Friday, March 31, 2006

True Grit Quiz

I rant a lot about how hard this business is to break into, and how it's even harder to succeed.

When people get the writing bug, it usually goes hand-in-hand with what I call "The Lottery Dream."

The Lottery Dream (TLD) is the fantasy that one day you'll be rich, famous, have movie deals, get on Oprah, and the world will finally realize what a genius you are.

All writers have TLD. Even bestsellers. But talent, hard work, and writing good books aren't enough for TLD to happen in reality. Luck still plays a part.

Some newbie writers convince themselves they don't have TLD. That they'd be perfectly content with no advance and a small print run, as long as they're published somewhere.

They are wrong. They'd be content, for a while, but human nature would demand they want more. That's how life works. Being satisfied is the same thing as being complacent, which is why you don't see many Buddhists running Fortune 500 companies.

The measure of a writer's grit is what finally makes them quit. At what point do you cry 'uncle' in your quest for TLD?

This quiz will tell you if you're in this for the long haul, or if your time would be better spent on some other more attainable goal.


True Grit Writing Quiz

  1. How long will you continue to try even if you don't succeed?
    a) Two years
    b) Five years
    c) Ten years
    d) I'll never give up
  2. How many rejections will you endure before you quit?
    a) 1-50
    b) 1-100
    c) 101-500
    d) I'll never quit

  3. How many unpublished books will you write before you stop writing?
    a) 1
    b) 2-5
    c) 6-10
    d) I'll never stop writing

  4. If you become published, how many hours will you spend promoting your work?
    a) 5 hours a week
    b) 10 hours a week
    c) 20 hours a week
    d) As many as it takes

  5. What are you willing to sacrifice in order to succeed?
    a) Hobbies
    b) Personal & vacation time
    c) Time with friends & family
    d) All of the above

  6. Why do you want to be a writer?
    a) Artistic expression
    b) Fame and notoriety
    c) Wealth
    d) This career chose you

  7. What is most important for writers?
    a) Talent
    b) Craft
    c) Luck
    d) Persistence

  8. How much will you compromise your integrity to sell a book?
    a) I won't ever compromise my integrity
    b) I'll only make editing changes if I agree with them
    c) I'll make most changes, but not all
    d) Pay me and I'll change anything

  9. If people hate you and your book, you'll:
    a) Be devastated and never write again
    b) Be upset, and try to please them by any means possible
    c) Shrug it off and keep doing what you want
    d) Try to understand their points and learn from your mistakes

  10. If you work your whole life but never get published, will you consider it:
    a) A waste of your life
    b) A disappointment, but at least you tried
    c) A bitter defeat
    d) A success, because you did it your way

Scoring

If you answered "d" for most or all of the questions, it doesn't mean a damn thing. You might never become published or successful, no matter what you answered. But your chances are better than folks who answered a, b, and c.

If you answered "d" for five or more questions, here are four more questions for you:

  1. What is the difference between being stubborn and being persistent?
  2. What is the difference between being committed and being delusional?
  3. Is quitting an act of failure, or an act of self-awareness?
  4. In writing, is validation internal or external?

Later on I'll post my answers to these questions. Feel free to post your answers too.

44 comments:

JLB said...

My two cents...

1) Being stubborn often means that one does not adapt, change, or reconsider, but rather that one remains rooted in a particular belief or habit without variation. Persistence requires one to remain focused on a particular goal while remaining free to adapt and revise methodologies over time in order to continue to survive in the face of change.

2) Being committed (and not in the clinical sense), is to be consistently devoted to something which holds value or other personal importance. Being delusional is to remain committed to said thing while sacrificing all other things which are valuable and important.

3) Quitting can be either a failure or an act of self-awareness depending on the circumstances. Only the individual may decide the difference through careful and honest introspection.

4) In writing, validation is both internal and external:

- Internal: as an artist, one must personally validate one’s creations for their own intrinsic worth both as creations and as reflections of the learning and growing processes.

- External: sharing work with an audience allows an artist to garner external validation from reactions by the readers/viewers. However, validation cannot be confused with approval: a viewer’s/reader’s personal opinion does nothing to validate or invalidate the creative work itself.

J. Carson Black said...

Jlb - I agree completely. Beautifully stated!

JA Konrath said...

I agree, jlb, but I'd say that being delusional is commitment without reason, rather than commitment with sacrifice.

Sacrifice is perfectly reasonable.

Anonymous said...

That quiz was way too hard, Joe. I couldn't finish it.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I just have to say, I'm reading your article on hard boiled vs cozies in the March Crimespree, and I can barely type or breathe, it's so damn funny!

Mark Terry said...

I don't necessarily agree with all of the items, although they're essentially true. I find the notion of being willing to sacrifice your family, etc, for your career to be disturbing. That's a balance we all need to figure out, no matter what business we're in.

What is the difference between being stubborn and being persistent?

--Stubborn suggests you're unwilling to change.

What is the difference between being committed and being delusional?

--Metal bars, straight jackets and lithium, by and large.

Is quitting an act of failure, or an act of self-awareness?

--it depends. Many, many people persist in things despite repeated failure. In some cases, if they put that energy and time toward fields that were more forgiving or they were better suited for, they may have been enormously successful. It wouldn't be a great epitaph: Failed Writer; Failed Father.

But I know which one I could go to the grave with and which one I couldn't.

In writing, is validation internal or external?

--early on the validation is internal. I find the more successful I get at it, the more routine it gets, the more validation I want to be external--in my case, little pieces of paper with dollar signs and lots of zeroes.

Best,
Mark Terry
www.mark-terry.com

JA Konrath said...

That quiz was way too hard, Joe. I couldn't finish it.

That was funny.

HawkOwl said...

"Being satisfied is the same thing as being complacent, which is why you don't see many Buddhists running Fortune 500 companies."

Um, as a taoist, I have to say that being satisfied is the same thing as being serene if anything. If you want to call that complacency, then this world could do with a LOT more complacency. If you're never satisfied, you're just wasting resources.

