is just striving to reach those goals, over and over. : j

    It always impresses and boggles me how steady you are in your two-way blogging... I feel you're a model of one of the ways blogging should be conducted. : j

  15. Wow. Awesome post about something I guess we don't think or talk about enough. I love the way you've listed what you will do, or continue to do, when you make it.

    For me making it will be when people who bought my first book, return for the second, third, fourth, and so on. Oh, and I'm determined not to change.

    Ellie Garratt

  16. Yay!! No twittering!! LOL!!!! Please no twittering!!!

    I hope to continue being silly and frivolous on my blog!!!! :-)

    Take care

  17. You make it when you push JK Rowling into second place on the income stakes.
    Just joking :-)
    I guess I feel I 'made it' every time I see my book on Amazon.

  18. I too don't want to change who I am just because I'm published! I'm doing my best to keep on top of things. But it does get REALLY busy.

    PS: re this " I will NOT post about my book every five seconds. (Except for the week or two before the book release.)"

    You'll realize when the time comes that you HAVE to post about your book more than the week or two before the release because there are SO many things to juggle you need to do everything to a schedule. AND, there are ARCs. They come out about three or four months before the release date. It's impossible to only plug your book two or three weeks before the release. Well, if you want to get advanced reviews, it is :o)

  19. I'm not sure I've come up with my own definition yet. I'm more in day-to-day mode, as things can turn on a dime. I always think of "if" instead of "when", too, because that's how I protect myself from disappointment.

  20. Your attitude and vows are great! I'm much like you, in that being published won't change the person I am, and it'll only make me strive harder to keep things just as they are now.

  21. I love the list of vow's you've made. I think it is important to stay true to yourself, and it looks like your list will help you do that!

  22. "Making It" to me means I have enough money to pay the mortgage and have enough to buy groceries at the same time. It also means I have enough story ideas to keep writing. And I still have the same friends I had before I made it.

  23. This post really resonated with me. In terms of "making it" in writing, I think it's always evolving for me. Right now, writing something agent-worthy is it for me. Then it'll be publication. Then it'll be more books, meaning that I've carved out a career. Then I can tell my 2-year-old that Mommy's a writer. Which is, when I think about it, what I want most of all.

  24. If I ever get an agent and make it, I want to remain humble and never forget where I came from.

  25. @ Emily, I know what you mean. If we feel we've arrived, we can stagnate. But I'd like to know when it begins to feel comfortable.

    @ Tara, absolutely not! I've seen and congratulated plenty of bloggers getting agents and publishing contracts recently.

    Having followers is a big boost to me too.

    @ Stina, yeah, what's up with sloppy writing? I've heard Anne Rice won't let anyone edit her books now. I didn't even know you were allowed to do that out of the self-published realm.

    @ Vicki, I think multiple-published works without fame is a good goal. Though fame for authors usually isn't very intrusive. We're not famous actors or rockstars! (Well, maybe Neil Gaiman.)

    @ Nicole, I like your attitude. Let's not let this future possible fame go to our heads!

    @ Len, I guess if I really got pushed by an agent, publicist, or editor, I'd get a Twitter account. But I wouldn't like it!

    Ha, yes, you can have my autograph!

    @ Meredith, I bet very few authors feel like they've made it. We're a worried bunch. I bet you always feel one book away from ruin. Or at least mediocrity.

    @ Bossy Betty, me too. But when do you feel you cam make a living and it won't disappear under your feet? Never?

    @ Slamdunk, this part you wrote moved me:

    "I think that is when an author makes it--when he/she can leave a sense of joy or a realization of time well invested after reading their work."

    @ Stephanie, me too. I'll fantasize about the content within my stories, but not what may happen as a result of them!

    @ Nas, thanks! Now if there would only be anyone who will actually show up at my future signings!

    @ Saumya, I'd love to be considered good enough and have books published so I can give away free books and critiques for a cause.

    I watched a documentary about children's book writers. One of them goes to hospitals to read to sick kids. I thought that would be a wonderful thing to do.

