I've always been a believer in the concept that hard work brings about good things, be it monetary success, satisfaction, or general improvement of one's circumstances.
It simply isn't true.
Sometimes, no matter how hard one works, it doesn't bring about the results needed or desired. Sometimes it is a matter of circumstances. Sometimes it is a matter outside of one's control. Sometimes it is something else entirely.
Sometimes working hard simply mitigates the damage.
Working hard is supposed to be a miracle fix, something that guarantees quality, a solid chance at a career, or whatever your personal goals happen to be at any given point in time. Working hard is the knee-jerk piece of advice given for most circumstances.
Your job isn't going well? Work harder! You don't earn enough to pay your bills? Work harder! There are errors in your novel? Work harder! Your kids are running wild and causing problems? Work harder! You don't fit society's standards of normality? Work harder!
In the novel writing world, there are several vicious realities I've had to face.
There are other points I could add to this list, but it boils down to ‘that wasn't good enough, do better next book.'
I've spoken about depression before. I suffer from a milder form of it. (Mild still sucks.) I've always approached my depression and my work with the work harder mentality, as though this was the magical cure for all of my problems.
I'm far from perfect. I'm really, really far from perfect. I came to literacy late in the game, without the solid foundation many other authors enjoy. I've tried to make up for my lack of background with hard work, but the reality is depressing. It's not good enough.
I want to tell good stories people will enjoy. I want to tell the types of stories I enjoy reading. I want to entertain. I want to let people step out of their own world for a little while and invite them to mine.
I want people to buy a copy of one of my stories and come away with something.
I sit down at my computer and I work hard. I spend tens upon tens upon tens hours writing, reading, rereading, correcting, fixing, proofing, writing, fixing, reading, rereading, correcting…
The unfortunate reality?
It's just not good enough.
From my very first novel right up to Blood Diamond, which will be released as soon as I have cover art, there's been one simple–and painful–fact.
All of my novels have had substantial editorial done on them. On average, I've paid rough $1,000 on copy and proofing editorial alone per book. When I get the notes back from my editors, I read, reread, correct, and work on my novel for tens upon tens upon tens of hours.
It's just not good enough.
Working hard guarantees nothing. It doesn't even ensure a level playing field. It doesn't actually give you anything, really. Yes, I work hard. I struggle and fight to try to write a story people will enjoy. When I find an error, I fix it. I upload the fixed copies to amazon as soon as I can.
Yet, for every error I fix, there are three more waiting, lurking in the pages.
I average anywhere between 3-5 editors on a project, and there are still mistakes. Sometimes it is a stupid error. Sometimes it's something that myself plus 3-5 other people just missed.
Ultimately, no matter how many editors I bring into a project, I am the one responsible for the words in my book.
I've learned a lot from my first novel, but I've also learned that settling for improvement each and every book just isn't good enough. I don't want to be ‘good enough.'
I want to be the best I can be, and I want that to happen now. But it won't–it hasn't. It may never happen.
Working harder doesn't replace talent. It doesn't replace skill. It doesn't replace knowledge. It doesn't substitute the synergistic relationship between talent and skill.
Working harder is as much of a trap as it is a necessity for success. Yes, those who do succeed have worked hard.
But it's never a guarantee. I think our society has settled into a pattern of expectation, clinging to the belief that hard work is a guarantee. If you haven't achieved your goal, it is because you're lazy. It is because you simply aren't talented or good enough. If you haven't gotten to where you think you should be through hard work, you're a failure.
There is the belief that we are owed something if we work hard.
That simply isn't true.
I work hard, but that doesn't mean my books are as good as they should be–or could be. I hire editors. I rely on them to help me correct my book.
But it's ultimately not enough.
I have been told by people I know, in real life and on the internet, that they're amazed by how hard I work, how dedicated I am to writing, and things of that nature. Every single time I hear this, I feel like a fraud. I put in a lot of hours each day, but the results simply aren't what I want.
Working hard hasn't gotten me through the glass ceiling, putting my work on the level I want it to be. I've always wondered why this is the case. Why is it that I work so hard, yet I can't quite seem to leap over the obstacles preventing me from writing a truly good book?
I've always been about working hard. I always will be. No one is going to hand me anything on a silver platter. That's just life. That's reality. I'm not going to earn anything if I don't try and put in the effort.
There are no handouts in life–at least, not for me.
I have always promoted the use of editors in fiction writing. Editors help writers make their stories better.
Ultimately, however, writers are responsible for themselves and their books. Editors help, but they are not the ones responsible for the final product. You, the author, are.
I work hard, but I think I've worked hard believing other people would help make my final product perfect. I need to work hard, but instead of relying on the crutch of my editors fixing my stupid mistakes, I need to sit down, shut the fuck up, and make sure I'm working hard to fix them on my own.
I'll still get help, because I need it. But, maybe this time, working hard will let me get closer to good enough.
Too bad good enough is a sliding goal, one that seems to stay just outside of reach.