I’ve been watching Brandon Sanderson videos recently and he mentions a unique hidden closet test of writing. Imagine you write all your life, but never publish anything. Everything you write goes into a box, and that box goes into the closet. Upon your death, your family opens the closet, and discovers all your work.
Brandon then asks: Are you more successful filling up that closet… or are you more successful not even starting to write?
I think that’s a fundamental question of a writing career. Even among the enthusiastic / hardworking only a few can make a living from their writing. Brandon estimates less than 25% of enthusiastic/hardworking authors will get published by a major house. Author Earning (Howard Hugh’s website) estimates that only 1% of all author’s break in and make a livable wage with their writing. So if you are looking at a life-long occupation, those are pretty horrible odds.
So what is success? What do we learn from this hidden closet test? I think that it’s how you answer Brandon’s question. If you are more successful with a closet full of stuff… then you’re on the right path.
How do I answer the question? I want to be my own favorite author. So, if my closet is filled with my favorite books that I cherish, I view that as a great life. In addition, that closet will be filled with Audiobooks, promos, and more. I like what I produce and I like connecting with people over it. To me, that extends past the closet and perhaps into the living room a bit. Writing isn’t about getting a royalty for the rest of your life or proving your smart. To me, it’s about that casual connection to other people that like your writing. It’s that living room conversation about how your character or plot was cool or boring. What can be done better in the next book? What did they like? What did they hate? Wouldn’t it be cool if… I have an idea… Did you ever think about…