Posts Tagged ‘overnight success’

“…escape velocity is the speed at which the sum of an object’s kinetic energy and its gravitational potential energy is equal to zero.”


All of us space geeks out here have a rudimentary understanding of the terms telemetry, trajectory, and escape velocity. Normally these terms are applied to things like space ships, satellites, and missiles. Today I’m going to show you how they apply to humans.

You’re probably thinking, “Crap, she’s on another of her weird tangents,” and you’d be right. But you don’t come here looking for normal, and you also get what you paid for. So there.

These terms are actually pretty relevant to humans in this age of electronic blitzkrieg. Telemetry is what social media gives us in the form of likes/dislikes, tweets/re-tweets, comments/followers, and a variety of other indicators of just how funny/relevant/popular we aren’t. Trajectory is the path of our life, whether we fly to the top of the bestseller list, or we just end up asking someone if they want fries with that. We achieve escape velocity when our dogged work over the ages finally starts showing some positive results, despite our basic lack of self confidence and general hate of anything resembling daylight.

Artisans of all flavors live for telemetry. While every artisan must demonstrate proficiency in the basic skills of their chosen field to an objective standard, art with a capital “A” is largely a subjective thing. I can acknowledge John Steinbeck as one of the great writers of the 20th century because I understand the building blocks of good writing (objective). But I don’t read his works because I don’t find them interesting (subjective). Sales and reviews and recommendations are parts of a writer’s telemetry. Feed back in any form becomes almost like a drug: positive numbers give you a high, and negative numbers send you crashing into the depths. But we need both to keep improving and moving forward.

For most artisans, the trajectory of their careers is often barely a suggestion of a path. The vast majority toil away in obscurity, lucky to achieve any sort of recognition from anyone besides their (widely acknowledged) crazy aunt. Some may make it into the lower tiers of their chosen vocation: their Impressionist oil paintings grace the local courthouse; they play their music in a niche club that offers line dancing on Tuesdays and electro-pop on Thursdays; they head a column in an e-zine that specializes in New Age poetry. It’s not the headlining they dreamed of, but they’re still working at what they love, so it’s okay. Occasionally a shooting star manages to rocket to the top, appearing seemingly out of nowhere to rave reviews, and we all sigh in day-dreaming jealousy. The irony is, most “overnight” success stories are actually decades long in the making. Everybody slogs through the crazy aunt and electro-pop stages at some point in their careers. It’s called paying your dues.

When you start to achieve some success in your chosen field (whatever your definition of success may be), you’ve reached escape velocity. For a writer that means making that first sale. Some of you might be thinking that’s an awfully low bar, but without that FIRST sale you will never have a second or a third or a forth. Doesn’t matter what that first sale is, it just became the cornerstone for the rest of your career. The day may come when you look back and wonder how the hell that rickety thing is keeping up the rest of your McMansion, but it signifies the beginning so it’s gold-plated and diamond encrusted as far as you’re concerned.

I’m still waiting for my cornerstone. What limited telemetry I have indicates I’m decent at this thing called writing. My last two rejections even included personal, albeit short, notes. Not in-depth enough to actually help figure out why they hadn’t bought the submission, but enough to let me know it was close and keep me encouraged. That makes my trajectory still largely a straight line barely above ground level. And with all the bullshit eye stuff this last year (and ongoing – more surgery scheduled for October), my velocity would make a banana slug seem positively speedy by comparison. So the only escape I’ll be getting anytime soon involves binge watching stuff on Hulu, or killing things in my computer games.

So I’ll hang out on idle for a while working on my targeting system, as the cameras in this rocket are upgraded. Then I’ll get the engines throttled up again. I don’t have to break any speed records, I just have to outlast the pull of that gravity well known as self-doubt. It’s a rough ride, but I’m built for that.

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