Jude Hardin said...

It's been a long time, but isn't self-actualization at the apex of Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

If you're a writer, the only way to achieve self-actualization is to write. Publishing deals, movie deals etc are merely icing on the cake.

Esteem is below self-actualization in Maslow's hierarchy, but I don't think external validation is necessarily a prerequisite to achieving self esteem. A pat on the back is nice, but if you're doing what you know in your heart is the right thing, if you strive to be true to yourself and your work while keeping in the moral and legal boundries set forth by our society, I think it's possible to achieve contentment without the gold and glitter some people associate with external validation.

I guess it's probably true that most Fortune 500 companies aren't run by Buddhists. It's also probably true that most Buddhists, or any other humans that find a peace that trancends ego, are not plagued by stomach ulcers and clogged coronaries.

You have to find peace and happiness within. No amount of external validation (no, not even a plug from Oprah) is going to make you happy.

Write what you love. Love what you write.

Love and help other people.

Those are the things that will bring you closer to self-actualization.

People who think fame and fortune are the keys to happiness are the delusional ones.

JA Konrath said...

Failed Writer; Failed Father.

Once you provide food, clothing, shelter, support, and love, the rest is up to the child.

It isn't that hard to be a good parent. Conversely, good parenting has little to do with whether or not a child is happy, well adjusted, and successful in later life. Most of that responsibility rests on the child.

In the whole nature vs. nurture debate, why do some kids turn out bad when the parents do everything right, why do some kids turn out okay when the parents were terrible, and why do siblings turn out so different when they were raised by the same parents?

Nature trumps nurture, unless you're a psychotic abuser. And even then, some children can overcome that.

While I don't want to undervalue the importance of being a good parent, spending every waking moment trying to provide for your family isn't necessary. Being willing to die for your kids has nothing to do with attending to every one of their desires. In fact, I believe that too much time with your kids can impede their independence and promote an unearned sense of entitlement.

When my youngest son turned three, he wanted a sandwich. I told him to make it for himself (I'd shown him how earlier that week). My friend, who witnessed this, was appalled.

Later, when my friend's child was having problems coping in Kindergarten, he revised his assessment of my parenting skills.

Ultimately, it had more to do with the children than either of us as dads.

And ultimately,it isn't an either/or situation when it comes to raising kids and having a writing career.

I have an older kid who is very messed up. My wife and I have spent ten times as much time attending to his needs as we've spent attending to the younger child. Both were raised the same way. But the younger one is amazingly well adjusted, and the older one isn't, and probably never will be. Even with the effort.

I believe that you should dedicate your life to living, not dedicate your life to your children. Your children are part of your life, but it isn't healthy to make them your whole life. Nor should you limit your life because you have children. That leads to resentment, bitterness, and stress-related helath issues.

If your child had a chance to study abroad, and it was something he really wanted to do, would you hold him back because it would mean spending less time together?

Why should it be different if you're the one pursuing your dreams?

One day, your children will be out of the house. You can put off your dreams for twenty years and pursue your writing career then. Or you can put in the time now, even if it means seeing less of your children.

Neither way will guarantee success---yours or the child's.

My children are a lot more important than my career. But that doesn't automatically mean they require more attention.

JLB said...

Sacrifice is perfectly reasonable.

Point well taken! :)

JA Konrath said...

If you're never satisfied, you're just wasting resources.

If you're always satisfied, you never push yourself to succeed.

Mankind's greatest accomplishments have all involved hard work, sacrifice, and the desire to overcome.

While happiness on a personal level may involve acceptance, refusing to accept what is has led to the light bulb, the pyramids, the automobile, the eradication of smallpox, etc.

Accepting the natural order of things doesn't build bridges, cure cancer, or get you published.

JA Konrath said...

I love it when things get philosophical.

If you're a writer, the only way to achieve self-actualization is to write. Publishing deals, movie deals etc are merely icing on the cake.

Writing, and all the arts, are an expression. Expression needs an audience. A publishing deal gives you that audience. So in this case, self-actualization does indeed involve a paycheck.

Esteem is below self-actualization in Maslow's hierarchy, but I don't think external validation is necessarily a prerequisite to achieving self esteem.

Internal validation can often involve external validation.

If your goal is to be a lawyer, you must go to law school, pass the bar exam, and get a job in a firm.

If your goal is to be a writer, you have to get published.

I called myself a writer prior to being published, but I wasn't actually identity achieved until I signed the contract. The universe validated my efforts, which resulted in me proving that my methods were sound.

HawkOwl said...

If you're always satisfied, you never push yourself to succeed.
False. If you're always satisfied, you've already succeeded.

Mankind's greatest accomplishments have all involved hard work, sacrifice, and the desire to overcome.
True, but I suspect we totally disagree on what those accomplishments are. Finding the Way involves hard work, sacrifice, and the desire to overcome. It's the greatest accomplishment anyone could hope for.

While happiness on a personal level may involve acceptance, refusing to accept what is has led to the light bulb, the pyramids, the automobile, the eradication of smallpox, etc.
True. Which means that it has led to the squandering of energy resources, the vast overpopulation of the world, and the culture of constantly increasing consumption. Like Mark Twain (I think) said, "all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Accepting the natural order of things doesn't build bridges, cure cancer, or get you published.
True. It accepts that these things are not necessary, and leaves the world as it found it instead of leaving a trail of destruction. And yes I love highways and bridges... I'm a trucker. But I also see what the presence of the highway or bridge does to the surroundings. Even a ferry crossing has a significant negative environmental impact.

Anonymous said...

I wish every aspiring author could be forced to read this blog every day. You certainly manage to illuminate the dark corners of the publishing reality most of us face.(Actually considering the publishing industry seems to be all dark corners I wonder what shape that makes it?)

As far as "quitting" goes, in a lot of cases, particularly for people who insist on betting too much (too much of their time and effort and, more importantly, too much hope, too much of their self-image, betting their family as is often the case) quitting would result in the best payoff they're likely to see.

