Dear amazing friends and members of Mitchell’s Militia,
It’s been a great week or so with the release of “Mexican Heat (Nick Woods, No. 2)!” Myself and many others spent a lot of time trying to get the book as perfect as possible, and so far, the feedback is we scored pretty close to the mark.
And with my feelings at an all-time high, I thought it the perfect opportunity to try to motivate those who follow me on here to do your own creating and race off — or crawl off, at first — after your own dreams!
You see, with the publishing of this book, I really feel I broke the stratosphere.
My sales had been rising steadily already, and I had quite a bit of confidence from my two other books, but with the publishing of this book, it’s been an interesting time for me professionally and personally. And it’s been curious to see the changes in how I’m treated by those I’ve known for a long time. (Stick with me a second. You’ll see how this ties into trying to motivate you to create, as well, here in a moment.)
As I said, I’ve noticed a distinct change with the publishing of “Mexican Heat” in the reactions of some of the folks I interact with.
You see, a couple years ago, I was just a guy with a book out, and I got interactions that typically fell into one of the categories listed below.
Option 1: Honest happiness.
“Oh, Stan, congrats. You fulfilled your dream of writing a book!”
Option 2: Honest realism.
“Oh, that’s great about the book. But you know, the market is super crowded and it’s hard to get discovered. Just don’t get your hopes up too much.”
Option 3: Straight up, go-for-the-throat envy.
“Is it self-published?” Or: “Did you hire an editor?” Or: “Good luck, but don’t expect to sell many.”
I accepted the praise that went along with Category 1 with delight and bit my tongue when I’d get a Category 3-type snide remark.
Then I published a second novel and got much the same response. Praise from the friends and cheerleaders. Small cut-downs or a total ignoring of the news from others.
But with this third major book, I’m being treated as if I’m a pro. Local folks, who brushed me off as delusional in the past, and who never found time to read my books or ask me about my dreams, have actually bought all three and started telling others about me.
Folks who in the past had doubted whether my insane dream to make it big was actually possible are now suddenly just convinced that major success for me is now all but inevitable.
I’ve got some decent, big-shot folks in the writing biz talking to me as if I’ve already made it, and younger writers emailing me for advice like I’m an expert.
Best of all, I’m earning some decent dough and just a year or two from accomplishing my dream of working from home as a full-time fiction writer.
And all of this is so invigorating. It’s beyond rewarding. And it’s impossible to fully describe how happy it makes me.
This happiness and complete bliss, my friends, is exactly the feeling you should have.
No, I’m not saying you should be a writer like me, though for some of you, I probably am.
I’m talking about creating.
I’m talking about doing what you were put on this earth to do.
Bear with me while I explain.
A week ago on a Saturday morning, I got into the zone on some writing and before I knew it, I’d forgotten to take a shower, skipped lunch (I never skip meals and usually eat like six or eight times a day), and looked up to see it was approaching 6 p.m.
And I swear I thought I’d only been sitting there an hour or so.
And then before getting up to go eat and shower, I checked my sales and thought, “Wow, I’ve made some serious money today and I’m doing what I’d gladly do for free.”
Hell, I have done it for free. For most of my life, in fact.
And yet, just a couple of years ago, there were days when I’d only sell one or two books. Yes, just one or two books, and some days, zero books.
But momentum builds. The snowball gets bigger. The word of mouth spreads. Your friends take you more serious. The dream comes closer to reality, and your drive and skill kick into a higher gear than you ever thought possible.
All of this is possible for any of us.
Many of you have been on this journey with me from the beginning. You’ve witnessed my mis-steps. Heard me complain. Probably been amused by the whole affair, and likely placed bets on whether I’d make it or not.
I’m writing all this because I know there’s at least one of you who has that something you want to do, but you “know” there’s no money in it. (I used to think the same thing.)
Maybe it’s wood-working. Maybe it’s painting. Maybe it’s designing guns or inventing something or opening up your own business or creating movies or singing opera or acting or training lions for a living. Only you know what that thing is, but I know some of you hear it speaking to you.
And I know the comments you hear from friends and family members, if you’re even brave enough to bring it up. I know the fears you think and feel every time it crosses your mind.
I remember the first copy of “Little Man, and the Dixon County War” that I ever sold — and this was after nearly not publishing it until my wife mentioned wanting to re-read it someday. (Thank you, Danah!)
But my first sale ever came in the middle of the night from the UK, before I was even able to announce the news on my blog that the book was finally for sale. And I remember thinking, “Wait. I don’t even know anyone in the UK. Oh, crap.”
And I was nearly sick to my stomach. Would they ask for a refund, when they realized they had in their hands the first book of some amateur? Would they write a brutal review?
I kept hitting refresh on the UK page of “Little Man,” waiting for that bad review. And I also get checking my sales page, looking for that refund.
But neither of those things happened and as time went on, more sales occurred and good reviews came in and I realized my 20+ years of writing had prepared me well for this first step in my dream.
Probably, all the years you’ve spent doing what you love (for free) has prepared you, as well.
