“Now Get Out There, Ya Bum!”

It’s no secret by now that I am a huge Robert Jordan fan. Huge. Like, massive. He’s my favorite author and his Wheel of Time series is almost solely responsible for the writer I am today. He accomplished so much within his lifetime, leaving a literary legacy that resonates with millions and which will carry on for generations to come. He did what most of us in the writing world can only dream.

I’m going to match his success.

A bold statement, to be sure, but one that I know I have to make. My wife and I had a discussion recently about positive psychology, and during our talk I confessed to her my desire to hit the same level that Mr. Jordan rose to in terms of infamy as a writer. Am I good enough to do this? I don’t know for certain, but I believe the potential is there for me. I have so much room to grow, so many more stories to give to the world. One thing is for sure: If I don’t set my sights as high as I can, I’ll never get there.

We have to reach, we have to climb, we have to want, in order to get where we’re supposed to be. My wife stated, and I agree, that everyone who gets started with writing — or anything, for that matter — has a desire to accomplish everything their idols have done. Even if it’s never stated publicly, that drive exists somewhere in all of us. If it didn’t, we would have never gotten started putting words to paper. We want our work to be adored, picked over, debated at length; we want the fame, the money, the adoration; we want to be regarded experts in our fields; we want to affect people at that base emotional level, the same way in which we ourselves were affected by the greats.

Will we all do this? Maybe not. If you read enough about the publishing world in particular, you find a plethora of statements that it’s not a way to make money, that you’ll likely struggle for years before finding any success, et cetera, et cetera. Does this mean we shouldn’t try? Of course not. But what exactly should we try for? Is it enough to aspire for mediocrity? Are we doing ourselves any good by declaring “I don’t care if I make any money” or “I probably won’t have the same success as J. K. Rowling”? I say no. There’s nothing wrong with reaching further than our doubts tell us we may go. If you write in the epic fantasy genre and try to become as popular as Tolkien, but only make it halfway, you’ll still find yourself with a huge amount of success.

No one who ever did anything truly great did so by sticking within the norm or limiting how successful they could be inside their head. We have to shoot for 100% to get to 50%, and in the process we just might find ourselves at that one-hundred mark sooner than we thought.

Will I be as successful as Robert Jordan? I have no way of predicting the future, but I feel that I have a shot, and I’m going to strive for it no matter what. If I don’t, the only sure thing is that my success will never come.


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