  26. That's such a loaded question! There have been times in my life when I thought I had "made it," only to discover it was a temporary blip of official approval (i.e., the agent, the publishing house) and financial compensation. Every project is different, and I am grateful that the PROCESS of writing is my source of joy. No one can stop me from stringing the words together, and no matter how the world responds, I will keep making sentences!

  27. I doubt I'll ever really be content with what I've accomplished. It's always about the next step, the next project.

    Though, if I ever came across a stranger reading my book in the real world... well... that would be pretty cool.

  28. I like to think I'll be the same old me . . . because I don't know if I'll ever really feel like I've "made it" as an author.

    Fascinating topic!

  29. You have made a worthy pledge. Anyone who succeeds in something should not forget those who helped them along the way. Unfortunately, often that doesn't happen. Success can mean less time for everyone who wants to share you, but lasting success isn't always guaranteed and those who once held you in adulation can just as quickly forget about you.

    I like the positive "when".

    To me success has something to do with making a living from what I'm doing. It doesn't have to mean getting rich--which might be nice--but being able to use my achievements to open many doors.

    Tossing It Out

  30. Great question! In my mind I have already made it- My goal is simply to be published and keep at it- I don't care if I make money. I'm honestly thrilled just to have something published in a book that my kids can see, my family can see, and I know I'm the one who did the hard work to get it in that book.

    If it ever occurred to me to try and make it "Big" with an agent and best seller lists, I do not know how I will react- probably in shock at first- but I am not money orientated person. Great post!

  31. I'm glad so many of your points have to do with being humble. What is so cool about some authors is they still return comments and follows from fellow bloggers. It's about always remembering who your audience is and honoring the relationships you made before you were famous, and the new relationships you will make once you've ascended.

    Excellent post!

  32. I don't know if I'll ever feel like I've "made it", but I think seeing someone in a waiting room or on a bus or something reading my book would be awesome, and I think it would help to publish books on a regular basis - not just once, but once a year, or every other year, so you feel like it's real and that your writing has some staying power. Every now and again, I'll get a note from someone telling me how much their son or daughter or niece loves one of my books and that's one of the best things of all - absolutely makes my day!

  33. @ Brigid, oooo, nicer britches!

    I know you need a writing career that works with your family. I hope you find it soon.

    @ Alesa, yes, making a living is how I'd define it. I'd like to make my primary focus and income from writing.

    Of course, some of the other items on my list would be nice too.

    Thank you. I answer each comment, though sometimes not as quickly as I'd like. And I visit as many blogs as I can, especially the ones of my regular commenters. That's why I slowed my number of posts per week - otherwise I couldn't keep up.

    @ Ellie, now that I've put it in writing, I'll have to follow it or explain why I didn't follow it!

    Having loyal readers would be something.

    @ Old Kitty, NO Twitter if I can help it!

    I'll keep being silly and frivolous on your blog if your blog continues to make me laugh and be charming.

    @ Al, achieving JK Rowling's success isn't even in my wildest dreams!

    Want to be published on Amazon? You can do it today. Or do you mean the traditional way? ; )

    @ Jessica, I only promised not to plug every 5 seconds during those 2 weeks, not to not plug at all before and after those 2 weeks!

    Good luck with your books.

    @ Sarah, I think of when instead of if because I want to believe I can do it.

    @ Miranda, it's hard to think of a time when I'll feel like I can coast. I'm sure I'll always have a story, and always want to have an even better book than the last.

    @ Mary, thank you. I think it's interesting to think of who I'll be if I get where I want to be.

    @ Anne, money, story ideas, and friends. What else does anyone need? I like it!

  34. I love your list! As someone who only discovered how private they were (we're talking hermit levels) after a career as a journeyman dancer, I embrace the anonymity of the writer's life.

    Yes, I'd adore to be published and to carry our research on the Orient Express, but change? Nah...I just want to be the best me I can be.

