THE FIRST COMMANDMENT OF SUCCESS
By Delma Luben
What is the one attribute common to all writers (and all people) who achieve their highest goals? Except for rare flukes, they all keep the first commandment osuccess.
Toping the list of fame and fortune requisites, it has no stand-in, no substitute. Networking and getting along with people rank near the top. We must get along with editors. Yet there are celebrity authors who don’t know how. Education and special training are invaluable; but uneducated novelists have made millions. Sometimes the winners seem to posses no special talent or genius...
What is the name of the game these people play?
WORK, hard continuous work. The first man was sent forth out of a workless garden and admonished, “By the sweat of thy face shall you eat bread.” God decreed it. The all-time best seller mentions it over 350 times ...
George Bernard Shaw said, “When I was young I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. I didn’t want to be a failure, so I did ten times more work.
“By dint of hard work” Adela Rogers St. John earned the title, “most successful author of her time.” She died working, at 94.
At 78 Upton Sinclair had published 90 books. He gave this advice to young writers: “Work. Study hard, think for yourself, and work.”
As the successful repeatedly tell us, the constantly working turtle passes everybody--even the genius. And luck is preordained by work. Writers who meet their computer at dawn, or commence at midnight if necessary, and exert indefinitely (like laborers who start at sunup and toil till dark) have the best chance of getting lucky.
When Andrew Carnegie, once a laborer (who came to be called “the richest man in the world.”) wrote his “Ten Commandments of Success, hard work topped the list.
But what if it tops your list and you’re not free to create--can’t begin until the end of a wage-earning day, have no privacy, no peace and quiet, or are forced by family duty to give up your supposedly allotted time …?
Nobody ever said that becoming an author is easy. For most of us it requires rebellion against someone insisting we should be doing something else--and always, we’re fighting the colorful, powerful forces of commercialism that can so easily imprison artistic desire.
If you have tried to down “the divine discontent,” for the good money, and found it impossible, if every spare minute you study and dream writing, even while recognizing the long up-hill road strewn with myriad boulders ready to block your way… If you have chosen the lonely artistic path, but are not free to follow the pull (something or someone continually inhibits you), while thwarted, study, and practice when you can. Write earlier; write longer, by stealing time from sleep or play. Adopting an attitude of continuous learning, and perseverance, is imperative. You can’t take your writing too seriously.
Tom Robbins said, ”we must maintain a pitch next to madness.”
And as we work fervently to build our creative ability into a positive power we must also remember to protect the source of that power--our physical health. However great the aspiration, physical breakdown forfeit’s the dream. Those who win in spite of ill health are rare, those who lose because of it, countless.
Keep your body and mind healthy with good food, good care, good habits. Exercise. Immune yourself against worry and tension. Stay able to pay the hard work price. This expensive price tag on success weeds out the weak and the pretenders. The real writers stay, and pay-- and keep paying.
Dickens was lucky. He burned the candle at both ends, and lived to enjoy the glow. His breakdown came after fame. Still, he worked, when “… he felt as if already dead.”
Tolstoy, reportedly “hanging on by his nerves” after working night and day for six long years on War And Peace, made so many changes and improvements on the manuscript proofs the typesetter bills became exorbitant. The editor despaired. “If you go on like this we will be correcting forever. Half the changes are unnecessary; for love of God, stop!”
Yet Tolstoy worked on-- to make a masterpiece better.
Many famous authors don’t possess exceptional talent. The best of them doubt and suffer as we do. The difference? With rare exceptions, they simply work harder, and longer.
If you do likewise, and confidently proceed in the direction of your dream, the brighter day will dawn. By die-hard dedication, and the magic tonic called work, you too could one day see your masterpiece read by the world.
The wonders of work make history. Enough effects miracles. The first commandment of success-- and decree for planet earth: “By the sweat of thy face shall you eat bread.”
How much bread do you want?
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Excerpted from THE WRITING WORLD, Living The Literary Life © 2003.
Author's advocate, Delma Luben, contributing editor for Writer’s World Magazine, frequently speaks at writing conferences. dluben1.cox.net www.authorsden.com/luben www.thewritingforum.net