But there is also the problem, for some writers, that by not giving up on the pursuit of success -- when that means writing things you don't really want to write but perceive as more marketable -- you may be quitting on writing, giving up what you enjoy about writing.

The best solution is to find something you enjoy writing that might also hit the best seller lists, but if you can't, you might be better off forgetting Oprah Land, writing exactly what you want and buying a lottery ticket every week.

Eric Mayer

Jude Hardin said...

"If your goal is to be a writer, you have to get published."

Simply not true.

Was it Emily Dickenson who never published a word during her lifetime? Was she a writer?

JD Salinger wrote every day for years and years and refused to be published. Does that mean he wasn't a writer anymore?

I think there are probably a lot of writers out there who have no interest in playing the publishing game. Probably some brilliant ones. They find truth through their expression, something all of us (even those of us who DO want to play the publishing game) should strive for.

JA Konrath said...

If you're always satisfied, you've already succeeded.

Acceptance of having no food isn't the same thing as the abilty to put food on the table. The quest to better oneself involves external hurdles as well as internal ones.

It accepts that these things are not necessary, and leaves the world as it found it instead of leaving a trail of destruction.

Harmony at the expense of human life?

Does denial of self imply denial of another's right to indulge himself?

Nature is destructive, without any help from mankind. The universe is expanding into disorder.

Our desire to create order and better ourselves is gentetic and instinctive. Dogs seek shelter from the rain. Birds feather their nests for warmth and comfort. Swans mate for life.

The environment has no intrnsic qualities--only those which we ascribe. If you ascribe sentience to the world, that's your opinion.

You can go with the flow of the river, or you can dam the river, channel the river, and harness the river. Harmony is symbiosis, not surrender.

JA Konrath said...

Was it Emily Dickenson who never published a word during her lifetime? Was she a writer?

Did she feel like a writer?

Society considers her a writer, but it wouldn't had she never been published.

They find truth through their expression, something all of us (even those of us who DO want to play the publishing game) should strive for.

Expression needs an audience, or even a mirror.

I have no quarrel with striving for excellence. I have a big problem with writers who have the hubris to think that their excellence automatically assumes success in the publishing business.

Once you try to sell, your art becomes a product.

HawkOwl said...

Acceptance of having no food isn't the same thing as the abilty to put food on the table.

You're going on a tangent there. The question wasn't whether you have or can have X or Y, but whether what you currently have is enough for you. Success isn't about how much food you put on the table, it's about how happy you are with the food you have.

The quest to better oneself involves external hurdles as well as internal ones.

How is that possible? We can only better ourselves from within. Overcoming external hurdles is just a matter of convenience, not self-improvement.

Harmony at the expense of human life?

Absolutely.

Does denial of self imply denial of another's right to indulge himself?

No. Other way around. Indulgence by one interferes with another's denial of self much more than denial interferes with another's indulgence. (If you don't think so, try not celebrating Xmas.)

Nature is destructive, without any help from mankind. The universe is expanding into disorder.

No argument there.

Our desire to create order and better ourselves is gentetic and instinctive. Dogs seek shelter from the rain. Birds feather their nests for warmth and comfort. Swans mate for life.

True. And most species better themselves at the expense of others. However, we as a species have removed a lot of the balances that would prevent this behaviour getting out of control. Which is why we are so much more destructive to other species than they are to each other. Fortunately, our own dieback is inevitable, sooner or later. Yeast chokes on its own filth and so will we.

The environment has no intrnsic qualities--only those which we ascribe.

It has the quality of having a great deal more balance than human activity. It also supports you. Everything you eat, drink, breathe, wear, burn, every last thing that goes to satisfying your existence needs, comes from "the environment." People who don't work in the primary sector lose sight of that simple fact very quickly, but that's the single most accessible reason for managing the environment. If you wreck it, you're ultimately dooming yourself.

If you ascribe sentience to the world, that's your opinion.

I rather doubt I ever said such a thing.

You can go with the flow of the river, or you can dam the river, channel the river, and harness the river.

Now you sound like a real taoist. :) :) The Tao is just like water. You can work with it or against it. Taoism is the practice of working "with" the Tao. What you're advocating is the exact opposite.

Harmony is symbiosis, not surrender.

There is a world of difference between satisfaction and surrender, but that's not the biggest issue with that sentence. I hope you're not suggesting that the modern North-American way of life is about harmony or "symbiosis" with "the environment."

JA Konrath said...

you may be quitting on writing, giving up what you enjoy about writing.

How many people actually enjoy their jobs?

HawkOwl said...

"How many people actually enjoy their jobs?"

Don't know about "how many" but I sure do. I'm never going back to doing a job I don't like! :)

JA Konrath said...

I'm digging this discussion.

Success isn't about how much food you put on the table, it's about how happy you are with the food you have.

Should you be satified if there isn't enough food, or if the food isn't good quality?

We can only better ourselves from within. Overcoming external hurdles is just a matter of convenience, not self-improvement.

Competition is one of the best paths to self improvement, and that is external. It is also innate.

Indulgence by one interferes with another's denial of self much more than denial interferes with another's indulgence.

Not so. Society has allowed denial of self to be easier, because base needs are met. You don't even have to work, or try to care for yourself.

But true harmony would posit that the actions of other people, which are beyond your control, don't mean a thing to personal happiness.

Now you sound like a real taoist. :) :) The Tao is just like water. You can work with it or against it. Taoism is the practice of working "with" the Tao. What you're advocating is the exact opposite.

The point of life is to beget other life. Life needs resources. These are external. No organism can survive without resources.

Harmony exists precisely because all life is selfish, and demands resources. If life didn't strive to improve, there would be no adaptation or evolution.

We exist. We have needs. We're genetically wired to meet these needs.

When a species stops trying to better itself, it dies.

It isn't about working with the water or against the water. It's about the will that makes you want to work in the first place. And satisfaction is the death of the will.

Peggy Payne said...

The Lottery Dream is a great summation of most every writer's grail.

I truly believed at first that I'd be happy just to get a book out. Hilarious! That attitude lasted maybe a few days after I got an offer on my first book.