  35. @ Jess, you already are a writer! Sometimes I look at all I'd like to achieve, but my short term goal is to have an agent too.

    @ Choices, I like your sentiment. There's nothing worse than someone with a big head!

    @ Katie, "I will keep making sentences," is my new favorite writer mantra!

    There are the things we want from the outside to validate what we do, then there are the things we want from ourselves.

    @ Sarah, it would be amazing to see someone reading my book. I can't even imagine!

    @ Janet, I bet most authors don't feel like they've made it even when to most others they have.

    @ Arlee, I'd like a long, sustained career. Some don't get any career, and others just a flash. I like your idea of being rich in other ways.

    Don't ask what the writing community can do for you. Ask you what you can do for the writing community!

    @ Summer Ross, I'd be in shock if I were in that place too. I wish you the best!

    @ Alleged Author, I agree. I want to keep old relationships and develop new ones.

    I've been disappointed that a few authors haven't reached back when I've reached out to them. Simple things like commenting back or following back. I once even wrote a post to promote a newly published author's book and that person never visited although I provided the link on one of their posts. These writers don't owe me anything, but I think I'd react differently. And a couple of bigger authors have taken the time and surprised me by commenting here.

    @ Susanna, I feel just as you do. To touch people with my writing and be able to do it year after year would be the ultimate!

    @ Margo, be the best me I can be! You're the second commenter who made me think of the army.

    I like the quiet time and the connections.

    @ Susanna, I feel just like you.

  36. I think I'll know I've made it when I get a letter or email from a kid that tells me how much they enjoyed my book. And also, when I step into B & N and there is a kid so engrossed in my book that he/she doesn't even notice someone is watching him/her. Then my friend, I shall know I've made it.

    Super fantastic post. You're close. Real close. I can feel it. Do you? :-)

  37. Theresa I feelt he same way. We should make some kind of make it big writer vow. I don't ever want to forget how starting out feels.

    As for which one means making it big for me can I pick all of the above because I will do the happy dance every single step of the way!

  38. I imagine it's particularly difficult for a successful writer to maintain a blog as much as they did before they found success. I'd like to think I would continue making connections in the blogsphere. As for what is success... depends on my mood ;)

  39. I agree with your vows. I like it when established authors stay humble.

  40. Gosh, when I make it (and I have to say when to remain positive), I hope to remain the same. I've known quite a few people in other professions who changed so much! And the change wasn't for the better!

  41. When I make, I am not really sure what I will do, except shout with glee!

  42. At this point my definition of making it would be to have a book published that can be found on a bookstore shelf or in a library.

    That would be cool.

  43. Good post, Theresa. =)

    Honestly, I feel like I've made it. I am deeply in love with my fiance of 6 years, I enjoy my job, I get paid to write movie and wine reviews, I have a loving and supportive family, I've written a novel I love, I live in a beautiful home, we travel a couple of times a year, and we're almost debt free. Everything else, including being published, is icing!

  44. This is a nice list. I'll be watching for your uber success :)

  45. Oooh I realy like your vows--so GREAT. And I don't know just yet, still trying to figure it out!

  46. I've made it - I write most days...!:)

    Though I would like to hold my book in my hands (and that would be the bees knees) i want above all to write better, more & truer, to push myself to be able to say all those things I dont know how to say yet...

  47. Great post. I'm going to focus on the journey more than any big goal of "making it." And yes, I want to be like you if I ever get published and still visit others' blogs and generally be supportive.

  48. @ Robyn, I can't even imagine what that would feel like, to see a kid reading my book. Not just reading, but engrossed. That would be a WoW moment.

    I hope you get your wish!

    @ Deana, I'll do plenty of happy dancing too. But I'll try to do it in private since I'm a terrible dancer.

    @ Lynda, since my increased follower count has made me struggle, I can only imagine what happens when you get a rush of followers from an agent and book deal announcement. I've seen other blogs increase their follower count exponentially at those times.

    @ LR, me too. And I love that the Internet and blogging have made people who seemed off-limits accessible.

