Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ten things I'd wish I'd known on the road to success as a writer

Kim Culbertson's website
Sierra Writers 2017: A discussion with Kim Culbertson about “The Road to Success”
What is success?  

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” 
                  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. No one knows your book as well as you do and, thus, no one will truly care for your book more than you. Use this to your advantage.               
  2. Praise and criticism all come from the same source.
  3. It doesn’t matter how many people read your book. It doesn’t change the book.
  4. Publishing (the business) and Writing (the craft, the work) are not the same thing. Love the work like the difficult, creative, funny child it is. The business is something else entirely. You don’t have to love it.
  5. No matter your path in publishing, you will make compromises.
  6. Someone’s book will always be doing “better” and someone else’s book will always be doing “worse” than your book. Comparison kills the spirit. In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says you shouldn’t let fear drive the car. I agree. You should also not let comparison drive the car. That jerk is a bad traveling companion. Leave him at a rest stop whenever possible.
  7. Your audience matters. People will tell you it’s all marketing, but it’s not true. You write for an audience. Respect them. Your readers are one of the best parts of this job.
  8. Find other writers. It can be formal or informal. Sometimes, it’s nice to know you’re not completely alone in that head of yours.
  9. Your voice is different from everyone else’s. This is the gift. This is also true for process. Find what works for you (even if you have to ignore everything on this handout).
  10. Try not to be in a hurry. I say try because of course you are. You have a fire in you and it’s lighting the way of your book. Of course you want to get to that next step; you imagine things about it that you think will be true (they almost never are, but you imagine they will be). I set so many arbitrary deadlines for myself and they almost never panned out – they created anxiety and they caused mistakes. Patience rules this game: in the craft and in the business. It is annoying and frustrating, but try not to hurry.


  1. This is a very impressive blog post. You have said many things that some do not realise. Thank you for writing. It will help us all in being a better person everyday