But I know where you are. You’re afraid to call your shot as Babe Ruth once famously did. You’re afraid to announce to the world what your dreams are.
I get it. It’s easier to do something as a hobby. To shrug and tell people you’re just doing it for fun. Or there’s no money in it.
I did that for years. Honestly, for probably 15+ years. Sure, I wrote. I studied my craft. I read like crazy. I joined a writer’s critique group. I told people I planned to write a book. Or was writing a book. Or was making final edits on a book.
And all of that was true. I actually finished a novel with a buddy when I was 21, and have thirty manuscripts in various stages.
But I never called my shot like Babe Ruth. I never said with complete sincerity, “This is my dream.”
I never said, “This is what I’m going to kill myself doing. It’s what I’m going to achieve or die trying.”
I never did that until I launched this blog two or three years ago. And in that first post, I did that. The post is gone, because a few people shamed me into taking it down — stupid me, for backing down — but I proudly said I’d make it big or look like a complete fool trying.
I announced to the universe my intentions, and once I did that, it was impossible to back down. How could I and not lose face?
And that’s what I’m challenging you to do. Because once you do, it’s no longer a hobby.
Once you do, your critics will watch you and laugh at you and that fire inside of you will burn brighter.
Your anger, your determination, your force, it will all grow stronger. You will be twice as determined to prove them wrong.
I’m 37, and I often think, “What if I’d launched a website at 21, when my buddy and I first completed our book together?”
And then I think, “What if I’d never joined that writing group a couple years later, full of — in hindsight — bitter writers who’d had marginal/little success, who were full of cynicism and tore my writing apart while downplaying my chances of ever achieving my dream or earning any real money.”
These critics. These “friends.” These cynics.
They are everywhere. Around me. Around you.
They cost me a lot of time. They cost me years of doing full-time what I wanted to do more than anything else in the world.
They so convinced me that being a full-time author was impossible that I chased off into what I thought would be an easier career. Yes, they convinced me that it would be easier to be a newspaper publisher (in print, at that!) in the year 2004 than make it as an author.
How insane is that?! And how real are the hurdles we all face as creators?
So, I’m challenging you to take a firmer step than you’ve ever taken. I’m challenging you to put more effort into whatever dream you may have.
I don’t care your age. I don’t care “how little” you can make in that field. (Average authors make six or eight thousand a year, so don’t bore me with the odds of your dream. I challenge you to remember that you don’t have to be “average.” And that “average” also includes a lot of folks who are half-assing around and not taking this serious.)
Call your shot like Babe Ruth. Announce your intentions to the world.
The moment you do, magic will start happening. You’ll find new friends in your field or hobby. You’ll feel the eyes of your critics. You’ll feel relief at finally saying what your soul has wanted you to SCREAM for decades.
I think most of us were put on this world to create.
It’s not easy facing your critics or the steep hill and daunting circumstances you’ll have to face once you do this. (Some have said it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas as an artist.)
But in actuality, it’s not a steep hill. It only looks that way from afar.
When you finally call your shot and walk up to that hill you’ve dreaded for years, you realize that at its base there’s a handhold you can grab. Just right there. And so obvious and easy to reach.
Oh, and right there, a small toehold, almost like someone from above put it there.
And you’ll start climbing, for fun at first, and pretty soon people are looking up at you in amazement.
And you’ll soon be truly living, happier than you’ve ever been professionally.
Your determination to reach the top of that summit will grow, and what began as just something fun will soon become something you can’t imagine not doing.
And what began as just a small amount of gold along the way will steadily increase and you’ll see real glimpses of much bigger piles of it ahead.
You’ll look down at those at the bottom, or those who stand miles away ignoring you, and you’ll wonder why they’re not experiencing this same rush. You’ll wave to them and scream to them to follow you, as well! Some won’t be able to hear you, so I think you should light a few fires on your way to the top, encouraging them as they see your progress!
Before long, those who watch you will marvel at your ascent. A few others will criticize you and talk about how dangerous it is. Or how you should probably spend more time with your family. But you don’t worry about those who aren’t supporting you. Your dream was probably from a higher power, and it’s your destiny. It’s the very thing that will bless your family tremendously and allow you to spend even more time with them!
So, you keep climbing. You keep dreaming. You keep getting better.
And this is my challenge to you. I challenge each of you to pursue — no, really pursue — that dream you have.
I’m not saying quit your job tomorrow. I’m not saying do something stupid.
I’m merely saying to announce your dreams, and then go about getting more inspired, getting more skilled, and pursuing that dream with all your heart and soul.
It’ll be an amazing journey that I’m betting you won’t regret. And once you start to make it, do your best to encourage some others, as well. Light those fires and encourage others who are struggling in what we all know is a very difficult world.
So please, I beg you: Announce your dreams to the world today.
And let me know when you do. I’ll do my best to help you in any way I can.
Keep the faith,
Stan R. Mitchell
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
About me: My name is Stan R. Mitchell and I’m an action fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years in the news business, working as a reporter, editor, and publisher. Please consider subscribing to my blog or taking a look at some of my books.