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If I had to sum up the heart of the struggle in pursuit of a dream, those words are said best by Mr. Jeff Olson, author of “The Slight Edge, Secret to a Successful Life” when he said, “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal…[which] means success is a process, not a destination.” In dealing with the agony and often overwhelming heartache that accompanies any venture outside the normality’s of everyday life, the concept of success can seem elusive and perhaps even reserved for a select few—but not for all. If we considered the people who dared to dream higher than the clouds, to create a life many would only dream of themselves, one can’t help but wonder what special tricks or magic they performed to get there. What did these people do or what did they know, learn or acquire that helped them arrive at the top of this mystical mountain called success?
As an independent author and publisher I wanted to know—as a man and as an artist I had to know—the answer to that very question so I could apply it into my own life. Like all people in search of something different I tried to bypass the inevitable—the struggle that accompanies any quest towards enlightenment and absolution. But as I have learned through my walk with the Lord, and my venture within the realm of independent publishing—it is simply not possible to create anything lasting, anything of value and of substance apart from the struggle. There is no such thing as an overnight success. That concept is an illusion. Instead, what exists is overnight news. You might hear of someone accomplishing something great overnight. The news of their deeds might be spread overnight, but their accomplishments, contrary to what you may think—did not happen overnight. These people you hear of simply chose to make something of the life they were given, utilizing the gifts they were given, and in time they created success—one day at a time, one step at a time. That journey to the top of the mystical mountain of success is called the struggle. And in order to obtain the goals you have set before your life, utilizing what has been given within your life, you must first accept the call to partake on the journey of life. And yes, there will be struggle. But like any great tale of victory…there is always light at the end of the tunnel. There is always hope.
It is the struggle that humbles you to the point where you can appreciate what you have earned. It is the struggle that forces you to determine whether you truly want that which you seek to find, build, create and establish in your life. There is no testimony, or evidence of our existence without a test. There is no victory without adversity and a character cannot change within a story or tale without first partaking on a journey. Artists I believe, appreciate this concept more than any other type of human on this planet. Artists are soul-searching beings who in an attempt to discover truths about themselves, take on the emotions of the world around them; like a sponge they absorb the very spirit of the people closest to them. And as we work to discover the truths about our own existence, artists ironically, become overwhelmed with grief and joy together and have no choice but to expel those feelings into a creative outlet. We are as blessed as we are cursed by the spirits of the world around us. We view things most people will ignore, hear sounds and whispers most people can’t hear and are in tune with a flowing force of life that most people simply miss. The author Julia Cameron explained this best when she said, “Artists are visionaries. We routinely practice a form of faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that shimmers in the distance—often visible to us, but invisible to those around us.”
Artists are not stagnant creatures, lifeless as a pond, but free flowing waters, always on the move whether in our life or within the depths of our minds, pushing towards a greater body of water. We will never conform or never be comfortable unless we are moving towards the creative struggle that brings about our true spirit—our true identity. There is a balance we seek within our soul that draws us towards this struggle. It is the heart of the artist’s spirit in relation to their journey that is captured within their art—the deep shadows within the paintings, the sadness and joy within the music, the triumph within their stories and the cultured beauty and understanding within their poetry. Because of the roads we have traveled—those purposed before us and those we have walked for our own selfish reasons—and our common understanding of human struggle—we are thereby truly able to identify with a greater mass of people. This connection is accomplished when we strip ourselves of rules and guidelines, procedures and worldly stipulations and instead live freely as we were meant to live—as we were once called to live.
People with an entrepreneurial spirit, small business owners, inventors and especially artists all seem to share a common attribute—they either want or expect more for their life or have a voice within them, a spirit of calling, which never lets them conform to the world around them. They are different in everything they do, how they do it and how they perceive the world. And despite a world of troubles, they seem to face greater adversity for simply daring to dream. I have come to believe the artists of the world suffer greater than most, not because they are any more special, but because they serve as special purpose in the soul of the world. They are the people who add life to the cultures of every society. The musicians and singers are the songs by which the cultures are celebrated. The writers and poets are the voice of the people and their times. The painters and sculptors draw the worlds and icons that identify that people. Artists teach us how to dance and how to laugh and how to imagine a world beyond the scope of our surroundings. If you stripped a society naked of their artists, you would be left with a bleak world on a black and white canvas…without a voice…without a song…without a dance…and without the imagination to know what they are missing.
Where does the determination to overcome a guaranteed life of adversity come from? How does an artist find the strength to overcome? At what point do they begin creating success? That struggle has always fascinated me, partly because I am an artist myself. And more so, I believe the journey and the struggle shape the soul of the artist and in the course of the quest of our life we discover who we are. It is in the face of our true existence that we find the ability to overcome great obstacles and create a successful life despite the odds.
Everyone loves to read and share success stories. We pack into movie theaters or find perfectly comfortable settings within our homes to partake on the struggle and perseverance of everyday heroes on film. These people inspire us; they move us and spark inner curiosities within our own lives, about our own existence. In today’s society we forward emails about them and television hosts spotlight them before world-wide audiences to share, not so much the victory, but more so their struggle to overcome great odds.
