Is there a magic formula for success? Probably not. But there is a theory I’ve found encouraging, which says that all you need is two out of the following three elements: talent, perseverance and luck.
As I understand it, there are only one and a half of those which an individual has any real control over. Luck is, by definition, a fortuitous chance happening, rather than something you can directly engineer. Talent is a mixed bag – you’re born with a certain amount, and the rest is about perfecting your craft.
So that leaves perseverance. Which is entirely down to you. As a writer, you need to put pen to paper, or fingertip to keyboard. Obvious, right? But how much time do you actually spend writing, as compared to tweeting about writing, blogging about writing, reading books about writing, discussing writing with your writing group, going to writing classes…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking any of these things. In fact, I’ve done them all and have found them to be incredibly useful. But what has proved most effective has been this: write and submit. It’s that simple.
In 2009, I realised that I was never actually going to write that novel I’d been talking about unless I sat down and did it. Being somewhat lacking in self-discipline, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) – there’s nothing like a deadline to get you moving, I find, and it doesn’t get more pressing than 50,000 words in 30 days.
Anyway, I did it (hurrah!), but once December arrived I got back into my lazy habits. I needed a regular form of discipline, a time to write and a submissions goal to achieve. That’s when I set up The Steady Table, which does nothing more than provide a regular time and place where writers can gather and get on with the business of writing. We don’t critique, we don’t complete exercises or discuss theory; we just write.
Since The Steady Table launched in January of this year, I have written countless pieces of flash fiction and longer short stories – not just on a Tuesday evening, surrounded by other furiously scribbling writers, but at other times too. Turns out, the fear of failure which so often kept me away from the page, lost its hold on me once I started squaring up to it on a regular basis.
Inspired by my increased productivity, I began submitting work… and found that suddenly I was getting my stories accepted. As well as a number of online publications, I am thrilled to have been accepted for both the Flash Fiction South West anthology, Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories, and Jawbreakers, the NFFD anthology.
The Steady Table has given me space in which to hone my talent, it has made me persevere even when I didn’t feel like it. And with those two ingredients sorted, who needs luck?
Rin Simpson (@rinsimpson) is Bristol-based a freelance journalist and creative writer, and founder of The Steady Table writers’ group (@TheSteadyTable), which meets between 6pm and 9pm every Tuesday at The Folk House (term time) or The Watershed. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.