The state of NC where I live just started up a lottery, the first tickets sold yesterday morning. I feel as if I've been investing in a sort of lottery for decades. Immense amounts of persistent efforts buys the ticket.

But then on Wednesday a novelist friend of mine won a major round in the literary lottery. It still happens.

Not only do I not give up writing. I doubt if I'll ever give up my Lottery Dream.

HawkOwl said...

Should you be satified if there isn't enough food, or if the food isn't good quality?

Depends what you call "quality" and what you would have to forfeit to get better quality. If you look a what it takes to sustain people in countries other than here, both quality and quantity of food are things we vastly overdo.

Competition is one of the best paths to self improvement, and that is external.

In your worldview, maybe. It's also wasteful. You're taking things you don't need for the sake of "bettering" yourself by outdoing the next guy. If you find that improving... To each his own. I (or "we") find it's much more improving to stop comparing what I (we) have to what others have and be content with having what I (we) need.

(Competition) is also innate.

Which is another reason why it's improving to abstain from competition.

Society has allowed denial of self to be easier, because base needs are met. You don't even have to work, or try to care for yourself.

Hmmmm... If you're thinking that the only alternative to the rat race is to be on welfare, then yeah. But that's not the Way either. The Way is to support yourself without excess. And even on welfare, "Society" makes life emotionally difficult, by impressing on a person all the things they "ought" to have that cost money. Like Xmas.

But true harmony would posit that the actions of other people, which are beyond your control, don't mean a thing to personal happiness.

Exactly. Unfortunately, when you're trying to succeed by following the Way rather than in the accepted way, people rag on you for not "competing" and "pushing yourself" and what not. "People" feel like you, Joe, that competition and out-doing others is THE right thing to do, and the Way is a cop-out. Which wouldn't matter if they kept it to themselves... But they don't. And by that I don't mean you, because I could walk away from this discussion and you wouldn't come to my blog and harass me to "compete" more. I mean more like people "close" to me who think I should make more money than I need and work more hours and accumulate power etc.

The point of life is to beget other life.

True. A dog is nature's way of making more dogs.

Life needs resources. These are external. No organism can survive without resources.

True. But using more resources than one needs is wasteful.

Harmony exists precisely because all life is selfish, and demands resources. If life didn't strive to improve, there would be no adaptation or evolution.

So? As long as the system is balanced, does it really matter if there is evolution? Not really.

When a species stops trying to better itself, it dies.

I think coelacanths might disagree with you. We're gonna exterminate ourselves with "improvements" long before the coelacanth is extinct, I bet.

It isn't about working with the water or against the water.

Ah, but it is. That is everything the Way is about.

It's about the will that makes you want to work in the first place. And satisfaction is the death of the will.

Sure, if you want. But so what? Satisfaction is the key to not wasting. If it defeats will, then so be it.

Finding the Way is also a Growth needs, like your need to be always doing "better" than something. The difference between the Way and your way is that your way uses always more resources, whereas the Way conserves resources. No matter what your theory of personal growth is, it should be obvious that squandering resources is getting us nowhere.

tambo said...

Okay, here goes.

1. Difference between being stubborn and being persistent - Stubborn is when you refuse to see any other way to accomplish the goal but the particular track you have decided upon and you will not deviate from that plan so help you God. Persistence is when you're focused on the goal and are willing to do what it takes to get there, even if it's nothing like the plan you started with. Persistence is adaptable to facts, real life, and shit hitting the fan. Stubbornness is not.

2. Difference between being committed and being delusional - Committed is knowing there's a difficult task ahead, that's complicated and time consuming and you're willing - and able - to follow it through regardless of how and what it takes. Delusional is when you think it's going to be easy or that you've prepared for every little thing, and that you're assured of success. Commitment has its eyes open, delusion has its head in the clouds.

3. Quitting an act of failure or self-awareness? Depends on who quits and why they quit. For some, particularly the aforementioned stubborn and delusional, quitting is the preferred choice over facing the facts that the journey is hard and is, imho, a failure because they just gave up. It often includes statements along the lines of "No one can see my brilliance, and you're all stupid fuck heads!" For others, it’s a conscious choice to no longer participate in the journey for more personal, 'self-aware' reasons because the benefits no longer outweigh the detriments. These people often, but not always, say things like "It's been fun, but I don't want to beat my head against a brick wall anymore," which, imho, is a helluva lot different than thinking it's everyone else's fault for not seeing your brilliance.

4. In writing, is validation internal or external? It better be internal or your likelihood of forever chasing, and never catching, the carrot is damn near certain. Someone will always hate what you write, for their own reasons, and it's not up to others to make you happy.

JA Konrath said...

You're taking things you don't need for the sake of "bettering" yourself by outdoing the next guy. If you find that improving... To each his own. I (or "we") find it's much more improving to stop comparing what I (we) have to what others have and be content with having what I (we) need.

Again, look at mating rituals in most animals. Competition exists so species survive.

The desire to compete in athletics, and business, and politics, focuses the efforts of everyone involved, allowing for skills to be learned and knowledge to be acquired. Competing for a job, or a spouse, or a public office, is a way to grow, whether you win or lose.

"People" feel like you, Joe, that competition and out-doing others is THE right thing to do, and the Way is a cop-out.

You can't cop-out of life, except by dying.

There is no right or wrong way. It's all subjective. But in publishing, the path to publication involves compromise, hard work, knowledge, and luck. Competition is fierce. Happiness with one's station won't help that person get into print, or thrive once that moment arrives.

So? As long as the system is balanced, does it really matter if there is evolution? Not really.

Actually, evolution is proof that the system isn't balanced, or there would be no speciation, no extinction, no micro evolution.

I think coelacanths might disagree with you. We're gonna exterminate ourselves with "improvements" long before the coelacanth is extinct, I bet.

All life on earth is equally evolved, because we're all here, successfully reproducing. Some animals (sharks, roaches, coelocanths) haven't changed much recently, but that doesn't mean they haven't acclimated to this environment.

