Last week was a very eventful one for me. Although it's taken five years of obsessive, and sometimes seemingly fruitless, hard work my book THE RUNNING GAME became an Amazon bestseller in Canada and almost reached the illusive status in both the States and the UK. It was an extremely proud and totally baffling few days for me, where I tried to ground myself in reality and yet enjoy this major achievement.
For years I've wanted to feel like a real writer and not just some hobby pensmith living a pipe dream. Being signed by a publisher, being highly rated on sites like Goodreads, even being able to quit my job, all seemed to fall short. So was this it? The grounding moment where I became at one with my ambition?
Well being of typical Yorkshire/Welsh personality, I don't expect good things to last and when it comes to book rankings I know it's impossible to hold the top spot for very long, so I waited patiently for it all to fall apart. New stories are always going to knock you off your high horse and leave you reeling in the dirt remembering former glories. As the rankings soared I was forever conscious of the limited duration of this successful moment and so I tried, as best as my pessimistic self-conscious nature would allow, to enjoy it as much as humanly possible and feel for any hint of self-gratification from this achievement.
The difficulty with being an author... actually rephrase that... one of the many difficulties of being an author is your work peaks and then falls ridiculously quickly. The years you have spent creating and producing your perfect story climaxes in a disappointingly short explosion of excitement, before petering out into a fading ember of remembrance. And you're left with wondering what the hell to do now.
Before I peaked in the rankings I'd already achieved all of the goals I'd set myself; publishing my story, getting a contract with a publisher, getting good reviews, being able to quit my day job. The rankings was one of the last hurdles left to jump, and now I have I am feeling a bit like a runner at the end of the race track wondering where else I can go. I've still got fight in me. I still don't feel victorious.
At least I didn't. I realised that the only thing left for me to do is go back to the start and run the race again, improve my performance, hone my technique. Get better. BORDER LINES (Book 2) is warming up on the starting line and I'm ready to go again.
But I've not pressed the reset button. In fact what I have since discovered - post adrenaline rush, pre-caffeine kick - is that the success I've gained in my work has very little to do with the sales figures, with the money, with the rankings, with the ratings. The success I have walked away with, which is available to all authors, artists, musicians, etc. regardless of the stage in their career is the experience I had - sometimes endured - to reach my goal. Success or fail whatever we do to get where we are or where we want to be can only make us stronger.
If I look back to 2011 from when I first started self-publishing, I still don't feel like a published, successful author. But I do feel more in tune with my work. I feel the strength from the support network I've been able to tap into from the author communities I've met along the way. Good friends that have been forged by mutual respect of each other and the craft. I feel a greater sense of my own ambition and expectations of what I can do. I feel limitless and grounded, accepting but driven. This process, as fleeting as it may have been, has shown me that success cannot be measured, it can't be quantified or compared. It's a feeling inside. A pride in oneself. And I am proud... not Mr Darcy proud... but proud like a parent. I only wish I had realised this sooner in my writing career and maybe could have enjoyed the highlights a bit more along the way.
And that is the point. You measure your own success and sometimes you will overlook massive achievements because you are impacted by other opinions and attitudes. Whether it's just finishing that story, or making headway in some measurable chart, you need to relish the moment. It is fleeting, it is short, but it doesn't mean it didn't happen and it certainly doesn't mean it can't happen again.