What if you couldn’t screw it up?

I’ve noticed on some of the writer forums and blogs I check out, and in some of my classes, that there is this obsession with getting it right.

What’s the right way to plot, some ask. How should this work?  What do editors want to see?  What should they focus on, or ignore?

Or, if they’ve sold:  what’s the right way to promote?  What’s works, what doesn’t, and how do they make the time for it all?

Ultimately, I think that what they’re asking is:

What can I do that will make sure I succeed?

I feel for them.  I didn’t even realize until this year just how much this question permeated my life.

I’ve got books out, and more coming.

I’ve been freaking out, despite my intentions to the contrary.

But, in true ask-and-you-shall-receive style,  here’s the thing that I am getting hit with left and right this year:

What can I do that will make me succeed?


There is nothing I can do to guarantee that I’ll succeed. I could blog three times a day, build a platform that could launch a space shuttle, write a novel that would make the angels weep.

And it still might not work.

But you know what?

That’s the good news. 

Yes, you read that right.   I have no control over the success or failure of my book.

And that is awesome.

By saying that I have no control over the success or failure of my book, I’m not saying that I can now blissfully ditch that whole writing debacle and live a quiet life of meditation while becoming a Walmart greeter.

I’m not saying that I am going to crawl under a rock, pretending that my book releases are not happening — on the assumption that I still have book releases.

I’m powerless over the results, yes.

That’s not the same as helpless.

It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do things.  It means that I can do what I feel, in my gut, is right — and then let go of what happens afterwards.

There’s an element of accidental Buddhist here.  There’s detachment.  I can want something (namely, success for my book) without being crushed if I don’t get it.  I can look at what I might want in the future, and what resonates with me in the present that lines up with what I want then.

I’m probably sounding like a goob, or terribly obvious, but bear with me — this has been a big one this week.

So what would promotion look like, in this new world order?

I am proud of my book, and love it.  Therefore, I want people who would genuinely enjoy it to know about it, because if I were them, I’d want to know about it.  Connecting with my Right Readers isn’t a chore, or at least shouldn’t be — it’s just touching base with friends.  It’s demonstrating gratitude that they’re in my life.

It could be doing five nice things.

It could be giving presents.

And if I don’t make a bestseller list, hey… writing letters to friends doesn’t suck.

The same goes for writing the book.

If I’m so stressed about writing it in a way that will guarantee success… well, my Muse will not be happy.  I’ve discovered she does not like being a wage slave.  She’s a servant of story, not one of my employees.

If that means I make my livelihood on something other than writing to keep her happy, well, I’ll have to suck it up and do that.  (Note:  this does not apply to everybody, or maybe even most people.  I’m just speaking for me, here.)

But it doesn’t mean that I stop writing.  I don’t write because I want to make gobs of money.  (Excuse me.  Had to stop laughing enough to keep typing that.)  I write because… well, I’m insane, and it’s my compulsion.   Stop writing?  Why not stop breathing while I’m at it? Puh-leeze.

I knew all of this.

I mean, I’d had bits and pieces of it.  I’ve posted about things related to it, I’ve read stuff about it.

But I also know that, in the thick of deadlines and launch dates, I’d ignore all these things I know, and run around like a headless chicken on crack.

The trick now is remembering it.

I can’t screw it up.

And God, does that feel good.