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Hey…psst, come here.
Because I’m about to hit you with some…
“TALENT DOES NOT EQUAL SUCCESS.”
Or hanging out with Jay-Z and Beyonce in Saint-Tropez on one of their yachts.
A year ago, I naively assumed that because I was an amazing writer (lolz), I would find instant success the moment I clicked the self-publish button on Amazon.
Readers would intuitively know that I had just dropped a gem of a book and rush to Amazon in droves, demanding it.
Oh, and I would also begin receiving royalty checks immediately.
(Again lolz. Amazon’s like an annoying friend who borrows ten bucks from you in January then gives you six and a half bucks back, ON MARCH 29TH.)
I’d seamlessly ease into a successful writing career by penning multiple New York Times bestsellers then kick back and frolic in the lap of luxury reserved for the super talented.
Y’all, ya girl would be taking calls from Shonda Rimes and working with HBO to fill the void left by Game of Thrones.
What? I’m a writer. I have an active imagination.
The point is, I thought all I had to do was pump out awesome book after awesome book and eventually someone would notice. Someone would read them. And someone would love them.
Were these all the same someone(s)?
Who knows? My imagination isn’t big on things like facts.
I was (arguably) talented. I didn’t need to be anything else. Right?
If this wasn’t my blog, rest assured that I wouldn’t be allowed beyond this point.
I honestly believed that because I was talented (again, arguably), I could toss my book onto any old self-publishing platform and wait for the money to start pouring in.
Spoiler Alert: That Ain’t Happen.
Here’s what did happen: I sold ONE copy of my book on launch day and I’m pretty sure my best friend bought it.
ONE flipping copy.
Let that sink in for a moment. I had just quit my relatively well-paying sales job to become a writer and had sold only ONE copy of my debut novel on its launch day. I had to stop myself from logging into LinkedIn and updating my resume.
Thoughts that ran through my head:
Thought #1 “Well, shit.”
Thought #2 “What in the heck is wrong with people? My book is so much better than hers, and hers, and his and definitely his and theirs too.”
Okay, I know that’s not nice but you have to understand that my ego had just been ripped to shreds. Coming to the realization that talent wasn’t enough was terrifying in its own right but coming to that realization after I had already jumped without a chute was downright nauseating.
At this point having something like, oh I don’t know, a business plan in place would have been smart. Or maybe a marketing plan. Also would have been good. Or even a google search about ‘how to make money from self-publishing’ would have worked.
Beyonce, okay! I was thinking about becoming best friends with Beyonce because astrologically we’re extremely compatible!
After launch day I was thinking…I’ve made a terrible mistake.
But you know what? And yes, I’m talking to you future entrepreneurs and JK Rowlings out there. I make mistakes, so you don’t have to. Or so you can make a whole new set of mistakes, whichever.
Talent is great. It’s awesome.
It’s being a little better at something than most people without having to try as hard. It’s usually innate and you can’t really tell someone how you do what you do. You just do it.
It’s instinctual and it’s usually unearned.
And that’s what makes it so darn dangerous and why it will always lose to something called Grit.
Now, assuming you didn’t just order Grit by the brilliant Angela Duckworth from Amazon, wait two days (because Prime rocks), read it then come back to this exact spot to continue reading this blog post, I’ll hit you with a quickie crash course.
Rule #1 Effort trumps talent. Always.
Rule #2 Grit = Sustained effort toward a long-term goal.
Dope Ass Example of Grit
Let’s say you have a friend named Lucy. You and Lucy are both, oh I don’t know, let’s get crazy and say you’re both…self-published authors.
Now, Lucy is a mediocre writer at best. Her writing voice is weak, her narrative runs all over the place and she can’t write dialogue to save her life. But she knows it. So she studies writing every chance she gets, consistently improving bit by tiny bit and manages to publish 3 books her first year as an indie.
Lucy also had the good sense to google ‘self-publishing for dummies’ and is currently building her social media presence on three platforms and just started a blog that’s probably as poorly written as her novels.
You, on the other hand, have always been a naturally gifted writer. You’ve never had to work at it and see no reason to start now. It takes you a year to write one book because perfection can’t be rushed. You hate social media so screw that noise. I mean who uses Twitter anymore anyway?
And God forbid you brush up on your grammar. It’s not like the rules have changed. Amiright?
You sell one book on launch day to your best friend.
Lucy sells forty books on the launch day of her third novel.
And the scary part is…Lucy’s third novel is almost as good as your first.
Can I be honest with you guys? The “you” in the dope ass example was actually based on “me.” But like I said, I make mistakes so you don’t have to.
Talent will only take you so far and it will NEVER replace hard work. If you want to survive on these mean entrepreneurial/self-publishing streets…
YOU. NEED. GRIT.
Chain yourself to your computer for some late night sessions a few days a week, it’s okay.
Read and respond to blog posts while you’re eating breakfast, your wife can talk to the dog instead.
Plan out entire plot points while waiting in line at the grocery store, it’s either that or buy three packs of travel-sized pistachios. And you don’t even like pistachios like that.
Talent is great
But it won’t make you successful.