All writers are impatient. They are hungry for success. But, what does it mean to be successful? I faced this question when someone asked me about my goal. An English teacher and long-time reader asked me the following: Do you want to be a great writer or do you want to sell a lot of books?
It never really occurred to me that there was a difference between the two; however, the question makes sense. Writers who want to sell a lot of books turn to those who have been successful before them. They copy their style, write in their genres and pick their favourite story lines. They follow the successful trend.
The problem is that trends change almost as quickly as people change their underwear. In the technologically advanced Information Age, everything happens at the click of a button. People now move almost at the speed of light. What was in yesterday is irrelevant today. Tomorrow is always unpredictable. In a social media age, publishers or writers have no control of trends. Anyone can change the trend, anywhere, at any time. It is futile to even try to chase trends.
Writers who try to keep up with the trends and have some success doing so have to change constantly. They also have to write fast. Since trends change constantly, these writers have to put their books out before the trend moves on. They may be successful at selling books and making a living, but their works are the product of marketing strategy. They write what appeals to the largest audience; basically, the lowest common denominator. They are not writing what they want or what defines them. Instead, they write what the trend happens to be at the time. They are market-slaves. They are never free.
As opposed to the market trend chasers, there are writers who are inspired to write something meaningful and worthy. They would like to create, inspire, communicate and touch something deep within others. They would like to be their authentic self, doing something wonderful and contribute something meaningful. They want to share a story or an argument because it matters and because it has to be told. They are the great writers.
The good news is that those who remain authentic are more successful on the long run. Since they have a sense of self, they can continue to produce great works. They defy trends. In fact, they often create trends by refusing to follow them. They are the true creators who usually get recognized. It just takes a longer time for them to get there.
So, do you want to be a great writer or do you want to sell a lot of books? Do you want enduring success or fast success? What kind of a writer do you want to be? It’s up to you.