I don't share your nihilistic view of humanity. We're going to be around for a long while. We might reach a critical mass, like yeast, but when yeast does this it can still survive. Autoalysis. Sporing. Hybernation. We'll find a way.

Satisfaction is the key to not wasting. If it defeats will, then so be it.

Will allows waste to be conquered.

Waste, by the way, is part of nature. All living things excrete waste products, and most living things thrive at the expense of other living things.

M. G. Tarquini said...

1) Stubborn doesn't listen to competent advice. It keeps doing the same old, same old, even if that's not working. Persistance moves ahead, but learns as it does so.

2) Committed gets the proper training, does the proper practice, learns from mistakes, keeps on going. Delusional thinks it can take out an appendix because it saw it done once on Discovery Health Channel.

3) Depends on the perspective of the individual doing the quitting.

4) It better be internal, because external validation is hard to come by.

AGP said...

My answers were mostly "D" but it's because from the time I was old enough to talk, my answers have always been:

No, I don't want your help, I want to do it myself.
Let me do it.
(Although lately I've added: show me and then let me do it. Being older and wiser now, and tired of doing things the hard way.)

So, although I would sell out in a heartbeat to get published and make any/all changes requested, I'd keep trying because I can't stop believing: if I could just do it GOOD ENOUGH, I'd get STET instead of REVISE. I'd sell. And I'd be happy now with just a little, but not for long. Not forever.

So, I can't give up. And I can't stop answering: No - let me do it - I want to do it, myself.

Because most of all, I want freedom of expression. I want to do it and SAY it, my way.

HawkOwl said...

Again, look at mating rituals in most animals. Competition exists so species survive.

There is something really weird about comparing animals mating to your desire to sell more books and be more famous. The two don't really compare, either in terms of their usefulness to the species or the amount of resources involved.

The desire to compete in athletics, and business, and politics, focuses the efforts of everyone involved, allowing for skills to be learned and knowledge to be acquired.

That's putting an altruistic veneer on it that rarely has even the appearance of existence. Competition is self-serving. It's also useless. Just because it has by-products that can be applied to the ever faster consumption of resources, doesn't make it productive.

Competing for a job, or a spouse, or a public office, is a way to grow, whether you win or lose.

True. And the need for growth is one of the erroneous and wasteful assumptions that maintain this society in a state of perpetual unbalance. "Growth" is advocated because it puts more money in the capitalists' pockets, not because it's good for society.

But in publishing, the path to publication involves compromise, hard work, knowledge, and luck.

Now you're talking. This statement is correct (for all I know, having not tried it). But if you replace "publishing" with "writing" (or "life") and "publication" with "success," as in the original point of contention, then I still don't agree.

Happiness with one's station won't help that person get into print, or thrive once that moment arrives.

I don't doubt that. On the other hand, happiness with one's station will help that person feel "successful" despite not being published.

Actually, evolution is proof that the system isn't balanced, or there would be no speciation, no extinction, no micro evolution.

Au contraire! Evolution is an attempt to upset the balance in one's favour. If evolution was successful in upsetting the balance, a species would take over the world and eradicate the rest. Gee, what kind of species would do that? LOL

Have you ever studied finance? I had to take a course entirely dedicated to predicting stock markets. The moral of the course in the end was that whenever someone discovers a method for predicting stocks, the market rearranges itself so that the method no longer works. Evolution is the same. Whenever a species develops an advantage, other species evolve to restore the balance.

I don't share your nihilistic view of humanity.

We nihilists are used to being in the minority. :) Obviously I don't share your capitalist view of "success." :) :)

We're going to be around for a long while.

As a species, yes. As a cultural and technological species, I bet not.

We might reach a critical mass, like yeast, but when yeast does this it can still survive. Autoalysis. Sporing. Hybernation. We'll find a way.

Major dieback. Dark ages. Same as before. Booyakasha! If we get rid of such mechanisms, as people keep trying to do, that's when we're really screwed as a species.

Will allows waste to be conquered.

Now you're just making phrase.

Waste, by the way, is part of nature.

Waste, yes. Wastefulness, no.

HawkOwl said...

Should read "as a cultural and technological..." something other than species. Individuality? LOL

And it should be "phrases," not "phrase."

Never skip proofreading.

JA Konrath said...

There is something really weird about comparing animals mating to your desire to sell more books and be more famous. The two don't really compare, either in terms of their usefulness to the species or the amount of resources involved.

Animals and humans are genetically predisposed to try to better themselves. Competition is part of that. Dogs love tug of war because it's an instictive desire dating back to a time where they fought over scraps.

The tribal 'us against them' mentality is in our genes. It's nature.

Competition is self-serving. It's also useless. Just because it has by-products that can be applied to the ever faster consumption of resources, doesn't make it productive.

"Take a hit for the team" has become a catch phrase for being selfless, yet being part of a team implies competition.

Winning causes chemical changes in the brain--the same dopamine and seratonin spikes seen in heroin addicts and people in deep romantic love. Which is why gambling is an addiction---gamblers get high on copetition.

"Growth" is advocated because it puts more money in the capitalists' pockets, not because it's good for society.

Sorry, I'd rather live in an industrialized nation with vaccines, health care, and plenty of food, than in a mud hut hunting for wild boar.

Au contraire! Evolution is an attempt to upset the balance in one's favour. If evolution was successful in upsetting the balance, a species would take over the world and eradicate the rest.

This can happen, when species are introduced to new environments. African bees. Rabbits in Australia. The Japanese beetle.

The competitors for food and shelter have to change or die. And they do, since no species (even man) has taken over the world.

If we get rid of such mechanisms, as people keep trying to do, that's when we're really screwed as a species.

That was how ESCAPE FROM LA ended.

When I said "Will allows waste to be conquered" I mean that mankind finds ways to deal with the problems it causes. Slowly but surely. From the sewage system of ancient Rome to biodegradable plastics and hybrid cars. I had to visit a water eclamation plant for my last book. I also wrote a children's book about recycling. We're in no danger of destroying the planet anytime soon.

