Early in my career, I attended a business conference that had a profound effect on my view of work ever since.
First, I recall the presenter talking about the use of statistics and data in business. Data can support any position, depending on how you use it. It is like having an opinion and finding Scripture to back it up. Almost always the text is taken out of context. The same thing happens with numbers and data. I learned to dig deeper and not take numbers at face value.
Then there was the lecture on not assuming things and the strong advice to avoid doing so, using a certain animal to illustrate the result if you do.
But one of the most memorable items that week was the discussion of talent and ability. In short, true talent is the ability to repeat something.
“Okay, that’s great. Now do it again.” Successful anything is repeating what worked the first time, like writing a second successful book.
A few years ago, a big announcement alerted the world about the discovery of an unpublished manuscript from Harper Lee, the author of the American classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird. In 2015, it was published (Go Set a Watchman) as a sequel to the classic title.
As of this writing, reviews on Amazon for Go Set a Watchman average 3.8 stars out of 5. The original To Kill a Mockingbird averages 4.8 out of 5 stars. Only 6% of the reviews for Mockingbird were 3 stars or less. Watchman has 38% of reviews at three or fewer stars.
I won’t draw any conclusions, but give it as an example of not being able to repeat something.
A lost art in the media world is that of the regular daily or weekly columnist in newspapers or magazines. They were paid well to be great every day or every week. The pressure to perform or maintain a certain standard was ever-present.
I recall a situation in book publishing about 30 years ago when an author wrote a very good book, which sold well, followed by a multibook contract. Quickly, it became clear the author had nothing else to say. Contract signed, money paid, and nothing would come of it. Where is King Solomon when you need him to figure out this problem?
Any writer who desires to be published, either traditionally or self-published, will be confronted with the never-ending cycle of “What’s next?”
Authors cannot control sales or public perception of a book, but they can control the quality of their work and the commitment they maintain to write the best they can.
There is a difference between someone who writes one book that is published and an author who works for many years on many manuscripts before one is published. The former needs to learn how to push themselves, while the latter is already keenly aware writing is difficult and unfair at times and understands the pressure to pursue excellence.
I like working with people who have traveled a road of creative work for a while and know it is a process of constant improvement and growth. They proved their writing quality is repeatable, which is a talent we all appreciate.