Success is a fickle and fleeting mistress

Once upon a time, back around 2012 or so, everything looked as if I were on target to be able to drop everything and rely solely on income from book sales. I was thrilled and thankful to have found myself in that position. I’d put in so much hard work to reach that point and planned on continuing that trajectory.

I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote yet some more. I developed friendships and made connections that were critical not just my financial success, but to happiness and general well being. I made some incredible friends (and still have them to this day). It seems as if I were at the heart of a thriving community of fellow writers that wanted nothing more than to help each other succeed at this thing called authorship.

Watch this episode of Me And My Muse for even more information on the subject at hand.

But then, something strange happened. The bottom fell out. Sales disappeared and markets dried up.

Every author I knew stood in the gym, looking around to try and understand where everybody went. We were alone at the dance and the DJ was playing some really crappy tunes.

It took us quite some time to realize what had happened…and to this day we’re not 100% sure. Bottom line? Every genre is super-saturated with books (some of which probably shouldn’t have ever been published) and both writers and readers are suffering from marketing fatigue.

Some authors even gave up. They couldn’t take the idea of having to spend more time marketing than creating. All of a sudden we were one step away from being nothing more than retailers, hawking the same wares everyone else had to shill.

We felt dirty.

But many of us continued on, hoping like hell the tide would roll back, allowing us to reclaim that success we once had.

Unfortunately, that tied has yet to receed.

There are days that it’s almost painful to deal with, and others where you just shrug it off. And when I recently read Gary Numan’s autobiography, (R)Evolution, I realized it wan’t just writers who suffered from the transient nature of success. Every artist did.

In Numan’s case it was a major free fall from grace. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Numan’s music since the 80s, so reading him tell of how the bottom dropped out was heart breaking.

It’s Gary-freakin-Numan! Come on!

I hate to say Numan’s fall gave me some relief (only because I know his recovery from said fall was a remarkable comeback for the ages). Knowing one of my music idols was able to come back from near obscurity made me realize that it can happen to anyone at any time.

So to all of my artist friends out there, no matter what medium you work in, know that success is a very transient thing. One minute you’re on top of the world and the next you’re struggling with a profound level of loss.

How do you deal with it? You keep on moving forward, never letting it take you down. You persevere and continue improving your craft in any and every way you can.

Although I don’t have the answers to the bigger questions (such as, “How do I get my audience back????!!!!!”), I can say that during these dips in success (which happen frequently), it’s important that you don’t let impostor syndrome and doubt take you down.

Have faith in yourself and your craft. Be patient and be diligent. And know that there are always others you can turn to for commiseration and support.

Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be the tide for one another.