"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: The Key to 21st Century Success

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Key to 21st Century Success

Dear Fellow Writer,

I read this week that real books are making a comeback in the UK and that Barnes and Noble are opening eleven more stores.

Good news. The world needs more readers!

But this doesn't mean we should all give up writing for Amazon and Kindle. If nothing else, publishing online is a great training ground for any would-be author.

You can learn heaps about the realities of full-time authorship, and learn skills that will stand you in good stead for the future - and your future relationship with publishers.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell
Your Success is My Concern

The Key to 21st Century Success
21st Century Success

The great thing about money is that it allows us to specialize.

Instead of worrying about hunting or gathering food all day and fighting off savages to get a cave to sleep in, we can do things completely unrelated to basic survival, get paid in cash and then go out later and secure the things we need to live.

This is a marvelous modern arrangement because specialization means we can engage in pretty much anything we feel like doing, as long as it's of perceived value to someone who will pay for it.

That's the catch, of course.

The problem with having an artistic bent is that our work is not always seen to be valuable - in real money terms - at least at first.

Many writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers have to struggle with the fact that their efforts are not going to secure cash in the short term - and for many, in the long term either.

Persistence is the key. As Mick Jagger once said, The longer you do something, the more successful you'll be, and the more rewards you'll eventually receive for sticking to what you're best at.

But until you're successful, how do you know what to specialize in?

Fact is, you don't. You can't, unless you're so focused on one thing (and have a wealthy benefactor or a very patient partner) you can't know what's going to work until it happens.

Four out of every five new businesses fail within the first two years.

The number is probably a lot higher for artists. 

My guess would be that nine out of ten artists fail to support themselves within five years. 

Many fall back on some other skill they have or just keep grinding away at the day job until their urge to be creative is either strangled out of them or naturally fizzles and dies.

If you want to be successful, my advice would be: Don't specialize too soon.

You need to find your niche - the thing that people respond to - before you throw yourself wholeheartedly into perfecting your passion.

Many writers start in one genre only to realize that it's not going to pay the rent. They might switch from fantasy to crime thrillers for instance, simply because there's more demand for crime novels.

Musicians attracted to jazz may find themselves playing dance pop music because far more people respond to beats than a lot of twiddly notes.

It's not about selling out. It's about finding a solid platform from which to communicate your individuality.

Once you've found the niche that people respond to, you can then use all of your creativity within the context of that niche and fully develop your ideas.

There's nothing worse than being an artist, a writer, and not receiving feedback or encouragement. 

And these days, feedback means money: getting paid, because money enables you to continue. 

Without 'greenback feedback' you're not going to be able to develop yourself in any meaningful way, nor will you be able to build a relationship with your fans, customers, and/or subscribers.

You need to try many things - within reason - and not limit yourself to one thing that may not work out for you.

Over-specialization is a problem in the work force too.

A middle-aged worker with lots of experience in a specialized office job or a specific factory process can find himself completely unemployable when he's made redundant by his employer.

We live in an ever-changing world that requires us to adapt. 

My dad experienced this when computers started taking over the world in the eighties. He literally fought against the machines - out of principle. He hated the idea that his job could be replaced by a computer - and ironically, because he didn't embrace technology, it ultimately was.

Many 'old world' writers who have lived 'comfortably' from publisher advances are now feeling the pinch of the Internet and resent the new world writers who are more self-reliant and tenacious.

The Net is a great equalizer.

It's also the market economy in action.

Online success is about instant greenback feedback. You can see what's working and what isn't immediately.

In the future, when increasing numbers of us are being 'supported' by the Net and new technology, we'll have lots more opportunities to be creative and find ways to occupy ourselves meaningfully - rather than relying on 'employers' to dictate what we can do with our time.

Are you ready to be more self sufficient?

How many things are you good at?

How many interests do you have?

Just how many activities satisfy you?

These are the questions you'll need to ask yourself if you want to survive and prosper in the upcoming brave new world.

You can't fight change.

We're adaptive creatures, at least we were until the industrial revolution tried to homogenize us into worker drones.

I see the future as an exciting place, where individuality is nurtured and cherished and education focuses less on facts and figures and more on creating self-motivated people.

Self-reliance is about continual self-education and being tenacious enough to adapt our goals; following through with commitment and conviction.

Besides, you don't really know if you're going to be any good at anything until you try it.

Don't specialize too soon.

Try all kinds of things - all of the time.

I would go so far as to say don't specialize ever. Remain open to new opportunities.

The people we respect - artists we aspire to emulate - remain relevant because they never lose touch with what's happening around them.

Don't limit yourself.

Be creative - but also be realistic. 

Follow up on what's working and be adventurous with it.

But don't be afraid to walk away from a project that's not working.

Most of all, take it easy, have fun and then, I'm positive, everything else will follow.

Because if something's no fun, it's never going to work - for you or anybody else!

Keep writing!

Rob Parnell



Sherlock Holmes 

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