When I first began to write with the goal of becoming a published author, I found myself constantly wondering what secret everyone else knew that I did not. Surely, there was some magical formula, some secret ritual, something, anything that these successful authors were doing to have the almighty light of publication crowning their glorious little heads. I couldn’t get it out of my mind that there was something I hadn’t yet discovered, that I hadn’t yet touched upon to make me wildly successful. In my obsession to figure out the secret, I lost a bit of my own passion, focused so much on seeking out the glory of publication.
As Jill Jepson, author of Writing as a Sacred Path, says, “Storytellers are the custodians of human history, the recorders of the human experience, the voice of the human soul.” Jepson believes writers are vessels for these stories, charged with the work of giving form to our stories and passing them on to others.
John Green, successful YA author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” would agree. In a recent Brainpicking’s article, Maria Popova sang the praises of John Green’s always timely and inspirational advice to aspiring writers. Green, who posts vlogs to his brother Hank with messages that focus on everything from his love of the internet to the writing process to telling NaNoWriMos it’s okay to suck, says that the only advice he can give about writing is:
Don’t make stuff because you want to make money [or] because you want to get famous—make gifts for people…your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.
When I suffered a rather long barren period of creativity (or lack thereof), I began to realize that the secret I was so desperate to find out was no secret at all. It was simply doing what you love and loving what you do. That is ultimately what makes a writer, or any artist, successful. Not how many books have been published, or how many Facebook fans an author’s page has.
In the words of William Faulkner, as recounted by John Green, a writer’s success is ‘a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.’
In this quick-to-publish digital world we live in, with so many successful self-publishing stories, it’s easy for writers to lose sight of the passion for their writing. But passion is where the art springs from. That is your success secret. Come to your craft with dedication and excitement. It will shine brilliantly out of your writing. And the rest will follow.