I have a real, proper dislike of… what’s the word? Not quite self-motivation. Do you know the people who put up fridge magnets with “I CAN DO IT!” on them and wear t-shirts with “Beaten Paths Are For Beaten Men”? That type of thing. I don’t like that type of thing.
And yet I’m realizing that self-motivation (in the sense of dragging my sleep-deprived self out of bed every morning, no matter how many new teeth my daughter has been working on all night… not in the fridge magnet sense) is important. As always, this comes with a big, massive qualifier beside it. A qualifier that says, “Not meant to be intended as “Oh, look at me! I’ve published a long list of one translation,” but hopefully you know what I mean. Self-motivation helps us get to where we are, to where we want to be. And we all have our own personal mountains to climb, no matter how hill-like they look to those around us.
Self-motivation and marketing, I’ve realized, get us to where we want to be. They spread the word about our books. They help build us a reputation. They get people putting glowing reviews on amazon.
All this to say that over the past few months I’ve realized that two things I read about breaking into publishing were true.
The first is the well-worn cliché that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. Without wanting to venture into fridge magnet territory, this is so true. In the grand scheme of things how hard can it be to get a translation published with a smallish publisher who’s getting funding from the Canada Council for the Arts? It’s hard but definitely not impossible, as dreams go.
The second is that you’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t absolutely want to get to the top of that hill. It’s like the classic case of the writer who never writes or is too tired to blog when she gets home from work. How much do you really want it? Do you want it enough to get up at 4 am and translate a page or two of that novel you’ve been working on for the past year before work (I seem to remember this is a true story)? Or do you want it enough that, in my case, you’re prepared to cut down on the vast amounts of live sport you watch and make do with the highlights from time to time?
So, yes, being in the right place at the right time can be a big part of it. But as Gary Player once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” And I can guarantee you that’s on a fridge magnet somewhere.