Ask Polly: Should I Just Give Up on My Writing?

Heather Havrilesky, The Cut, Sept 17, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Good article. The musicians I admire are the ones who keep writing and playing even if they haven't become stars. The artists are the ones who draw and paint and photograph even if nobody buys their work. The ball players who work on their skills for ten years in the minors. Those of us who are lucky are those who are able to pursue their chosen craft for a living (whether that craft is auto mechanics, law, medicine or engraving). This - and not fame and awards and big contracts - is what counts as success. The rest, honestly, is all timing and who you know and whether your father made enough money to get you into Yale.

It's like selling lemonade when you're a kid. I sold lemonade at the age of 9 or 10, you probably sold lemonade (or at least knew someone who did). But we don't make it into the New York Times. Not because we're failures, but because we don't live in Silicon Valley and don't have a father who is a social media expert (my father worked for 30 years as a telephone pioneer in Montreal and Ottawa, and he wasn't a failure either, but he wasn't ever going to get me into the NY Times). If your definition of success is to be on Oprah and be covered by the NY Times, you have to be in the right place at the right time, and you can't make that happen (at best, you have to have spent years honing your craft so you can make the most of the opportunity).

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