And wastefulness isn't a part of nature not out of balance, but out of competition. Everything needs to eat, so species have sprung up to eat the inedible.

There is an oft quoted study about scientists who engineered some E. coli to be unable to metabolize lactose. Then they took this strain and gave it nothing but lactose to eat.

What do you think happened? The strain mutated, and 3% of it began to metabolize lactose.

Life tries to survive, by any means necessary.

Capitalism is one way it does this.

HawkOwl said...

Animals and humans are genetically predisposed to try to better themselves.

You know, I don't have studies to back the fact that animals compete for survival needs while you are talking about competition for the sake of ego. However, as a counter-example to the notion that competition is good for an animal, it's interesting to note that in baboons, the higher-ranking females in a troop have a harder time getting pregnant and carrying offspring to term than lower-ranking females. And if you're looking at dogs, or even cats, in a household, watch them enough and you'll notice that the "alpha" is stressed out. There isn't really a lot of benefit to being the dominant animal in a herd. Even if that means eating first, your pack mates will buck your alpha status if they're starving and you have food.

Being part of a team implies competition.

Maybe you don't work on teams much. When I have a team loading or unloading a truck, it's about team work, not competition. There is no one to compete against. Just a task to be done and we're all on it together.

Which is why gambling is an addiction---gamblers get high on copetition.

No, they get high on the thrill of expectation and the reward of winning. I should know, I play bingo. If it was about competition people would not get addicted to VLTs and slot machines, where you're not playing against anything.

Sorry, I'd rather live in an industrialized nation with vaccines, health care, and plenty of food, than in a mud hut hunting for wild boar.

Have you tried it? Personally I enjoy life more the more time I have to devote to survival needs rather than growth needs. And if you don't like mud huts, you could always use your competitive instincts to build a log house instead. :)

(Species exterminating other species) can happen, when species are introduced to new environments.

You're straying from your point. If the species are introduced, it no longer makes a point about evolution. Introduced species can decimated local species. Can a species evolve within its normal environment to eradicate other indigenous species? That was the point at hand.

The competitors for food and shelter have to change or die.

Not if they find a balanced state. Like the coelacanth.

When I said "Will allows waste to be conquered" I mean that mankind finds ways to deal with the problems it causes.

Do we have a solution to replace the need to burn fuel yet? No. Will we ever? Not probable, as heat has to come from somewhere, somehow, and combustion is the only method we've found so far over the millenia that really works. So what do we do when we run out of fuels? Freeze and die. So we'd better not waste fuel.

We're in no danger of destroying the planet anytime soon.

No. We'll just run out of resources. And THEN good times will be had.

And wastefulness isn't a part of nature not out of balance, but out of competition. Everything needs to eat, so species have sprung up to eat the inedible.

How is that to your point? That's the exact opposite. Species evolve to feed niches; that's the opposite of competition. That's balance: the system righting itself. Where is the process to right the drain on resources in the "keeping up with the Joneses" competition? There isn't one. That's why I keep saying that the competition amongst animals for their survival needs is not comparable to the competition amongst humans for their ego (or "growth" needs). Competition among species balances itself out. Rat races among people don't.

There is an oft quoted study about scientists who engineered some E. coli to be unable to metabolize lactose. Then they took this strain and gave it nothing but lactose to eat. What do you think happened? The strain mutated, and 3% of it began to metabolize lactose.

Obviously. That's what bacteria do.

Capitalism is one way it does this.

Capitalism isn't about survival. Hunting-gathering is about survival. Capitalism is about growth. (Are there any economic systems that target relatedness needs?)

Zoe said...

1) Stubbornness is blind clinging. Persistence is hanging on with your eyes open, willing to change your approach as needed.

2) I'll give an example: In writing, being committed means you're going to keep sending out your work no matter how many rejections you get; being delusional means you think the first publisher you send your book to will pay you a million dollars for it.

3) Depends on the person. You shouldn't quit if you still want to succeed and are still willing to do what it takes to get there; neither should you continue pushing yourself foward if yould be happier giving up.

4) Both. The ratio depends on the individual writer.

JA Konrath said...

There isn't really a lot of benefit to being the dominant animal in a herd.

Mating rights. First to eat. What more would any alpha leader want?

When I have a team loading or unloading a truck, it's about team work, not competition.

And what if that same team was in a softball game?

No, gamblers get high on the thrill of expectation and the reward of winning.

Okay I'll revise. They don't get high on comepetition. They get high on bettering themselves and their situation, as all animals are predisposed to do.

Personally I enjoy life more the more time I have to devote to survival needs rather than growth needs.

I can't become a better writer is I'm worried about where my food and shelter are coming from for the night.

Do we have a solution to replace the need to burn fuel yet?

Why do we need one? We do have solutions to get off of crude oil, coal, and natural gas. Ethanol, made from corn and vegetables. Solar power. Nuclear power.

Can a species evolve within its normal environment to eradicate other indigenous species?

Bacteria and viruses do this all the time.

Not if they find a balanced state. Like the coelacanth.

If by balanced you mean that it hasn't become extinct, than humans are just as balanced.

Competition among species balances itself out. Rat races among people don't.

Really? Who are there more of, the rich or the poor? Who is having children at a faster rate? Where are the overpopulation dangers, and the problems that go along with overpopulation, highest?

Japan is full. Overpopulated. But it still does a better job taking care of its citizens than any overpopulated third world country. Less famine. Less disease. Less infant mortality.

I haven't checked, but I'm going to guess that lfie expentency in a third world country is shorter than in an undustrialized nation.

Capitalism isn't about survival. Hunting-gathering is about survival. Capitalism is about growth. (Are there any economic systems that target relatedness needs?)

This is the crux of our debate. I believe that survival is about growth. Once growth ceases, you don't get balance. You get stagnation.

HawkOwl said...

Mating rights. First to eat. What more would any alpha leader want?

