I talked last week about how having goals--especially ones that revolve around outcomes you can't control--can lead to paralysis instead of motivation. I'd just hit Send when this article, What Counts as a Bestseller, came across my desk.
Not only is it a fascinating history of how NOT based on actual sales data the New York Times Best Seller lists are (seriously, it went to court and the NYT lawyers argued that the list is "editorial content," not based on mathematics!), but it's a look at the last century of writing trends and just how much they've fluctuated over the years.
Even if you're not up for geeking out on publishing history with me, I want you to spend some time this week examining your goals and intentions around your own writing journey. Be honest, is being a "best seller" on that list? You may be shaking your head no while a tiny voice in the back of your mind whispers "Yes, oh yes please."
I get it. We spend so much time and emotional energy writing our stories. The idea of them being as important to the masses as they are to us is enough to keep us doing this work even when it's so, so hard.
Unfortunately, the truth is that we have zero control of whether we become a best seller. In fact, as the article above shows, even if we could control how many books we sold (and we can't!), it still might not be enough to "hit the list" if we're not writing the exact genre and publishing in the exact formula and impressing the exact powers that be necessary to do it.
I'm trying to reframe my feelings about this reality from angst and despair to a sense of freedom and possibility. If I cannot control the outcome, there is no reason for me to write anything other than what fills me up, makes me excited to sit down at my desk each day, and keeps me showing up for myself and my stories. I will absolutely keep working on my craft, keep examining my own biases and how they show up in my work, keep reading so that I understand the current market. But I also know I can do all that "right" and still not hit the list.
Readers need these stories of our hearts, the stories only we can tell. So we must carry on writing them, even if the orange banner, the golden stickers, or whatever outcome-beyond-our-control continues to evade us.
I'm going to keep having faith. And I hope you will too.
PS - My colleague Susan DeFreitas has a FREE hour-long masterclass called Fiction as a Force for Change. It's all about using the power of storytelling to change the world and it may be just the dose of inspiration you need right now. Check it out.