It’s conference week here in the Seattle area. Tomorrow begins the 2010 Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, and there is much envelope and folder stuffing going on in anticipation of the big event. If you are attending, I will of course be there, in many roles, helping and pointing and explaining and probably apologizing too. One of the problems we have run into in planning the conference is knowing in which rooms to put which speakers. Some rooms are bigger than others, and there is no way to tell for sure who will draw the largest crowds. So you guess, and you are wrong. There is always some grumbling because who wants to stand and listen to an hour presentation, but really writers of all people should understand. Brando Skyhorse, who gave an excellent interview for this month’s issue, spent ten years in publishing before selling his first novel. He spoke about how often publishers and writers are surprised by the success of a given book. How do you plan for such things? I don’t think you can.
Though I do remember working with someone years ago who’s motto was, “Prepare for success.” I always liked this. It certainly beats preparing for failure, as I explained yesterday. But how do you really do that? James Joyce, as he was awaiting word on Dubliners, his first collection of short stories, told his brother to join in him Trieste, as they were soon going to be living luxuriously off his royalties. Didn’t work out that way.
So Joyce was counting his chickens, which always seems to invite disappointment. I am always happiest and most grounded when I prepare for the best possible thing to happen without deciding ahead of time what that will be. More wiggle room that way. Also, if you are so certain ahead of time that success means Agent A representing you, you might not take the time to talk to Agent B, who would actually be a better fit.
We know what success is when we feel it. Success is the lining up of events with desire, that sweet connection of thought and action. Your job is the desire; it is really all you have control over anyway. And you will never know success, as it were, unless you are listening to the constant current of your desire. Not that you won’t have success, you simply won’t know you are having it.