This blog post is not about shortcuts.
This blog post is not about writing a book in a month.
This blog post is about how people achieve their life long goals.
Honestly, I’m sort of sick and tired of hearing about overnight successes and people who wrote their book, launched it, and made a quarter of a million dollars.
Because none of those people are telling you the real story.
This blog post is a case study on 2 professions that are just like writing, and 1 that is writing, and how they are all about the long game for different reasons.
1. Wet Hot American Summer is blowing up my Netflix feed.
The first time I watched the film was in college, and I loved that it was a ridiculously hilarious parody on Summer camp movies. At the time, I recognized about 3 or 4 of the actors in the film.
But recently, Netflix released Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp, which has spiked a surge in discussion about the original movie.
My fiancé and I nestled in to watch the original film together again, before we watched the new television series, and as soon as the opening credits began, I couldn’t believe how many actors and actresses I started to recognize.
Now, little known fact about me: I have an obsession with heading straight to IMDB to check out everything else an actor or actress has been in when I recognize them in a film. I read tons of information about them and I’m always curious to see how far back their acting career goes.
As soon as Bradley Cooper graced the screen, I broke out my phone and got into IMDB ASAP.
Wet Hot American Summer was Cooper's first feature film.
Then I scrolled through the rest of his IMDB, and found that 8 years later he was in The Hangover.
Now this is not to say that Bradley Cooper hasn’t been in a ton of films in between. In fact, that goes to my point.
Bradley Cooper, who is now a household name, was already in his first feature film in 2001. But did you know who he was? I’m going to guess no.
It likely wasn’t until the Hangover, or maybe a film or two before, that you’d mention his name, and someone else knew who he was.
2. Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson are two of the most driven people I’ve ever heard of.
In 2007, Tommy Caldwell started to wonder if the Dawn Wall could be free-climbed.
Warren Harding was the first man to scale El Capitan, in 1958, and made the first ascent of the Dawn Wall (then called Wall Of Early Morning Light) with Dean Caldwell (of no relation to Tommy.)
But they had used artificial aids to climb, and Tommy Caldwell wanted to free climb it. To free climb meant that they may use ropes and climbing accessories, but only to keep them from falling. It wouldn’t be used to help them climb.
Fast forward to 2009, Kevin Jorgeson asks Tommy Caldwell if he wants a partner for his Dawn Wall project.
Here’s what it says on Kevin Jorgeson’s website:
“Over the next six years, Tommy and Kevin spent hundreds of days working out the pieces, failing constantly, but keeping the dream alive that one day, they might free climb this route.
On December 27, 2014, Kevin and Tommy started their "push," to leave the ground and not return until they either succeeded or were stormed off. 19 days later, they stood on top of El Capitan having completed what many are calling the hardest route ever climbed.”
Let’s go back a second.
Over the next six years. That’s right, six.
In the course of that time, each of them built their careers. They became bigger names in the climbing world.
But it was in January of this year when they, over the course of those 19 days while being followed by National Geographic, reached the top, and were greeted by national news networks, and were interviewed by every morning show, that they became household names.
And let's not forget… it took 6 years.
3. Yesterday, Elizabeth Gilbert was interviewed by Marie Forleo.
I’m not going to lie… I haven’t been a big follower of Elizabeth Gilbert’s work up until now.
Eat, Pray Love was not my cup of tea and the on-again-off-again literary snob in me decided I didn’t need to be interested in any other work of her.
But, as I got the e-mail with the subject “My Big Magic Sit Down With Elizabeth Gilbert” I queued it right up.
I was blown away.
The focus of the interview was Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic.
Forleo brings up a favorite section of the book that she says is about “Shit Sandwiches & Day Jobs.”
There are an incredible amount of quotes from the interview that are fantastic, and I’ll likely make a series of them as images, but here is one that directly applies to the discussion at hand:
"Writing is the thing that I love. And the shit sandwich was the 7 years that I was not getting published. And that I was coming home from my job as a diner waitress, as a bartender, as an au pair, as a somebody who worked in flea markets, as a cook, and I was coming home tired and smelling like other people's french fries, and sitting down and doing my real job, which was to write. And then, to go to the mailbox the next day, and get another rejection letter. And then say, 'Do I still want to do this? 'Cuz this shit sandwich sucks!' (Laughter) And I did still want to do it.’”
In January of this year, an organization (that doesn’t seem to exist anymore), BlinkBox Books, made an incredible infographic that, thankfully, is still circulating online.
On the infographic, pictured below, you can see the age at which many well known and established authors published their first book, the age at which they published their breakout book, and the age at which they died.
Take a look at how many authors had multiple books published before their breakout book.
That means that many of these authors were published, their book out of a slush pile, and published, AND it wasn’t the book that made them big.
Nicholas Sparks, for instance, looks like there was almost a 6 year gap between his first book and his second, and it wasn’t until his second book that he broke out.
So what’s the lesson in all of this?
Take a look again at that infographic below.
Anything that you love doing is about the long game, and writing is no exception.
If you want to be published by a traditional publisher, it can take years before someone decides they want your book for their press.
If you want to self-publish, it could still take many years before you reach the success level you're looking for.
Will it definitely take many years? No.
That's the whole thing about writing a book. It's completely uncertain.
But the big difference between those published authors and those that aren't is that published authors show up every time, no matter what.
Even when they get rejection letters.
Even when their first book is a flop.
Even when they've written six books, and haven't hit their breakout book (I'm looking at you John Irving.)
Look at how many books each of those authors went on to publish.
They knew that it was about the long game, and that they loved writing. That was all that mattered.
Take charge and begin your writing path today!