...and you'll always have "success". It's a strange little mnemonic that I remember from an episode of Full House. (Seriously, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast an hour ago, but Danny Tanner's wisdom has imprinted on my psyche forever more. What the hell, synapses?) Anyway...today I want to talk about success. The simple definition is, "to reach a goal," but this word carries so much baggage. It means something else to every person and can vary from project to project. Culturally, though, we have this sick and twisted definition of success, and that definition usually involves lots of money and fame. The pinnacle of your profession is a bag of cash and your name in lights.
While I think this is utter bullshit, I think we have a bigger problem with our cultural ideals. It is best summed up in this meme that's been making the rounds. Mr. Grohl...please take the floor...
I think Grohl is right. There's something going on, a shift that is saying success comes from a spark of luck on a single attempt. Sure, there's luck involved in success. Being in the right place at the right time...finding the sound that speaks to a generation...finding a vein in your work that resonates with popular culture. Luck will strike the match, but it's being talented at what you do that will enable you to fan the spark of and turn it into a Die Hard-esque explosion. (Support is how you ride it like McClane, bitch. But that's another post.)
But now...there's something else happening.
"Luck" isn't. "Luck" is actually a group of producers and marketing people looking to sell an idea are the ones behind votes. They are the judges you have to impress. Shit like American Idol is diluting the process, I think. Rather than hone a craft with shitty instruments, or writing notebook after notebook of lousy poetry until you find your voice...it seems that the quick flash in the pan is being highlighted as the road to success.
There's this sickening trend that we're making people famous for bullshit. Paris Hilton? Snooki? The Kardashians? What's the point? Why do we glorify these people? Seeing them get their own "reality" shows (spoiler: it's bullshit) has led to this twisted idea that if you do something ridiculous you, too, can be elevated to celebrity status. (Which we've been told since we were kids is the end-all-be-all of human accomplishment, right?) Pop out 8 kids, shave your head after a stint on the Disney channel, give your 7 year old pageant-queen daughter a cocktail of Mt. Dew and Red Bull, or sing the best karaoke for 10 weeks and you are successful. Or maybe you can post something random on YouTube and hope it catches fire and goes viral like gonorrhea.
Where's the work? Where's the ethic of honing a craft and climbing to the top? Shooting for the moon? What the hell happened to the idea that you are the captain of your destiny and YOU make your own success?
And I'm not just talking about the music industry. There's a slackening work ethic among up-and-coming authors. (Not all, mind you, but it's something that's out there.) Writers who decide they will try NaNoWriMo and self-publish their work on December 1. Then they wonder why they aren't Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking and nailing a six-figure contract on December 2.
It's like we're in the process of forgetting to keep working. We're not doubling the c or the s, if you will. And that just leads to a half-assed product.
I'm not talking about EVERY musician or every writer. But if this becomes the norm, then what will our creatives look like in a generation? Will success be hinged on a false ideal of "luck" and ratings rather than elbow grease and talent?
I dunno. Maybe I'm just rambling here.
What about you? What defines your success?
ETA: Don't forget to RSVP for tomorrow's event at Bitten By Books. Cat, Marius and Flynn will be answering all of your questions. We'll be giving away a copy of WILD CARD and 3 limited edition poker chips. Also, there are just 7 days left to back the UNVEILED Kickstarter. <3 j.