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Veronica Roth on Success

A very young writer, Veronica Roth has scored an amazing success with her fabulous Dystopian young adult debut, Divergent, which I found as brilliant as it was entertaining. More amazing yet is how much wisdom she has going for her. Wish I'd been so very together in my early twenties. Could have saved me a lot of aggravation.

From Ms. Roth's interview on

Q: What advice would you offer to young aspiring writers, who long to live a success story like your own?

Roth: One piece of advice I have is: Want something else more than success. Success is a lovely thing, but your desire to say something, your worth, and your identity shouldn’t rely on it, because it’s not guaranteed and it’s not permanent and it’s not sufficient. So work hard, fall in love with the writing—the characters, the story, the words, the themes—and make sure that you are who you are regardless of your life circumstances. That way, when the good things come, they don’t warp you, and when the bad things hit you, you don’t fall apart.

Follow the buying link about to read more, and by all means, check out Divergent, too. It's one exciting read!


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Wise words indeed. I think the key words there are that you need to want to say something and need to love the characters more than you want success. And I like the idea about knowing who you are first. That said, I always wonder if it's somehow easier to say these things from the vantage point of having been published. Not that I don't believe the words. I just wonder sometimes how many people would REALLY keep on going if they knew they would never be published. I think I would, but I'm not sure I'd put as much of my life into it/sacrifice so much if I KNEW my work wasn't good. Sort of like singing--I love to sing, but at some point, I had to face that it would never be a career. So now I do it for fun and when I can, but I don't practice every day like I used to. Does that make me less of a singer?

Sorry--this response probably has less to do with this post than with where I'm at right now (in serious editing hell).
I think all of us (including Veronica Roth, I'll bet) struggle with confidence at times. If we didn't, Steven Pressfield's books about Resistance wouldn't be striking such a chord and psychologists specializing in creative issues wouldn't having their waiting rooms swamped with self-doubt. I know I woke up yesterday paralyzed with a bad case of How Can I Possibly Go On Imagining I'm Any Good, so I'm afraid I'm going to debunk the myth that publication gives any of us a Get Out of Jail Free Card on that front.

It helps me knowing that doubts will always be an ongoing battle, that every single creative type worth his/her salt fights it regularly, from the newest of newbies to the New York Times bestseller. It's how you learn to cope with these ups and downs that defines your character and tells you whether you have what it takes to go for your dream without also going crazy.

I'm having a better day today, that goodness, largely because I recognize the occasional pity party as a road hazard I need to get past before the next smooth stretch. Hang in there, Kathryn. I know you can do it, too.
Suzan Harden said…
Hmm...It's interesting that no one talks about the fun of writing. If I didn't have a blast doing this, I would have given up long ago. But I'm fortunate enough to have people in my life who ask, "Then what happened to [character]?"
"Fun of writing." I had that, long ago. But since I've started writing darker material, I wouldn't characterize my experiences as "fun." Some of it is, yes, but for the most part, if I'm drafting, I'm writing through the anxiety and hanging on with the characters waiting to see what's going to happen next. I'm one of those writers for whom "the only tolerable state is having written," although not quite, because there are moments where I'm having a blast.

I also think that grad school drained a lot of the joy, by making me feel like every word, every effort had to COUNT. I'm trying to piece my thoughts together on this (actually started a post but don't think I've quite gotten there yet), but I really think one of the pernicious things about competitive graduate programs is that they force you to take yourself almost too seriously. Professionalism is one thing, but when people are saying "the generation of your writing needs you," that's a whole different story. I suppose some people may thrive under that kind of pressure, but I know many more of us who don't.

I also think if I were writing a more "fun" genre I might have more fun, but since I've gone the dark psychological thriller everyone-keeps-comparing-it-to-Black Swan route, not so much. And yet I suppose there is some "fun" in being horrified. :)
On some days, when everything's clicking, it's such a joy. Even when I'm scaring the snot out of readers. :)
Suzan Harden said…
@Kathryn, we really need to take you out for a margarita. Or pizza during Zombieland. I have it on DVD.
Suzan, this made me laugh. Thanks! I just have a self-imposed deadline of 7/31 to have the book ready to send to the agent who requested it way back when, and I'm starting to get into a bit of a panic. It's totally stupid, because it's not like after all this time he'll even remember me, and it's not like there aren't other agents. It's just a gut feeling.
@Suzan LOL! I'll drink to that! How 'bout you, Kathryn? My husband brought home a bottle of Chocovine -- chocolate wine!-- last night. Which would be awesome if I did chocolate or loved choco-flavored cough syrup. (I'll admit, I had to taste that.)

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