Want to Be Successful? Take Aim and Keep Shooting

Consider this quote from basketball great Michael Jordan: “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

His point? To be so successful, you have to be in the game a lot and willing to fail on the way to your successes. The same is true for writers.

Over and Over and Over

I have a good friend who has outsold me in the last five years, about five books to one. She has also received a lot more rejections, and she’s had to bounce back from each depressing turndown by an editor. But don’t miss the point here. She has had many more sales because she has been gutsier and submitted a lot more than I have. She knows that rejection simply comes as part of the publishing package.

Do you want to be published by a traditional publisher? Then you need to write and submit consistently–and be willing to get rejected–in order to succeed. And not just once or twice or five times. You need to do this a lot.

Don’t misunderstand here. It’s not just a matter of doing something a large number of times. Even Michael Jordan didn’t just close his eyes, spin around, and throw the ball up in the air–and magically score hundreds of points. He:

  • opened his eyes
  • took careful aim at the basketball hoop
  • listened to his coach
  • practiced his form
  • concentrated, and
  • then threw the ball.

Sometimes he missed–but lots of times he scored. The one thing he didn’t do was quit along the way.

Writing Parallels Sports

In the same way, just writing and writing and writing, then submitting and submitting and submitting, won’t do the trick. It’s not just about the volume of words you write, although volume is important. (It does take practice to make perfect.)

If you want to build the career of your dreams, you must also:

  • study the markets
  • take careful aim
  • invite feedback from writing teachers and critique partners
  • revise
  • repeatedly practice whatever form of writing you do, and
  • then submit.

Keep following this formula–keep on keepin’ on. The law of averages will catch up with you if you don’t quit.

What About You?

Writers struggle more with some parts of the process than others. Some can write and revise till kingdom come–but won’t submit. Others submit to editors willingly, but don’t take feedback and revise.

Which part of the above “formula” for success gives you the most trouble?

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8 Responses to Want to Be Successful? Take Aim and Keep Shooting

  1. Vijaya says:

    Great quote. Years ago Mel Boring did a little poll on rejections in Writer’s Retreat. The person with the most rejections also had the most acceptances. I kept a little index card and boy was it true. When my critique group and I compared notes, same story.

    Right now, I am revising a novel. I hope not till Kingdom comes. I’m doing one more pass after beta readers and then it is going out. I have three books percolating in my head and I need to start on one of them next year.

    • kwpadmin says:

      You and I are in the same boat, Vijaya. In a few years, we should both burst on the scene with half a dozen finished novels! :-)

  2. Deanna says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Kristi. I struggle with consistent submissions. Today, just before I read your post, I realized it is time to get back on track. You confirmed my direction.

    Just wish those backyard grapes would harvest themselves, the clean sheets could hop on the bed and tuck themselves in, and the hungry husband would suddenly learn how to cook.

    Oops! No excuses! I’m learning to write in the tiny moments, cook double meals and freeze half for later, and keep my thinking cap in place while doing other tasks.

    • kwpadmin says:

      So true, Deanna! That’s why I bought so many organizing books years ago for “stay at home” workers. I love the whole idea of working smarter, not harder…and the older I get, the more important it becomes. With having had two new grandbabies within the last two weeks, I am re-learning some of those tricks. Grapes won’t pick themselves, but sheets will wait and hungry husbands (in my experience) have never let themselves starve. They wait, or they learn to cook, or they discover the joy of sandwiches. :-)

  3. Anne Bromley says:

    You remind me of a sage who once said, “I will repeat myself over and over until I see you change.” This is what you do: you give us a common theme (“work smart, not just hard”) wrapped in packages that will appeal to many types of readers. This one today really “got” to this reader: me. Thank you a thousand times for putting the work that I do into a sane perspective.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Anne, thank you for that comment. :-) I do repeat myself over and over! Today’s post is one of the biggest reasons for not giving up. A part of all this writing practice and selling is simply a numbers game…and the higher the better.

  4. I love the Michael Jordan quote! I’ve never read it before. And you’re right that you can’t just keep writing and writing and submitting. You’ve got to move up to that next level. It took me years to really get that.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Barbara, it took me years to realize that too…and to realize that every few years, it was time to do it again.

      By the way, loved your blog! I STILL know the words to “Don’t Let the Rain Come Down”! And where I used to live (Story City, Iowa), we also had one of the restored H-S carousels. Our church took a turn running it one week per summer, and I always signed up! Loved that music. :-)

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