A couple things happened recently, one really, really good and the other laughably bad, that got me thinking.
The first was The Hugo awards held over the weekend at Worldcon. Fandom anointed a handful of people with a mark of favor that says “You do good work.”
The other was that an author who I don’t feel deserves the airtime so I won’t name him was caught not only writing positive reviews of his own work, a practice which has been popping up in the news quite a bit lately, but trashing other writers’ work in the process.
I think I understand where that’s coming from. I don’t agree with it but I understand it. To some people a book is a product and nothing more. And that’s fine. If that’s how they want to see their work who am I to tell them differently?
Now, let’s be clear. All writers advertise their books. Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, at a signing, whatever. No one will read it if they don’t know about it (Case in point, DEAD THINGS is available for pre-order. Just sayin’). Looked at one way a book IS a product. But it’s more than that. And I think some people forget that bit.
The thing about seeing your work as just a product, like a can of beans or a new car, is that now you start seeing it as a thing to advertise and, this is the important part, to protect. It’s your business after all, right? It’s capitalism. Crush the competition! Grind them beneath your bootheel!
So, even though I don’t believe it’s a competition (more on that in a different blog post) I understand the thinking. Which leads to people purchasing reviews, or writing their own, or trashing other people’s work.
It’s like watching a runner in a marathon who not only juices but drops caltrops behind him to slow down the competition. If he wins, it’s not because he’s a good runner.
So what do these two things have in common? The winning of the highest SF/F awards that fandom can bestow and the wild flailings of panicked authors on Amazon?
These are both a mark of, if not success, then the drive for it.
How do you define it? It’s different for everybody. Is success winning a Hugo? Is it making a lot of money? Being in bookstores? Getting a movie deal? Getting better reviews than the next guy?
My idea of success isn’t yours. Might look similar, but it’s not identical. And it changes. Yours probably does, too.
The thing about success is that you get to define it. No, really. I don’t care what your mom thinks when she asks why you’re still doing that writing thing when it’s not making you any money. Doesn’t matter when your uncle gives you shit about getting a “real” job.
Winning is up to you. This isn’t Monopoly where the rules are laid out and success is getting Park Place. Hell, even that doesn’t define winning.
I don’t play games to “win”. I play games to have fun. If those two things happen to coincide, great. But if I’m not having fun I’m walking away.
For me writing’s the same way.
How about you? Are you playing according to your rules or somebody else’s? Do you even know? A lot of us don’t.
Some of us are in it for the money. Some for the art. Some to tell stories or get famous. All of those are fine, by the way. This is your deal, not mine. How you define winning is entirely up to you.
Pick the game you want to play. Don’t let somebody else do it for you.
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