Saturday, July 23, 2011

The meaning of what to do - part 2

Now that you've decided what it is you're destined to do, some of you may ask, "Okay, Mark, I work forty hours a week, Monday through Friday, and have been doing so for fifteen years. I'm still doing the same thing as when I started. How can I be called successful?"

The difference is what you put into your work, what passion you put forth to constantly expand your knowledge, making yourself an expert in your field of work. Do you hate your job, even though you've been doing it for fifteen or twenty years? Then change it. It's probably the reason why you haven't gone on to something different, because you have no passion for what you are doing. And that is the reason why some people spend twenty years doing something to become an expert in that field where others go on and go nowhere.

So, you need to find out what you are meant to do . . . but only if you are passionate about doing it. If you are an auto mechanic because you are not only good at it, you have an absolute passion to know everything there is about cars (to the point where if someone has a question in that field, you are the one they turn to) then you will be a successful person.

Success doesn't always have to do with money. Money is good, for it buys the things we need and grants us a position in life to help others who are hurting, but success is also having the deepest passion for what you want to do . . . and then doing it.

Change of tactics

The point behind the previous posting was to lead into this, but it didn't quite turn out the way I meant, as I wanted this post and the previous one to be together (and titled "Change of tactics"). As I wrote it, I decided to separate the two.

What change of tactics?

As you know by now, I'm working on a lengthy fantasy epic (one to rival The Wheel of Time by the late Robert Jordan and now the brilliant Brandon Sanderson or even Tolkien's Lord of the Rings). But during a writers' group meeting this spring, one of our members brought in a how-to from the website on how to publish e-books. At the time, there was also an article published about a southern Minnesota author by the name of Amanda Hocking who made millions publishing on After much thought, I decided to temporarily cease working on my fantasy epic and polish my serial killer thriller. In the past, I've tried to get a literary agent to look at it, but with no success. After sending 30-40 queries to agents, I stopped to work on the fantasy epic. But now I am back to the thriller . . . with the end result to publish it online.

Is that the end?

Far from it. I thought I'd spend a good deal of the summer and polish up the thriller, but it's not going like I've planned. In fact, it's going much better. Call it a maturing in my editing process, I'm going through each chapter extremely thoroughly, polishing them to a gleaming shine. I am only halfway through going through the initial round of hard copy edits, but then I'm doing the tedious act of making the changes on the computer and then going back through what I've written over and over and over and over again. I even read it out loud, which is something any writer should do to. If you read your piece out loud and are stumbling in places, your reader will too. (And so will an agent, for that matter, which could hinder you from even landing an agent to begin with).

So, where am I in this thriller? I have the first chapter completely done, hard and soft copy. Now, it's on to chapter two and three. And a total of 61 chapters total. This will take up the rest of the summer and a good deal of the fall too. In the end, I haven't completely made a decision on whether or not to e-publish it or try again with the agent hunt. I'm leaning towards the latter right now, because the story is just so darn good. I just hope that future fans will like the various genres that I write in. Many stick with one genre and that's it. I want the best of all worlds, and will always continue to write what I want to read. Fantasy and horror are my favorite genres, but thrillers, suspense, and mysteries are a close second.

The meaning of what you are to do

It is said that successful people are quicker to make decisions (larger than normal decisions, not the day-to-day factions of life) but are slow to change those decisions once they have been made. That being said, the rest don't make any decisions that could impact their life, and if they do, they're constantly changing them and never sticking to one thing for very long.

Growing up, there are many "careers" I wanted to do. As a child born in the early 1970's, I loved the Rocky movies. The second one was my favorite, starring the ultimate Mr. T as one bad-ass character. Anyway, I wanted to be a boxer. So, I woke up one Saturday morning and started training, just like Rocky Balboa. Wouldn't you know, it was a lot of hard work. I ran around our house about 6 or 7 times before stopping, completely exhausted. My boxing career was officially over. As a fan of the Indiana Jones movies, I of course wanted to be an archaeologist like Harrison Ford's character. But when I did a little research into what archaeologists do, none live the kind of adventurous life he did. Which is probably a good thing, I guess.

What does all of this mean? Had I stuck with anything for very long, I would've gotten better at it. Maybe not the Indiana Jones thing, but I think you get the point. Most people flit around and try so many different things that they never stick with anything long enough to get even mildly competent. I've met a lot of people who want to be a writer. Great. What's the problem? They may have a story to tell (and it could be the next instant bestseller too!) but they never start. Oh, they may write a dozen or more pages, even, but that's it. They move on to the next get-rich scheme.

Bottom line: make an honest decision about what you want to do. I don't care what it is. If you want to be an auto mechanic or a stock car driver or a janitor, that's fine. But work hard and be the best mechanic/driver/janitor that you can be. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best by this quote: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

Find out what you are best at . . . and do it. Today. Right now. Even if you completely suck at it, roll up your sleeves and do what it is that you are meant to do.