Right. There just isn't that much of an advantage to either of those. Breeding is good for the species but doesn't keep the individual alive. On the contrary. And eating first is only a big deal if there is only food for one, and if that's the case, your alpha-ness is gonna be challenged in a hurry by those who have no food.

And what if that same team was in a softball game?

Then it would be a competition, but that has nothing to do with the fact that it's a team. It's about the fact that it's a competition. Your statement that teams are intrinsically about competition is incorrect. Teams and competitions intersect at times, but neither is intrinsically a component of the other.

(Gamblers) don't get high on comepetition. They get high on bettering themselves and their situation.

No they don't. They know quite well that their gambling money is spent money, not an investment. They get high on a Pavlovian reflex.

I can't become a better writer is I'm worried about where my food and shelter are coming from for the night.

Actually, I bet you would. :)

H: Do we have a solution to replace the need to burn fuel yet?

J: Why do we need one? We do have solutions to get off of crude oil, coal, and natural gas. Ethanol, made from corn and vegetables. Solar power. Nuclear power.


Ethanol is fuel. Nuclear power is fuel. Used vegetable oil, coffee grounds, garbage, all that is fuel. Solar power is not fuel, but it's not enough power. If solar power was enough to keep us warm and cook our food, cavemen would never have looked at fire as an alternative. Solar power can be used to power a few things, now, because fuel is used for everything else. If you tried to replace every fuel application with solar power, you wouldn't have nearly enough solar power.

H: Can a species evolve within its normal environment to eradicate other indigenous species?

J: Bacteria and viruses do this all the time.


Examples?

H: Not if they find a balanced state. Like the coelacanth.

J: If by balanced you mean that it hasn't become extinct, than humans are just as balanced.


No, I mean it doesn't become extinct and it doesn't evolve. I mean balanced. Balance is the opposite of change. Humans, some of them, are balanced. Not our culture, by any conceivable standard of balance. And certainly not the US, with a $3-trillion international debt.

Really? Who are there more of, the rich or the poor? Who is having children at a faster rate? Where are the overpopulation dangers, and the problems that go along with overpopulation, highest?

I don't see how any of this line of argument addresses the question of whether "the rat race" or "keeping up with the Joneses" or whatever you want to call your ego competition paradigm, is "balanced." However, to comment on the overpopulation of places like India, I would have to say it has a lot to do with the death rate there having been reduced by the introduction of "betterments" made by people with egos, such as medicine, without any regard to whether the population would be sustainable with a lower death rate.

Japan is full. Overpopulated. But it still does a better job taking care of its citizens than any overpopulated third world country.

Depends what you mean by "taking care of its citizens," but yes, Japan is overpopulated and has a high standard of living. For now. And the question of how to maintain that unsustainable paradigm keeps them up at night. If you're thinking Japan is in a state of balance, I think Japan would disagree.

I haven't checked, but I'm going to guess that lfie expentency in a third world country is shorter than in an undustrialized nation.

I'm assuming you mean "industrialized," in which case you're right, but again, what does that have to do with balance? Death is balance.

This is the crux of our debate. I believe that survival is about growth.

I agree that this is the crux of the debate. I disagree with you. Even semantically, growth is the opposite of balance. Balance is status quo, lack of change. Growth is change. They just don't go together.

Bernita said...

It is the Ape Who Guards the Balance...

JA Konrath said...

Breeding is good for the species but doesn't keep the individual alive.

Speak for yourself. :)

They get high on a Pavlovian reflex.

You wouldn't consider Pavlov a proponant of capitalism? Isn't gratification the fufillment of a need?

If you're thinking Japan is in a state of balance, I think Japan would disagree.

That's because our definitions of success differ. By my standards, Japan is doing quite well. It might make many of its own problems, but it is dealing with them as they arise.

Change fuels life, not balance.

While seeking balance is certainly a vaild way to pursue happiness, my needs involve the approval of others (agents, editors, fans.)

If I chose not to adapt to their needs, I wouldn't have a career. I'm genetically hard-wired to write. I always have been. The only way I'll scratch this itch is by working hard, competing, changing, struggling.

Denying the itch would be denying my nature, and that wouldn't make me happy. And I don't believe that is a successful way for a species to live.

What is wrong with wastefulness? What is wrong with the rat race, if it forces people to dig deep within themselves and be the best that they can be?

S. W. Vaughn said...

1. Stubborn = "My writing is the most brilliant thing since Shakespeare and I ain't changing word one. Someone else will recognize my genius. Who are you, Mr. Senior Editor at Viking?"
Persistent = "Damn, another rejection. I'm going to go blog about it and write six more chapters, then scrap three or four of them. Good thing I have 11,217 more queries out there. I'm going to need more stamps."

2. Committed = "This is a nice strait jacket, but it's going to be tough to write with my arms tied. Aren't there people who learn to write with their feet?"
Delusional = "This is a nice strait jacket, but how am I going to answer all my fan mail without using my arms?"

3. Quitting is tough when you smoke a pack a day. The words "quit" and "writing" together in a sentence form an oxymoron. However, the words "quit" and "dreaming of the day when I hit the NYT bestseller list at #1 for sixteen months running" can be mutually exclusive.

4. All of the above.

Great post, JA. Can't wait to see your answers. :-)

-S

HawkOwl said...

You wouldn't consider Pavlov a proponant of capitalism? Isn't gratification the fufillment of a need?

No, it's the fulfillment of a want. And there is no such thing as Growth "needs." Only Growth "wants."

H: If you're thinking Japan is in a state of balance, I think Japan would disagree.

J: That's because our definitions of success differ. By my standards, Japan is doing quite well.


Where did this tangent come from? The question was "balance," not "success."

Change fuels life, not balance.

Although your construction reads as "change fuels life, it doesn't fuel balance," I assume you mean that change fuels life, balance doesn't. Which kinda suggests again that you've never had much to do with primary industries, and that you're mistaking your ego with an existence need.

It seems from your posts that all that matters in your life is for you to get richer and more famous through your writing, at the expense of anything else, and that you believe this is improving. If you ever have the great good fortune to find yourself homeless, penniless and income-less, you'll see which of your ego and the ability to balance sources with drains (of everything) is going to keep you alive.

