Sunday, December 08, 2013

What You Deserve (Podcast #9)

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What do you deserve? What are your rights? What is your guaranteed return on your investment when you write a book . . . when you read a book . . . when you live?

Absolutely nothing . . . nilch . . . zero.

And the ones who embrace life understanding this fact, are usually the ones who succeed.

As a child, I decided that the harder I worked, the more likely I would succeed. Most of my life that concept worked well for me. But there came a time when I thought I did right, gave it my all, made proper decisions based upon ample research, and followed through as instructed . . . yet still fell short of success. A few events could be interpreted as abject failure.

Any writer knows that characters not getting what they deserved is a rich well for storytelling.

I see undeserved repercussions happening to people everywhere, in all professions, in family situations, in personal choices, in the smallest of issues, in the most major of decisions.

Sometimes it's as simple as reading a book blurb, laying down your hard-earned $15 or $20 for the book, then realizing the characters are two-dimensional, the protagonist curses too much for your liking, or the story never fulfills your desire for an entertaining read. Did you deserve to be entertained? 

Maybe you hired a turnkey press to self-publish your book for you, paying for the promotional plan, the top tier cover design, the broader distribution to a dozen ebook resources. But the book sells forty-seven copies in six months. Did you deserve to sell thousands of books?

You were lucky enough to acquire a traditional publisher. Congratulations. But they start deciding the cover, the release date, the places where it will be reviewed, and they do not listen to all your suggestions. Do you deserve to be heard?

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You married your high school sweetheart. You knew each other for a decade before tying the knot. A decade later, you realize the mistake and go your separate ways. Did you deserve to be happy?

You had two children. You financially, emotionally, physically and socially supported them. Yet one never calls, and another contacts you only for money. Or they move cross-country for you to see them only every two or three years. Or they drop out of school, not listening to your lessons learned, to your advice on how to avoid your mistakes. Did you deserve to have a better family?

Success is not a guarantee. Nor is happiness. To say you deserve something intangible is just not so. Of course if you pay for a tasty, well-served dinner in a nice restaurant, and the fork is dirty, the meat undercooked, or a fly lies belly-up in your salad, you deserve a refund. But if you expect the best dinner in the world, better than anything your palate has experienced, then no, you do not deserve it.

When it comes to the intangible, understand that there are no guarantees.

The most successful do NOT fuss about what they deserve. They do not fret on Facebook about what they didn't get out of something. The successful study what happened, why they did not win, did not get entertained, did not make a buck, or did not achieve number one, and they change their path accordingly. They learn from what they did or didn't do, they choose what not to do again, and they decide what else to try.

The successful do not waste their time discussing failure. 

Of course you want to identify why failure occurred. You need to understand failure to know how to change course. If you read a sci-fi book by Author Jane Doe and couldn't read past Chapter Five, what do you do?

1. Leave a  horrible one-star review on Amazon?
2. Rant on Facebook about that horrible author?
3. Decide not to read Jane Doe's work again?
4. Decide not to read sci-fi again?
5. Decide not to read again?
6. Hate books?

Jane Doe wrote the best book she could write. She doesn't know you, but she sincerely hoped you would enjoy her story. She did not publish a book to alienate anyone (sci-fi pun there). She did not point at you and say, "I'm writing and publishing this just to  irritate you. I want to suck your $15 away from your pocket, sell you a bad book, and walk away sneering at how I scammed you."

So, I suggest that to best capitalize on your time and energies, you choose to not read Jane Doe again, or decide to look harder at Jane's work before buying it next time. Why do anything more than that? Why waste your energy?

Many of my readers are struggling, mid-list and successful scribes themselves. They have the right to attempt to create and sell their work. It doesn't always happen. In fact, the odds are against them being successful. Those who try harder have a higher success rate. There's no doubting that. Those who study failure and construct new ways around it, have a higher success rate. Those who spend more time moving forward, and less time wallowing in anger and depression about not getting what they deserve, have a higher success rate.

