I published my first paperback book when I was in college. It was of the self-help type, and after 18 months of hard work to write it and find a publisher, I could only dream big as to the success my first literary work would eventually have. But as the saying often goes, it’s a good thing I didn’t hold my breath.
Despite my high hopes, the book never took off, barely reaching 1000 sales. Sure, I was happy I’d have a little treasure for my posterity to look back on, but at the same time I felt it had generally failed in terms of influencing other people for good.
I published my next book about 3 years later. This time, I knew the book would take-off. It was the only of its kind and there was literally no doubt in my mind that it would end up being a best seller in its niche.
Soon thereafter, disappointment set in again. Yes, it did sell decently. Heck, it even eclipsed 5000 copies, a number that over 95% of all published books never reach. Notwithstanding, those numbers seemed so small for a book that I completely felt to my core would affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people for good.
I was perplexed. Again, my desire to help others on a very large scale had fallen shot. As before, a part of me was proud yet the other half felt genuine disappointment and a little sadness with the results.
A Story of a Fish
All of us have heard the story of Moby Dick. Yes, that’s right, the tale of a whale and an interesting guy that called himself Ishmael. But what so many fail to realize about this novel is the fact that its author, Herman Melville, only experienced moderate success during his lifetime. In fact, Moby Dick was initially panned by most critics and did not explode in popularity and appreciation until the 1920s, roughly 30+ years after its author’s death.
Why did Melville’s epic novel take so long to catch fire? That’s a great question, but in reality it’s just one of thousands of literary works that did not get noticed upon initial release.
I’m not inferring here with this example that we’re all going to die before someone actually notices our literary genius. No, not at all. What I am trying to say though is that sometimes we simply cannot control outside forces. Timing and fate are very funny things. Just recently, as a matter of fact, I was reminded of this truism:
There’s a Melville Moment in all of us
About 10 months ago I was getting my kids to bed when the phone rang. Not recognizing the number, I curiously answered the call and was surprised to find on the other end the editor of a prominent magazine. To my amazement and splendor, the gentleman said he had found my book to be the premier work in its class, and wanted to buy its rights so as to produce a shortened, article version for the magazine. As you might imagine, I quickly responded in the affirmative, grinning from ear to ear the rest of the evening.
A few months later the magazine was published with my article, and with its circulation of 1 million readers in 40+ languages, you can imagine the joy I felt. Finally, the teachings in the book were helping the masses of people I had envisioned 7 years before but at this point had all but given up on.
Keep Plowing Forward
I mention this little story because as writers, teachers, and communicators we all have our ups and downs. Our passions and dreams can be floating on clouds one minute and then buried in the deepest abyss the next. But the next time you think to yourself no one is reading or appreciating your work, remember that although you and I cannot always control time, we can control the art we produce. So keep writing. Don’t give up on yourself, your blog, your business, or your dreams. Yes, there will be tough moments, but as the famous saying goes:
I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it….
So what’s your story? Do you ever feel like you should just stop writing, blogging, or owning your business? How have you overcome these tough times and managed to find your ‘Melville Moments’?
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