While seeking balance is certainly a vaild way to pursue happiness, my needs involve the approval of others (agents, editors, fans.)

Those are wants, not needs. Your needs are food, water, air, shelter, relatedness. But your needs are met, so all you know is wants. You're all about wants.

I'm genetically hard-wired to write.

That is not impossible, however, that's not the point. I doubt you'd be any less competitive if you were an accountant instead of a writer.

Denying the itch would be denying my nature, and that wouldn't make me happy.

That's a very childish thing to say. "I HAVE to be happy and I can only be happy by indulging my impulses." Very three-years-old. Very American. Very wasteful.

What is wrong with wastefulness?

What a bizarre thing to say. What's wrong with wastefulness is it wantonly destroys things other people and/or creatures need to live. It's the epitome of selfishness.

Immanuel Kant, who did a great deal of work on ethics, said that "I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law." Wastefulness is the opposite of that. Ego generates wastefulness, wastefulness is unethical, ergo ego is unethical.

What is wrong with the rat race, if it forces people to dig deep within themselves and be the best that they can be?

It doesn't. It encourages people to waste the most they can waste. Being the best they can be would involve becoming more positive, more ethical, more thrifty, more "balanced." Just having more for the sake of having more makes people worse, not better.

JA Konrath said...

No, it's the fulfillment of a want. And there is no such thing as Growth "needs." Only Growth "wants."

No, I pretty much need to write. Once base needs are meant, that doesn't make every other desire unimportant. New needs take the place of old needs, and to the person desiring, the need can be as strong as that for food, shelter, and love.

It seems from your posts that all that matters in your life is for you to get richer and more famous through your writing, at the expense of anything else, and that you believe this is improving. If you ever have the great good fortune to find yourself homeless, penniless and income-less, you'll see which of your ego and the ability to balance sources with drains (of everything) is going to keep you alive.

Funny thing--when I was in my early twenties, I was extremely poor. No food/no heat in winter poor. I had a place to live, but it was awful.

That was the year I got my first agent, because every free moment I had was spent writing.

Fame is fleeting. I don't care about fame. I don't seek fortune either. But I would like to make enough money so my wife no longer has to work, my kids have their college taken care of, the bills get paid, we can get health insurance, and I no longer have to spend 90% of my time self promoting.

But in order to reach that point, I need to work hard.

But your needs are met, so all you know is wants. You're all about wants.

I consider them needs. And my primary needs are met because I'm meeting my secondary needs.

I doubt you'd be any less competitive if you were an accountant instead of a writer.

If I lived to crunch numbers like I lived to write, perhaps.

From an early age, I've dreamed of publication. I pursued it for over a decade without success.

Where do dreams fit into your concept of balance?

That's a very childish thing to say. "I HAVE to be happy and I can only be happy by indulging my impulses." Very three-years-old. Very American. Very wasteful.

So denying your impulses and desires and having no goals is the way to happiness?

Most Eastern philosophy emphasizes control over self because control over environment is impossible, and having goals unfulfilled is the source of sorrow.

I don't agree. I think happiness can be found in reaching goals. My wedding day was one of my happiest. Had I no dream of marriage, it would have been just as happy as any other day.

What's wrong with wastefulness is it wantonly destroys things other people and/or creatures need to live. It's the epitome of selfishness.

I challenge you to name a single unselfish act.

"I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law."

Kant was wrong about many things (such as the a priori, which is simply a way to posit a belief in a higher power without sensual proof.)

Denial of self is selfish.

Wastefulness is subjective, unless there are universal inherent truths (good luck proving them.)

Just having more for the sake of having more makes people worse, not better.

The desire for more is what pushes people to reach their potential, as dictated by their dreams.

Dreams, desire, and a competitive nature are all genetic. They help fufil the point of life, which is to beget more life.

JA Konrath said...

Here are my answers, and they probably aren't what anyone expects:

What is the difference between being stubborn and being persistent?

All stubborn people believe they are being persistent, and all persistent people believe they are being persistent, so you can never know which you are.

What is the difference between being committed and being delusional?

The outcome of your actions dictates the difference.

Is quitting an act of failure, or an act of self-awareness?

Quitting is always self-awareness, because failure is a part of self-awareness.

In writing, is validation internal or external?

It is external. You can't judge your own ability.

Mary Stella said...

*In writing, is validation internal or external?*

If we're smart and want to foster a healthy, success attitude while saving ourselves emotional agony and self-doubt, we'll learn to find our validation in producing quality work and building our readeship.
We'll quit hanging our validation hopes on reviews, contest wins and the like. The only thing that I can control is the work that I produce.

The rest of the stuff screws with our brains and can adversely affect our writing process, too, if we let it.

Jude Hardin said...

Some beautiful, amusing irony here.

When you get down to it, JA's and Hawkowl's discussion was, in itself, a competition, which rather negates many of Hawk's assertions. If Hawk's philosophy was sound, he never would have engaged in the first place.

Come on, Hawk. Admit it. If nothing else, competition is fun.

And isn't that what makes life worthwhile?

Allison Brennan said...

I've been staying off-line in pursuit of TLD . . . have to write and meet those deadlines, you know.

But I can definitely answer this question:

I would have kept writing until I sold. I wrote five books in two years and sold that fifth book. Had I spent two years rewriting that first awful book, I wouldn't be published today--the book didn't have "it."

I made the decision when I started writing that I would find an agent FIRST, that I wouldn't query editors because I had this sixth sense that an agent was necessary to meeting my goals of being a career novelist.

So I kept writing and writing and writing until I finished book #5 and had the feeling "this was it."

But if it wasn't? I would have written books six, seven, eight, nine . . . whatever it took to make that sale. Each book I wrote was better than the last, so I knew I was getting better.

Once I committed myself (which took a few years to work up to), I was committed for the long haul, thick or thin, better or worse, sickness or health . . . you get the picture.