You do not deserve a one hundred percent chance for happiness, entertainment and success. Don't you feel great knowing that? You should!

Going into any choice knowing that you have a likelihood of not being happy on the other end, removes the burden of achieving perfection, which nobody needs to bear anyway. Once you embrace that knowledge, you can fail with dignity . . . and waste less time feeling shortchanged!

For my writing friends, view these controversies from the angle of NOT deserving them.

1. You pitch an agent and don't receive a reply. That agent is swamped with keeping her current clients happy. Acquiring new clients is not a major part of her duties. She might have to choose between hiring someone to answering query letters or saving the cost of that employee and using it instead to aid her clients. It's just a quick answer, you may argue. Well, five hundred quick answers per week takes hours. Would you like to read and reply to five hundred emails when it helps you in no way achieve your goals?

2. You ask readers to read your story, and nobody seems to care. A fast reader covers a book a week. He has millions of books to choose from, thousands bombarding him daily. He has to balance his work and family as well as read books. So when your book is thrown into that maelstrom that is Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the indie revolution, he might not find it, might not like the cover, might not like the genre, might not like the blurb, might not like reading new authors. 

3. You query twenty magazines and receive five rejections, while fifteen do not respond. The magazine has one person who reviews queries. Yours comes in. It doesn't jump off the page to him or he knows another writer who  can write this same subject and be trusted to meet deadline. Or he just bought a similar subject. Or he knows the readership isn't fond of this subject. Or your credentials don't excite him. What's to get mad about on your end?

4. You start a blog to create a platform, and nobody comments. Do you know how many blogs are out there? I go through blogs like candy, and when I tire of one, I unsubscribe and seek new ones. I have no sense of loyalty to one that does not enlighten me. That's the blogging world. Its readers are fickle. Serious bloggers work darn hard at staying fresh. 

You can grump about what didn't work, fussing about what level of success you deserved because of the work you put into it. Or you can remain calm, even attempt to be happy, and realize whatever you chose did not work. That would mean that now you have a better idea of what will work. Right?

Quit worrying about what you deserve.

Instead, study what did NOT happen per your expectations, and take off in another direction, with a fresh, crisp plan in mind. All that energy wasted complaining, fighting depression, or debasing yourself, could be spent achieving the success you now know more about achieving.

Be happy. 

I want you to realize that life is trial and error, with a lot of that error not always avoidable. We don't deserve anything, except satisfaction in how we live our lives and achieve our goals. And even with dozens of failures in your past, you can be the happiest person on the block, because you love the journey of living.

Rather than holding back, regretting what you've done or what's been done to you, love moving forward, finding new ways to enjoy life. Spending your days trying to constantly improve is much more fun than hollering about what you deserve.


Anonymous said...

"Kwitcherbellyakin" is usually my mantra.

Complaining or whining certainly does no good.

As writers, we have to keep moving forward...

Jordan Clary said...

I was lucky. My mother taught me at a young age that life isn't always fair and you don't always get what you want - or think you deserve. It's served me well. Not that I don't still get into lots of snits and feel sorry for myself, but I try to be somewhat objective about it. For instance, I'll give myself an hour to snivel and whine all I want, then when my time;s ups, it's time to move on and start figuring out what to do differently. I enjoyed this post very much! Thank you.

Hope Clark said...

As long as we know we aren't entitled, I think we can handle most anything.

Unknown said...

You nailed it explaining karma.
Does Paris Hilton deserve all the success?
We should suppose she does because of her repeated calls for work.
Now whether this kind of success is desirable would depend on different viewpoints and standards.
Simple as you get what you get.
But time and experience should make one wiser.
A writer's effort should be persistent both in effort creating and finding your best possible renditions.
Talent and work should get you somewhere,even though it might not turn out as planned.
Not every plan will succeed per se. But some will.