Breadcrumbs From the Void #37 The Metrics of Success | Alex Schumacher | Weekly Column

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Breadcrumbs From the Void #37 The Metrics of Success

Alright, drunken poets and midnight scribblers. You asked for it and you are about to receive. Another face-full of seminal writing advice is about to be administered via Bread Crumbs from the Void! Do not despair, wet naps will be provided following completion. Don the smocks and goggles. Keep all appendages inside the vehicle. Countdown to ignition has commenced.

I hope you all have been enjoying the three ring circus being performed by the United States government currently. Of course by enjoying I mean biting your nails to the quick, puckering your inevitably sweaty asshole, and praying to the deity of your choice that the looming threat of nuclear war will never come to fruition. Some of you out there in fiber-optic land may think me mad to continually reference the political snuff film America, and the world at large, is experiencing. While psychotic or deranged I may be there is also a method to the insanity. My singular objective in calling out the occupying administration is to avoid normalizing their malevolence.

Tacit compliance is tantamount to support. The best Nazis were not the soldiers carrying out the genocidal orders, but the fucking apathetic citizens who looked the other way whilst said horrors occurred.

The lesson here – albeit on a diminutive scale – is to refrain from pantywaist passiveness and idleness if there is a specific outcome you desire. This general theme can and should be implemented in your writing practices as well. It has been posited that to become proficient at any one skill you must have 10,000 hours of applied experience. 10,000 hours. I would venture to guess most professionals in the creative vocations have logged far more time than even that seemingly unreachable number.

If you have thus far failed to reach the zenith of your prowess or fallen short of your aspirations it is important to consider how long you have been in pursuit. I mean seriously in pursuit. When your pilgrimage amounts to a year or two of composing missives one or two nights a week lamenting your wounded pride or ruptured heart, it is safe to say you are simply Brussel sprouts. Green as fuck and widely maligned. This is not to say you will not improve, or your specific musty pastiche will not find a ravenous audience. Realistic expectations are key.

Keep in mind there is a multiverse of starry-eyed shit-bags who can string a sentence or two together who fancy themselves writers as well.

Whether you are one of the aforementioned shit-bags or the next Salinger, succeeding is a god-damn marathon. Instant sensations are a myth. They are folklore. Overnight successes are fucking fairy tales the illogical attention-starved masses blindly deep throat. Log those 10,000 hours before you even begin to entertain the notion of success. For that matter, how do you even define success? Is success personal satisfaction and fulfillment? Is it contriving a method to monetize your passion? Your goal will more than likely evolve over time, but you should set some initial (and pragmatic) increments.

However you gauge the pinnacle of achievement there are always at least three “T’s” woven into the very fabric of the careers you covet:

  1. Time
  2. Talent
  3. Thick Skin

I have delved into number one to such a degree that you should comprehend just how integral of a component it is to devote countless hours and years to a craft. Writers, artists, musicians, dancers, etc. face an uphill slog. Full disclosure, it is a slog which may prove to be infinite, the destination a mirage. Know that from the outset. Being prone to mercurial outbursts of fickle redirection will not be an asset on this journey. You better fucking love what you are doing because odds are you will never make a living from your art.

Following such a motivational diatribe it is time to tackle number 2: Talent. This term is a deceitful, malleable, subjective, fart-in-the-punchbowl. You should not concern yourself with how talented you may or may not be. “Talent” stems and exponentially multiplies from proficiency. Allow me to transpose the essence of the preceding lesson in layman’s terms for the thicker skulls perusing this treatise: Be fucking great at what you do and you will fool others into perceiving this as talent.

After all, talent is merely a synonym for aptitude or competency. The concept is absolutely convoluted and arcane. Poll a cross section of individuals and the conversation revolving around “talent” will undoubtedly multifurcate into innumerable forks leading from prodigies to savants, from protégés to visionaries. To paraphrase an underground icon of independent writing, “A rose by any other name would paint/dance/play music as sweet.” Do not allow yourself to be captivated or enamored with the pursuit of a title. Occupy every waking creative moment with the punctilious aim of quality over all else!

More than likely neither you nor I were born into the excruciatingly microscopic percentage of those who shot out of the birth canal covered in plasma with naturally inclined aptitude to spare. In the event you do happen to be such an anomaly I am having difficulty conjuring any reason why you may be entertaining my ramblings. Considering the vast majority of you do not fall under that category, your only avenue to assembling a proportional capability is mustering the fortitude and pertinacity to commit to the grind, learn from mistakes, and accept fucking criticism.

This leads nicely into the third “T”: thick skin. There is no need for analytical debate or over-intellectualizing here. Take “thick skin” for face value. It is by far the most opaque abstraction presented. Plain and simple, you will be confronted by a profusion of individuals who will loathe your work, especially during your creative gestation, and seek to do nothing more than rape your fucking soul. Even if you do manage to attain some level of adroitness you will still invite countless detractors. Again, this shit is subjective.

If a few unkind words are enough to not only induce doubt, but to provoke utter capitulation then you are better off walking away today. You will be forced to walk through fire so you better have flame retardant conviction, pumpkin.

One of the most constructive gauges I can offer for your own success is to completely do away with gauges. Do not rebuke or deride your own progress based on the achievements of your contemporaries. Repudiate the masochistic practice of literary cognitive dissonance. You are not Joyce Carol Oates or Irvine Welsh. Like the affirmation of the court-ordered program I attended says, “accept the things you cannot change and have the courage to change the things you can.”

Be valiant, perpetually evolve, and continuously produce. Fuck all other metrics.

As always, if you would like to hear me elaborate a bit more on my own process, you can find links to a couple of interviews conducted recently with me on my website at: Drop me a line from the contact page if you have any other questions, complaints, insults, or declarations of lust.