Over the last few weeks things have going very nicely over at Jones Towers, with a few little opportunities and meetings here and there happening that give me quite confidence that I’m slowly but surely moving in the right direction in my writing career. Baby steps, perhaps, but once aggregated they feel more significant. And the next step in the sequence is only made possible by the previous one. Even without a book out on the shelves yet, that feels like progress to me.
These are not earth-shattering meetings where six-figure sum deals are being thrashed out (yet…!). They’re a meeting with a publicist here, a writing group meet up there, a coffee with a fellow writer, a publisher over there, an email exchange with a PR agent, but together they are greater than the sum of their parts as the network enables me to join significant dots together.
But all of this is only possible because I put myself in the position where I can possibly meet these people, whether it’s online or, increasingly, face-to-face. It frustrates me when otherwise talented people don’t create the opportunities they need to get themselves ahead. Somebody I know is an enormously talented musician. I’m talking virtuoso-level stuff, with songwriting chops to boot. Hugely impressive, and with some amazing recordings to show for it. But that’s all. Without engaging with the wider world, all that remains is a slew of incredible recordings and songs that have an audience of about 5 people. Despite the ambition to circulate this stuff, it languishes on a hard drive somewhere, reaching nobody.
Ambition is a powerful thing; it can lead us to create great works of art, and nourish our creativity, whether it’s an ambition to be commercially or artistically successful (or that Holy Grail, both. Very few Special Ones make it to that place). But ambition cannot be satisfied by the creative process alone. For ambition to be realised other people need to be involved, be engaged, be pressed and persuaded. Will Self said of writing that, “The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply.” But that’s only a small section of the truth. To leverage your opportunities you need to start talking to people.
I understand it can be daunting. Hell, it might not even seem fair, though that’s a bit of a paradoxical train of thought (but who said humans were logical creatures?). But ambition cannot be realized without engaging with other people. Sure, the internet helps, but it lacks the richness of conversation that only comes with meeting folks face-to-face. So get out of the house, get to a writing group, even if you’re not confident (especially if you’re not confident). Get to a local event, get to a local reading and/or signing. Get to an industry event. Learn. Hand out business cards. Even if you feel like a fool. Embrace the foolishness. After all, we want to make a living out of aliens and robots and swords and magicians – and there are people out there who will pay for it – which is pretty silly, really, isn’t it? So don’t sweat it. Get out of the house.