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Write For The Joy Of It: Not For Overnight Success

Now that Oprah’s 25-year-old show is going away and even Oprah is leaving the television network and going her own way, I think it’s time to break apart two very old and entrenched aspects of a writing career: creativity and fame.

For many, many years, the plague of a writer’s imagination has been, “I am going to finish this book and then maybe Oprah will like it.”

Then you know how the rest of the fantasy goes. Lights, action, camera, that writer is delivered from obscurity, the book becomes a huge international bestseller, and the rest is history.


Because that’s the experience most writers have, especially with their first books.

Of course it isn’t.

And now there is a new pressure that goes like this: We have social networking so now we no longer even need Oprah.

To this, I’ll simply say, “Oprah, if you happen to be reading this, I am always available, any time, any place.”

And don’t think I’m kidding because I’m very serious. I’d love to meet Oprah. She is an amazing, empowered creative person.

As for the rest of us, it’s time to excuse this elephant from the room and with its exit relieve the inordinate pressure of the overnight success strategy myth as enviable, preferable, or even plausible for the average publishing writer.

Here’s what I want to say to writers, who feel discouraged, badgered, and even kind of battered by folks in the biz and their blind obedience to the overnight, over-the-top vision of literary success: it’s over.

The insanity of overnight success is over and it’s been replaced by something much more sane, human, and rational. It’s been replaced by author ownership.

Every writer in the world is now a publisher, just as Oprah is now a television network. And what this means is that the creativity that has always been in writers’ hands can now be leveraged and shared appropriately.

Creative power can now be tapped and exercised by authors in a fashion appropriate and proportionate to the experience of the creator, and not anyone’s absurdly over-the-top perception of what is humanly possible for, say, a first-time author.

Now, I am a platform expert. So perhaps you are confused.

How can I tell writers not to go for overnight success?

Well, I am not the kind of platform expert who goes around encouraging people to abandon themselves for overnight success. I am the kind that teaches people to cultivate their own creative power and grow it over time, because this is the only kind of success that is ever lasting. It’s the only kind of success that is worth having at all.

Instead of saying something absurd — like now you get to spend every minute of your life online, isn’t that great??? — I want to say: write for the joy of it.

Let the creativity that you experience every day be half of the reward, writers. That’s where so much of the personal satisfaction comes from anyway.

Realize how many people walk around in this world cut off from their own incredible source of joy. While people who write every day get to splash around in the waters of joy every single day.

Then afterwards, we can channel some of our leftover creative energy into platform development because platform development is just as creative and joyful as writing. And sure, when you have a book coming out, work extra hard. Put your whole self into it. Why wouldn’t you? Be creative. Be visionary. Do something big. Make as big of a splash as you can. Launch that baby into the world with as much fanfare as possible.

But remember that platform development means connecting how you serve to an increasingly and incrementally larger audience over time, all the time. And anyone who doesn’t talk about the joy and creativity that comes part and parcel with this effort simply doesn’t know about it and also perhaps has other plans for you and your creative resources.

What I am saying is that you can cultivate and nurture your writing career success the same way you would cultivate and nurture a garden. Steadily. Slowly. With lots of care and effort. With the personal joy and satisfaction that comes just from the doing. And with a lot less insanity.

The micro-publishing revolution is here. It’s been here for a while and it’s maturing faster than most individual authors’ career do. Every day that goes by it is getting easier and easier to produce yourself and cultivate your own unique writing career.

But don’t use these networking tools as just another way to destroy yourselves, writers. If you are moving faster than the speed of light and you think that’s a good think, than you are moving too fast to see how you are going to be in pain as soon as, and if, you ever slow down and start to feel again.

Start to see instead that authorship equals ownership. And ownership equals creative power. And creative power is where all of the joy is. It’s where all the joy has always been.

And the promise of joy only comes to those who use it. And you can activate your joy as soon as your creativity begins to matter to you. Because without this creative power, there is no point. Without your authentic self-expression, all the success in the world would be about as valuable as ash.

After even an hour of experiencing your own creative power, you can have joy. And then you become one of the richest folks alive.

And why would you want to have it any other way?

~ Photo by Nikki3130

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  • Andrea Di Salvo January 27, 2011, 3:51 pm

    Christina, thanks so much for this post. As I read it, I realized I used to write for the joy of it. I started writing at the age of 13 or 14, and it was all about the joy. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up for the joy, not the fame (okay, partly the fame). As I got older though, I started succumbing to my own internal clock (why haven’t I “made” it already) and the pressures from those around me (if she’s a writer, why doesn’t she have a book published?). It does rob it of joy, and turns writing into a job rather than a calling. Thanks for the reminder of where I started and where I need to get back to.

  • Nathaliesnotes January 27, 2011, 4:06 pm


    I have a draft post about something April Henry said last Sunday about what happened after she found out she was a New York Times Bestseller … you still go right back to real life – and finding joy in that is the true success – everything else … cherries on top. Nice, juicy, tasty cherries – but still cherries.
    I’m impressed with how you wove all this together and wouldn’t have made the connection before from Oprah’s transition to our own as writers. That being said, I do my practice interviews with Oprah and still would love to meet her but it’s not the WHY behind what I do. Just a cherry.

  • Vi January 27, 2011, 5:20 pm

    I love this post!

