29 January 2011

Being A Writer

One of the first pieces of writing wisdom I ever came across was simply this: writers write.

That is, people who have ideas for books aren't writers. People who put words on paper are writers. Once those words are on paper, they sometimes develop a life of their own... much to the writer's surprise. That's sort of what happened with my first book, The Radical Elements of Radical Success.

Here's the thing: I continue to have mixed feelings about my Radical Elements book (now available for the Kindle - just $2.99!).

Well, maybe the mixed feelings aren't so much about the book as the success-lit genre in general. There's a thick ribbon of scam & futility running through that particular shelf in your local book store, and I'm deeply skeptical of any approach that offers five easy steps or three hidden truths or a dozen hollow cliches guaranteed to change your life.

Even though I worked mightily to avoid that approach and to stand the genre on its head, the fact that my first book was in that genre has always rankled me a bit. I can't believe I wrote one of those books (and I hope it's not one of those books). At the same time, I always felt I had to write that book. I always felt it was important that I write it. Whether or not it's worth reading is a whole other question. I can only say the process taught me a lot about myself and about how to be a writer.

The fact that it continues to sell always comes as somewhat of a surprise. I don't do any marketing. I don't run around and give my Radical Elements presentation anymore. Now, it's not like I'm selling thousands of copies or anything - just a steady little trickle - but that trickle is way more than I ever expected. Occasionally, my royalties are even enough to buy a pizza. I wonder what might happen if I actually put effort into selling it.

I don't think it's a bad book - it's actually pretty good. I also don't think it's a great book. For that matter, I wouldn't even say it's my best book (but please don't ask me to pick which one I do think is my best). But good, bad or ugly, it's my book.

Then... every once in a while something happens that makes me step back and reconsider the book in a kinder light. When I went to update the Kindle version with the new cover, I found a 5-star review someone had left on Amazon... last March. I don't know Mr. Shipman, but I do appreciate his kind words. Here are some of them:

Ward provides a no-holds barred view [of the] elements necessary to succeed. He says on the back cover (something to the effect); "if you're looking for a get rich quick book, keep looking." There is a lot of fluff in the motivation/self-help genre--Ward's book is anything but "fluff." His advice is practical, his wisdom timeless. Highly recommended.

Being a writer is weird. You put words on paper and send them out in to the world, never knowing where they'll find a home. Never knowing if they'll have an impact, if they'll be accepted or if they'll even be noticed. But in this digital age it's easier than ever for those words to make a life of their own, to go places I'll never go and meet people I'll never meet.

I just wanted to say I think that's pretty amazing.


J.Scott said...

Dan, Hope you are well. I enjoyed your book--and it did stand the genre on its head. I'm in the process of writing a short book on John Boyd's to be or to do challenge and I'm facing the same "feeling" you describe---it ain't a cookbook to a perfect life and fabulous wealth---just a few principles that make a big difference. Feel free to contact me, as I truly admire your work.
Cordially, Scott

The Dan Ward said...

Hey, thanks so much, Scott! Totally makes my day. I'd love to hear more about the Boyd book you're working on - what's a good way to get in touch with you?

J.Scott said...

Hello Dan, Many thanks! I don't want to post my email in this forum, I'll reach out to you on LinkedIn saying we've done business together.
Cordially, Scott