As time edges ever nearer to the publication of my next book, I feel myself sinking further and further into that vast pit of despair that writers often experience either midway through or at the end of writing: that it will be a complete and utter failure. It won’t just be a bad book; it will be the worst book ever written, bold face, double-underlined, size 72 font.
But then you turn that on its head and ask: what would I count as success? Selling ten copies? A hundred? A thousand? Or is it in the amount of money raised? Ten pounds? A hundred? A thousand? How do I define ‘success’?
Anyone with a creative job, hobby or mindset will experience this weight, this pressure which a person puts on themselves to succeed - whatever that might mean. We live in a time of overnight successes: the Twilights and the Fifty Shades which appear from nowhere and engulf the world for a moment before dying away, and for some reason we all think that this is what it means to be successful.
Recently I’ve been watching a lot of TEDTalks – if you’re not aware of what they are I would recommend you take a look. Earlier tonight I came across one by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, in which she talked about the success of her work and the pressure it placed on her to make sure her follow-up book was just as good.
I would strongly recommend you watch it, if you have twenty minutes to spare; because it has – for now, at least – helped me to realise that ‘How I Came To Hold You’ doesn’t need to sell thousands of copies, or become a bestseller, or raise a trillion pounds. All it needs to do is change one or two lives, to demonstrate to one or two people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and then I can count it as a success. And, all of a sudden, the weight is lifted.