  • Acornmail January 27, 2011, 5:22 pm

    Well said. Bravo. It needs to be about the joy. Sometimes we get so bogged down in the mechanics of writing and the business side of writing we forget why we’re doing it in the first place. I realized this just the other day when I took my daughter to tumbling. There are probably 100 little girls there of all ages and skill. Will they all become cheerleaders in highschool? Will they go on to compete in the olympics? Probably not. But why do they do it? Because they love it. It’s fun. I want to be the next big thing (we all do). But what if I don’t? Well, I can safely say that I will just keep “tumbling” my heart out. Because I love it.

  • Ryan2pop January 27, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Thanks for a great and inspirimg piece. As someone just entering the digital publishing world and thinking of digitally publishing, your words really got me to slow down and think about what I am doing and why I am doing it. This has and will continue to make a significant difference for me, thanks again.

  • Anonymous January 28, 2011, 3:13 am

    I like those last two lines, Porter. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  • Anonymous January 28, 2011, 3:14 am

    Thanks, Nathalie. 🙂

  • Anonymous January 28, 2011, 3:16 am

    That’s a good analogy. Thanks for it. My daughter also loves her acrobatics class. 🙂

  • Anonymous January 28, 2011, 3:16 am

    I’m glad, Ryan. It’s key to stay grounded with all of this swirling around us. 🙂

  • Anonymous January 28, 2011, 3:17 am

    Thanks for bringing up all of these points, Andrea. 🙂

  • Meryl K Evans January 28, 2011, 2:41 pm

    Beautifully said, Christina! I admire Oprah and also would love to meet her in private — not appear on her show or anything.

    I just spoke to second graders during college/career week. The first thing they thought of when it comes to writers: books. When folks ask what I do, the first thing they ask is who do I write for (meaning magazines or books). So I used the opportunity to teach the kids that writing careers go way beyond that. I think they got it. I hope.

  • Lisa Espich January 28, 2011, 4:50 pm

    I love this post. I needed this reminder today. My book was just released a few weeks ago, and I’ve been so caught up in the marketing side of things, and worrying about whether or not I’m doing everything right — or doing enough. You reminded me that it’s okay to move slow and steady. Yes, it’s true that when I first started writing my book I hand grand dreams of being on Oprah, and becoming an overnight success. The dream has evolved, and I now have a better understanding of the writing and publishing world. Today I will pat myself on the back for how far I’ve come, and I will set aside some time to simply do some joyful writing! Thank you!! -Lisa Espich, author of “Soaring Above Co-Addiction”

  • Mathilda Wheeler January 28, 2011, 7:07 pm

    Wonderful post! It’s so important to remind myself daily that I’m writing because it feeds a delight in me to share myself, share my pleasure with words, and create stories. I really like how you bring developing the business aspect of writing (which scares so many of us off) into the joy equation. As I keep exploring my blog (which you inspired during your platform development class!), I find that this element of self-publishing brings me so much delight. That’s what it’s all about — and it’s up to me to acknowledge, savor, indulge, and (ultimately) trust in that joy: that it’s good for me and good for the world. Thanks, Christina!

  • Byemilychadwick January 28, 2011, 9:46 pm

    My take away is write for the joy of it and let the chips fall where they may. Own the process and let your own creativity drive your journey. What I needed to hear most from you, “After even an hour of experiencing your own creative power, you can have joy. And then you become one of the richest folks alive.” This is the inherent value of art.

  • Ddhctracy January 29, 2011, 4:29 am

    Great post! I’m following my bliss whether or not I get published or not, and no matter what obstacles jump in front of me, I need to remember that. Thanks for a quick reminder.


  • Anonymous January 29, 2011, 5:43 pm


  • Anonymous January 29, 2011, 5:47 pm

    Well, I think you know me well enough to know that I do not advocate an all or nothing approach such as “write for joy and let the chips fall where they may.”

    For me, adopting this as a motto would be an oversimplification of the reality of the writing journey. I can’t really stress enough the importance of learning, stretching, and growing beyond your own comfort zone.

    But I think you know all of this about me already, Emily. 🙂

    A writer may need to make concessions or cooperate or meet folks half-way (perhaps even occaisionally more than half-way) but if you keep your eye on the big picture, and write regularly with joy, you really can’t go wrong.

    As far as the inherent value of art…I’d say that each piece of art probably has its own unique tale to tell of the journey as to how it came into being.

  • brendathompson February 3, 2011, 11:42 pm

    Christina, this is so timely! I received your Platform book over the holidays and have read it and am working on developing my platform this year. Here we are just barely into February and I’m already feeling behind (ok, not a crazy amount but just wish I was doing more NOW). I have had so many ventures come and go with visions of appearing on Oprah but I always come back to my writing. In thinking about it now that tells me that I must do it because I like it because it’s been nearly three years since I started my blog and many more since I began freelancing and I’m nowhere near Oprah and that’s ok! I do it because I like to share. With everything, if you want to do it right it takes time and that’s what I need to give it. Thanks for the reality check.

  • Amanda Hoving February 8, 2011, 3:15 pm

    I so appreciated this post Christina. It’s easy to get caught up in the wish for lightning fast results. But, there’s not much joy in the effort that goes with that. Thank you for sharing~