Do you feel under pressure to strive for bestseller status? Is the endless competition draining your creative reserves and sapping the joy out of your writing?
Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be this way. Nor do you consign yourself to hobbyist status if you don’t reach for the top.
Retired psychotherapist/college professor Kassandra Lamb, now an indie author of mystery novels, explains why she’s happy to set her sights on a lesser but more realistic goal: to be a successful mid-list author, in a discussion of the nature of success and the pressures of a competitive culture.
I’m working on my fourth career in my lifespan – that of a fiction author. I love being a writer, but I also loved many aspects of my other careers. I have few regrets, and none regarding what I consider to be my “main” career, that of psychotherapist.
Striving for Success in a Competitive World
I spent twenty years listening to a lot of people talk about how their middle-of-the-road dreams had gone awry, often due to circumstances that were not completely within their control.
Their stories gave me a real appreciation for how it is okay to aspire for moderate success, for a goal that meets one’s needs, whatever they may be, without necessarily bringing one fame and fortune.
The United States, where I live, is a competitive society. We are taught that we should aspire to being the best we can be, to win prizes for being the best at what we do. Why?
I consider my career as a therapist a huge success, even though the profession doesn’t pay all that well, and I was never a “big” name in the field. But I helped most of the people who walked through my office door. In a fair number of cases, I helped turn their lives around. And in a few, I saved their lives.
My Writing Dreams
But I’d always dreamed of writing fiction. I loved to write. As a college professor (my third career), I even enjoyed writing tests! I had plucked away at a novel – about a psychotherapist, of course – during most of those years while I was pursuing other careers.
And then I retired and finally had the time to pursue my writing in earnest. When I finished the novel that I’d been writing for years, I suffered from a common ailment of new writers: the write-it-and-they-will-buy-it syndrome.
I imagined that readers would scarf up my new gem by the droves. But I wasn’t dreaming of huge profits or the New York Times bestseller list.
I was imagining hundreds of people READING my book.
Perhaps my retired status gives me the luxury of not caring so much about how big my profits are. But I just can’t get all that excited about things like rankings or bestseller lists or writing awards.
I Can See Clearly Now…
In retrospect, I can see my goals more clearly than I did at the time when I published that first book. Here they are, in order of importance:
Does this make me a hobbyist writer? No.
Writing as My Fourth Career
I take my writing business seriously. It is truly my fourth career. I work almost every day on business-related tasks and/or writing.
What I’m getting at here is that it is okay to have modest goals. We don’t all have to aim for the top of the heap. There isn’t room for all of us up there anyway!
Back when I was a psychotherapist wishing I had more time for writing, I never truly believed I would be where I am today – a successful mid-list author whose writing provides a satisfying supplement to my retirement income.
But here I am, fat and happy in the middle of the pile of fellow writers.
So what do you think? Do we all have to strive to be the best?
OTHER HELPFUL POSTS ABOUT AMBITION
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive.