Two Paths Converged
Two paths will lead you to the heights of literary success, and neither of them are free of rocks, wrong turns, and pitfalls.
One path is paved with hard work and dedication. Years of long hours, careful study, and constant effort are necessary to climb this path. Some say a million words must be written before producing a writer worth reading. If you take this path, the world around you will constantly roll rocks your way. They will tempt you to turn back, or to stop and rest. This path is a long and lonely path that no one can walk for you. Along the way you might meet a few fellow travelers who will point out the rocks, warn you away from dead ends, and offer encouraging words now and then. But the actual process of climbing is up to you. Call this path, “What You Know”.
The sign at the base of the other path reads, “Who You Know”. Instead of dedicating long hours to tradecraft, the hikers on this path opt to spend time ingratiating themselves to those at the top of the path. They rely on the hard won successes of others, grasping at coat-tails in the hopes that they may be able to ride them upwards. Lined with fan conventions, cocktail parties, and rigged award ceremonies, it appears to be a life of relative ease, but it is not without cost. To ascend this path, one must actively discourage fellow hikers lest they usurp your position as the chosen one. One must carefully guard his speech lest he offend their patrons and be cast back down the hill. Part of the price of this path is the loss of freedom the author suffers – the author who chooses this path will forever be subject to the whims of his patrons, unlike those who take the former path. Call this path “Who You Know”.
Naturally, the two paths intersect and intertwine. Even the most brilliant author must rely on the generosity of publishers, critics, and readers to spread the word of their latest masterpiece. Even the most unctuous author must at some point put words to the page, and every patron has his limits. The market will only bear so much incompetence, and every patron’s patience with authors who lose money has its limit. As a result, every author spends some time on the first path and some on the second.
As for me – that first path looks like so much more fun. The people I’ve met along that path sure are fun, I can tell you that!
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