“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well.”Stephen King
Many creatives harbor a secret (or not-so-secret!) fantasy of making it big. Selling a painting for six figures. Or signing that big publishing contract.
Have you ever thought
‘I need to write a bestseller, then I’ll be rich!’? Or,
‘If I reach X followers on [insert social media here], then I’ll be rolling in it!’?
We often think of money as a result of success or fame. But could it be a prerequisite? That is, might you need money to obtain success?
To answer this question, we need to consider the meaning of ‘success’.
Everyone wants to be rich and famous
The primary definition of ‘success’ is ‘the favourable outcome of something attempted’.
But the second definition in many dictionaries relates to money. ‘The attainment of wealth, fame etc.’
Buying your way onto the bestseller list
Consider what it takes to be a successful author. A well-written book might be at the top of most people’s lists.
Yet according to Shane Snow’s analysis, some best sellers aren’t very well written.
So why are they best sellers?
Because their authors bought their way onto the bestseller list.
Every year, about 2.2 million titles are published. It’s difficult for any to reach huge success (or just break even).
To get a spot on the WSJ bestseller list, you need to sell about 3,000 books in your first week. For the NYT, it’s about 9,000.
Theoretically, if you bought 3,000 of your own books, at say $10 each, that’s an ‘investment’ of $30,000. And boom – you’re on the WSJ bestseller list.
If you’re lucky.
If other titles sold more that week, you could have wasted thirty grand and still not get on the list.
The hope is that appearing on the list results in so many sales the author can recoup their losses, and then have a real bestseller on their hands.
As Snow points out though, even if you can buy your way onto the bestseller list, it doesn’t buy you a good book. If your writing’s convoluted, messy, and inelegant before you’re on the list, it will still be after. And you’ll probably have disappointed readers.
So, buying your way into the rankings might work for a first book. But it isn’t a recipe for lasting success.
(Anti)Social media as self-promotion
The same is true of social media, which is often used in anti-social ways for self-promotion. On many platforms, we collect ‘followers’ rather than making ‘friends’. And increasingly, we expect to gain not only self esteem from our posts, but money.
One social media user states:
“My friends don’t actually want to eat with me anymore at cafes because the time it takes for me to set up the photo I want to take, it’s probably a good 15-20 minutes…
Some people will order the same thing and I’ll be like, can you order something different because it’s going to clash in the photo.’”
If you use Instagram, Twitter, or the likes, chances are, you’ve been approached by an account offering to sell you followers. But purchasing followers will not change the quality of the content you post. Very few people make money from social media, as the article Famous and Broke relates. And it’s generally not great for your self esteem either.
Focus on the primary definition of success
“we produce better work when our goals are rooted in self-fulfillment… and not in things like awards and money”E.M. Walsh
Truly Free Creatives focus more on the primary, and less on the secondary definition of success.
Finishing a book, and editing it until you are happy with it. That’s a favorable outcome of something attempted. A success.
Posting a photo that shares with your friends something that made you happy. That’s a favorable outcome. A success.
Being so obsessed with numbers – dollars or likes – that you’ll pay money to artificially inflate your popularity in order to make more money? That’s not how truly Free Creatives define success.
Truly Free Creatives have the Financial Freedom to enjoy but not be obsessed by money. And they have developed the Strategic Practices to define their own success.
Now you know what success doesn’t look like, it’s time to define success for yourself.