    @ Samantha, yes, when for both of us! It's a shame when people change.

    @ Glynis, when you make it I'll be shouting with you!

    @ Angela, the other day I was in my local bookstore, Porter Square Books. I saw Elana Johnson's book on the shelf, and got excited for her. The same thing happened when I saw a stack of Beth Revis's books on display in January.

    So when it's my book, I'll probably be babbling about it to strangers.

    @ Shannon, what a wonderful perspective. You have much good in your life!

    Making it in writing would be amazing, but it can't be everything. Especially since I've had such a hard time getting a teaching job, I have to focus on the good in my life.

    @ Michael, uber success? Ha! Let's hope so. I'm watching too. Actually, I should be editing!

    @ Christina, good luck with your journey.

    @ Words A Day, you're so talented and hard-working. I believe it's just a matter of time. And luck.

    @ Natalie, it's hard to not look 2, 3, 4 steps ahead. But we should work at the step we're on.

    But a little dreaming never hurt, right?

  49. That's a really good question. Every step is "making it." First blog post, first comment that wasn't from a family member, first query, agent, etc. I like to handle all of those accomplishments with a glass of champagne and then move on to the next.

  50. Yes, Missed Periods had said what I wanted to say... I'm now nodding my head in agreement.

  51. Thanks for the linkage, Theresa, and I'm sorry it's taken me a few days to make it over! I've been in an editing cave/ funk the past few days. : )

    Well, you know my thoughts. I like what Missed Periods has to say about it! I'm trying more to enjoy the journey.

  52. so many comments!
    since you are on summer break, wanna play tag? come visit =)

  53. @ Missed Periods, that's a good way to look at making it. Every goal we reach is something to celebrate.

    @ The Tame Lion, I'm nodding my head in agreement too!

    @ Talli, I'm sorry about your editing cave/funk.

    Yes, we get so focused on "the end" that we can lose sight of the journey. It's pretty cool just to write.

    @ Tara, I'll visit. YaY for summer!

  54. Sounds like you're being very realistic about when you do make it as an author/writer!

    For me, making it will be when I get widespread distribution of my books, when I see my book at B&N.

    Thanks so much for hosting me on my blog tour! You should say you were the critique partner for the book, of course and give yourself some credit, because you put a lot into it with me!

  55. @ Aubrie, you're almost there on your way to "making it"! Do you see your book on my sidebar? I can't wait to read and review it. It will be interesting to see how the book has developed since I read it. I'm honored to have been a part of the process.

  56. Yeah, as you know, I did a huge post about this, and there really is no point where "you make it," in all honesty. It's a moving, constantly changing path that I think we have to find happiness at every point along the way. Also, be careful about saying "never", although I hope you get to stick to all those things on your list. Things change in our lives, and it's nice to have doors open to change with them. I wish you the best in your journey! It's certainly an amazing one with all these wonderful authors like you!

  57. @Michelle, thanks for commenting. I don't know if I'll be able to stick with my entire list, but I'd like to keep it in mind.

    I met Jane Yolen last month. After her hundreds of books and many awards, I can tell she doesn't believe she's made it either.

    Your post was honest, and I wish more authors were as honest as you at the point you are in your journey.

  58. Well said, Theresa. I'm not sure if you ever "make it". There are no guarantees in this business. A career is made contract by contract.

    I vow not to take anything for granted.

  59. Excellent list! =)

    I like what Missed Periods said, too. Every step closer to your dream is a victory.

  60. I love your list. It's brilliant (except not jumping on twitter, hehe). I've given myself similar promises if I ever 'make it'. The encouragement and support I've received in the writing community has been so massive that I want to ALWAYS give back.

  61. @ Caroline, so true. I've heard of seasoned authors struggling to get a contract. I like your philosophy.

    @ Shannon, thank you. I like Missed Periods comment too.

    @ Lynda, I know you twitter lovers think I'm crazy. The writing community has been wonderful. We'll remember!