Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[process] The bathtub theory of writing success

A week or two ago, I was talking to calendula_witch about the processes of success as a writer. I was reminded of an analog a pro writer once gave me.

Think of the publishing world as a bathtub.


In that bathtub there is a line which represents the level of professionalism one must reach before one can begin selling pro stories.


Into that bathtub flows the water of your talent and effort.


It fills over time, as you practice your craft, learn new techniques, refine existing ones, submit to markets, apply consistent effort to producing new materials and generally do all the writing and writing related program activities which your favorite pros spend their time at. Note that the waterline is wavy, like a child’s drawing of the ocean. This is because while you have a baseline, or mean, level of quality in your output, at any given point in your career path some work will be better than other work. Variability within an established range, so to speak.

So, as the water of your talent and effort continues to flow into the bathtub, the waterlevel rises up.


At first you sell one or two stories over a span of time. The peaks of your waves have touched the “pro line.” Then you begin to sell with some consistency, still missing sometimes. The midline of your waves has touched the “pro line.” Eventually, if you are smart, persistent, lucky, and most of all consistent in your practice, even the troughs of your waves will rise to the “pro line”.

Think of success not as a point which you pass, but as a state which you enter with increasing frequency.

In other words, write more, and don’t forget to send out.

Your thoughts?

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

Tags: funny, process, writing

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