• Jared Viljoen

Write your success story now.


Describe your journey to success and all the difficulties you are currently experiencing

I love hearing about people’s rags to riches stories. Particularly for writers. Those ups and downs. The times when they had writer’s block, or when they got rejected by a thousand editors, or how they had to rewrite a particular well-loved scene thirty, forty, fifty times!

You know the ones: JK Rowling writing on napkins in the coffee shop, a single-mother with nary a penny to her name. Or Stephen King pinning all his rejection letters to a nail on the wall above his typewriter. Of course, writers aren’t the only ones with stories like this. We hear about Walt Disney being fired because he lacked imagination. Or there was Steven Spielberg, rejected by film school three times (see here for more examples)!

I love these stories. They uplift me. Motivate me to think “if it could happen to them, then it might happen to me.” Of course, there is one HUGE reason why I love these stories: Because they are about people that eventually made it.


It seems obvious, but I don’t like reading stories about the writer that struggled his entire life, got rejected by every editor in town... then died.

Not such an inspiring tale. Which is probably why we don't hear about them much.

No, I only like hearing about the struggle when success arrives as the shiny exclamation point at the end. (Unless it’s a horror. There is a perverse part of us that loves the downer ending. Though, not so helpful when I’m trying to get out of a motivation-funk.)

So. What about me, as I sit in my wardrobe trying to write and the ideas drop on the page like yesterday’s clichés?


One reason it can feel so hard is that my now is the moment of struggle. There has been no happy ending. My struggle has not been made righteous. No, right now, I’m more like that guy who’s only had rejection, and I'm scared that's where the story ends.

BUT, all is not lost! We know the brain is an amazing thing. One of its superpowers is to treat thoughts as though they were facts. It’s why visualisations are so powerful: if we can see something clearly enough, the brain doesn’t bother separating fact from fiction. If it can ‘see’ it, it must be true.

Which is great because, if there’s one thing writers are good at, it is imagining things. So, we can use this superpower and create our happy ending. Now.

One powerful way of doing this is by talking about your current struggle (rejected for the fifth time, my article only earned me a measly $25, this scene is the worst scene in the ENTIRE WORLD, and so forth) as though you were describing it from the perspective of future success. Doing this has the wonderful effect of switching your brain’s view and tricking it into thinking your current struggle is part of your success story now. It is no longer just a difficult, depressing time, it is a wonderful part in your story where you were struggling... just before you hit your major success!


Below is a suggested exercise to help you use your brain's imaginary power to your advantage. The exercise suggests writing it down, but you could just talk to yourself, or close your eyes and imagine the scene. The key is to try feel it, see it, smell it, hear it.


I'd love to hear how it goes in the comments below.

EXERCISE:

Write an article or a letter (or whatever else works for you) as though you are already a highly successful writer. Address it to your grandchild, or the New York Times, or your million facebook fans. Describe your current difficulty and how it played such a huge role in your success, how your success lay just around the corner from this very moment. Lay out your rags to riches story. And make the current struggle a featured part of that story. See how you feel afterwards about what you’re current challenges. Did it shift?

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*All images are prototypes. Final product may vary.

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