In my own quest to find my place in the world within relation to the gifts and abilities God has bestowed upon my life, I have had to suffer many setbacks. My personal studies in mythology, story-writing, character development and the Holy Bible (among many other works) have brought me to a place of greater understanding. To say I have found the final answer or absolute secret to creating success would not be true, for I am just a man. I am no better than anyone else, simply obedient in my faith and courageous (or foolish some might say) for sharing my story in hopes that it might become encouragement to you. Many people have written books about becoming successful. There are many “how-to” books on the market that fit that particular style. They are wonderful books which give us the steps—the to-do list—to help chart the pathway towards success. Although many of these books are helpful, I have found they did little to serve the spiritual or emotional concepts of creating true and lasting success. Yes, a to-do list or guide will help many of us, especially those who are self-motivated or driven by an inner desire to succeed. But, what about the rest of us? What about those of us who can read the signs but still need the method explained? What about those people who can follow the steps as they are outlined but fail to comprehend the purpose and validity behind the adversity between each step of the road? The purpose of this book—The Quest of the Independent Author—is to provide not just a simple how-to philosophy for achieving and accomplishing your dreams, especially in relation to your literary endeavors, but to include the often left out emotional and spiritual component that offers encouragement, hope, enlightenment and courage towards laying the foundation for a successful future.
You have purchased The Quest of the Independent Author because you have written a book I presume (or you are about to start or finish one) and you are on the cusp of venturing into the next stage of authorship—marketing, promoting and selling your book. My hope is that this book, the points to consider and the encouragement in example will become a blessing to every step and course in your journey. My hope is that my experiences, struggles and knowledge acquired will be a light to your path. I believe if you are better prepared emotionally—or procedurally—for the journey ahead, then you can better prepare for the practical—or how-to—methods that lead to creating long lasting literary success as an independent author or quite simply, as an artist and an individual.
The book you are about to write or have written should be your passion, “your heart’s blood” as W. Somerset Maugham so eloquently put it. But to create a lasting life in the literary world, you must accept the notion that your book, your art—and all the aspects of your qualities, gifts and character—is and will become your business. The journey will be long; but so is “the rest of your life.” You’ve heard it said before [that] nothing worth having is easy and there is no celebration in earning a free gift. Trust me when I say, I couldn’t stand to hear that anymore than you when I was new in this business. But instead of focusing on that statement as a negative beacon to a long road ahead consider it the motivation and drive for understanding that your life is going to be different from those around you and because of that, harder at times than most. It’s the hard that makes it great however. It is the hard that makes it a challenge and in the end, it’s the struggle that validates the story others will share when they look to you and say, “Wow, they did it!”
Remember as the author Jeff Olson says, “success is a process…not the destination.” You are going to have to first stop weighing success as the finish line but instead see it as the entire race, the whole of the journey. It is then you will start to appreciate and begin enjoying the road instead of dreading the labor that comes with building a success filled future. If you spent a lifetime sharing your art and selling the passion of your soul, that at the end of the day would justify a life spent as an artist and prove you worthy of the gifts God has bestowed upon you.
The Bible reminds us that every good and every perfect gift is from above. Understanding this will help pave the way for future success in relation to your gifts. We don’t write books to make money or to purposely become rich and famous. To take that attitude is to set oneself up for immediate and daily failure. When you don’t become successful in relation to dollar amount, you feel less inspired to be your best. If you instead measured your existence with relation to your gifts as a further extension of your life, and learn to apply it and offer it up to the world on a daily basis, to become inspiration, example and motivation for others, then your life will become more enriched. And yes, in time, your life will generate value and that value always becomes monetary. But there are stages you must understand and if you do grasp them, in relation to my journey and the journey of others, then you will be better prepared to offer yourself a living sacrifice to the world.
This concept goes hand-in-hand with the pay-it-forward mentality. Can you imagine a world where artists didn’t offer themselves freely, or chose not to write poetry, sing songs or paint pictures because there was no monetary value? What kind of world would this become if people based their existence solely on a monetary figure? You as an artist—as an author—have reason, substance and purpose. You have responsibility to share your gifts, your passions, and your experiences with the world. It is by your effort to venture into the uncharted waters, reach the pinnacle of the highest mountain, go face-to-face with Goliath, or challenge the enemy at the gate and not yield when faced with great adversity that you set the example for the world. You are more than the book (or books) you wrote. You are more than the book (or books) you will write. You are everything about the struggle, the perseverance, and the reward. Your book (or books) is only one aspect of who you are. Identifying the other qualities and characteristics, which help pave the way for others to keep pressing forward, is what solidifies your purpose in relation that gift. Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, said once, “We who fight for our dream suffer far more when it doesn’t work out, because we cannot fall back on the old excuse: ‘Oh well, I didn’t really want it anyway.’ We do want it and know that we have staked everything on it and the path of the personal calling is no easier than any other path, except that our whole heart is in this journey. Then, we warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how.” I must have read those words a thousand different times on the course of my journey and especially during the course of preparing this book. They are a powerful reminder of the purpose we are required to fulfill for the sake of the soul of humanity.
You are writing the story of your life, by living the story of your life. My hope is that this book—the experiences shared, the examples given and the people you meet will help you find your place, not as a mere author, but as a herald for all those who dare to dream. You are a writer, a poet, a teacher, a mentor, a counselor, inspiration, guidance and a direct representative of hope. You are after all—an artist—a blessed child of God who is not afraid to offer your soul to the betterment of the world. And if you didn’t believe you could accomplish your dreams before today…let this testament of my life, the methods given, the courage and inspiration shared by your peers, and the blessings of Almighty God grant you the wisdom and understanding to become all you were meant to become.