“No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” wrote the thirty-year-old Nietzsche.
“The true and durable path into and through experience,” Nobel-winning poet Seamus Heaney counseled the young more than a century later in his magnificent commencement address, “involves being true … to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge.”
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” ~e. e. cummings
What do all these quotes have in common? They are telling you that the most solid existence is one in which you are true to yourself. You decide who you want to be, and you’re willing to strive to be the best of that sort of person. You decide the stories to write. You decide which worlds to fall into and define for readers. You determine the followers you wish to acquire as readers. You determine whether you self-publish or traditionally publish. You decide what you’re willing to sacrifice to make a lot of money, or aren’t willing to sacrifice for the profession to take you over.
Do not think that because some marketing program has sold itself to 10,000 writers, that you have to sign on, too. Do not think your books have to be in libraries if that’s not your preference. Do not make appearances unless you want to. Screw Twitter if you don’t like the lingo.
But, and this is a big but, you also must be willing to pay the price for whatever path you choose. That’s empowering and frightening at the same time. But that is the only way you can become successful . . . by deciding what you want in life, and striving to go there. Because success is defined by you . . . not someone else.
You do not have to be like anyone else, frankly. Like cummings basically says above, to be yourself without succombing to the temptation of advertising and hype, is far more difficult than being a sheep.
At the end of the road, how do you want to think of yourself when your journey is done? And trust me, it’s totally in your hands.