In this series, I look at easy pitfalls to fall into when using social media as an artist to promote one’s work. Click here to read the first installment.
Tip #6: Beware Trying to Be an Overnight Success
When I graduated college, I felt like a failure.
No one had told me that — in fact, several friends and teachers seemed to have the opposite opinion. I graduated from a prestigious writing program with a well established record as a freelance writer. I was one of the top five people with the most published work for my year. I’d written numerous book reviews, had several short stories published, and even co-wrote a prize-winning computer game.
But I felt like a failure because I didn’t have a book contract. The high mark for my writing program were always the students who had not only written novels but had a book contract for their first novel by the time they graduated. I never reached that mark, so the rest of my work felt wasted.
Today, I realize that you don’t have to be a published novelist by 23 or 24 to consider yourself a successful writer. In fact, it often seems the people who become huge successes from the very beginning of their careers don’t sustain that success down the road. So many people burn out fast, and so many don’t hit their stride until they’ve had multiple failures.
Social media can make it particularly easy to forget this reality. To build an active following, you have to pay attention to who’s trending right now. So many people seem (at least based on their profiles) to have become huge successes the minute they started their careers.
And yet months or even weeks down the road, the initial fervor has died down. Someone else is the new big success of the moment.
As great as early success sounds, our goal should be sustainable success. If that means waiting a while, putting in the work before we finally get noticed, then we can learn to patiently do that.