Writing - How To Merit Success
( Originally Published 1922 )
Do Not Expect Success in a Day.—Do not expect that everything you write will sell readily. You may not have offered it in the right direction, or at the right time, or possibly your manuscript is weak in some respect. There are many writers who rejoice that their first amateur efforts did not sell. But keep on trying! Let your motto be, "I will beat my own record," and remember you have no competitor to fear except Yesterday.
Success will not be attained by spasmodic efforts. The writer must be regular and persistent, yet even regularity and persistency may have a drawback, if the same mistakes are made over and over again. The fault you do not see may be a mannerism of speech, or an attitude of mind you have never recognized because it has so long been a part of your own life.
Watch Your Point of View.—A writer of unusual talent succeeded in gaining a small editorial hearing. Beyond this he did not seem to be able to go. The trouble was that, be-cause of an unhappy childhood, he viewed everything from a critical, doubting angle, almost invariably leaving an unpleasant taste in the reader's mouth. Even his rejection slips embittered him.
Another writer with a similar background argued: "I know what the lack of happiness means, so the highest purpose of my life shall be to bring sunshine into the lives of others. My words shall carry optimism, and hope, and cheer. They shall point outward and upward rather than down." And so her writing, though it dealt with homely things, had all the inspirational value of an angel's song. The thoughts she sent out to others were so generous and true that a Gulf Stream of Appreciation flowed back to her.
Do Not Hurry.—The manufacturer of fine extracts or good soaps prepares his merchandise and then puts it away to ripen. If he offers his product for sale at once he knows it is inferior to what it will be later on. The boy who leaves school at fourteen or fifteen to earn a weekly wage of eight, ten or even fifteen dollars, may feel rich, but what about the future? What will be his earning capacity in ten years?
The writer who is too impatient to give proper time and preparation to his work, who offers crude and immature products, is not using as much foresight and policy as one who plans, writes, and waits until the material cools off, then revises and writes again.
Quality Counts, Not Quantity.—Greater is the reward of the author who sells one article for twenty dollars than the reward of another who sells two for ten. The twenty-dollar check shows the first has acquired a much greater earning capacity than the second who received the ten-dollar check. The first can soon turn out two products of the twenty-dollar class as easily and in as short a time as the other can turn out three at ten dollars. And so their paths diverge, one be-coming constantly more capable, the other barely holding his own.
What Shall I Write?—Let my own heart answer. Manufactured interest on my part will not call forth spontaneous interest on the part of the reader. Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm
Why Shall I Write?—That I may serve my fellow people by adding to the richness of their lives in some way. Unless I have something to give, I may not hope to get. "He who serves best profits most." "The laborer is worthy of his hire," but conscientious labor must come before the expectation of reward.
When shall I Write?—Regularly, persistently, tirelessly.
A little success may be won in a short time by the few, but back of that success is sure to be a logical explanation. An amateur speaker was called upon to address an important public audience. Being in earnest, and having something to say, he carried his hearers with him and was applauded to the echo. The newspapers rang with the masterful address.
"How long were you preparing that speech?" the man was asked.
"Why," he returned thoughtfully, "I had about an hour's notice. I made these notes on the back of an envelope."
"Ah," said the other, "I must take issue with you. Your preparation really stretched over the years of your whole life."
Was it not so with Lincoln's address at Gettysburg? Some-times the moments consumed in recording experiences and conclusions are not as many as the years spent in preparation.
The writer should plan to devote regular time to his work even if it is the spare cracks of time and the little pieces one spends commuting to and from the business office. Remember the story of the doctor who succeeded in writing a large and important volume by persistently making use of every moment he waited for his patients to answer the door bell.
Where Shall I Write?—In the place I feel most at home, or where I must. If absolutely necessary, ordinary obstacles can be surmounted. The obstacles may test the mettle of the worker after all.
How Shall I Write ?—By realizing the importance of my task, by seeing before me the vast audience I address through the written word, or the pictured act, and, in fact, never daring to do other than my best. Let my head be clear, my hand steady, and my subject worthy and familiar, then I will feel the joy of life, the satisfaction of service, and shall not fail to receive the rewards I have merited.