Sometimes I think life would have been so much easier if I'd been an overnight success. Some writers have their first novel taken up by an agent and soon rival publishers are fighting each other to offer the highest advance. Before long, they're on the bestseller lists, being feted by the media and doing a deal for the film rights. Undoubtedly, it does happen–rarely.
    Most 'overnight' successes have served a long apprenticeship in one way or another. They might have studied a degree or taken a correspondence course, joined a writers' workshop or studied writers' magazines and how-to books. They'll have spent countless hours practising their art, often in snatched moments fitted around their day job, scribbling in notebooks, pacing the floor trying to get recalcitrant plots or characters to make sense, struggling to form the words that are on the tip of their tongues but that refuse to appear on the page. 'Overnight' successes tend to begin life as childhood scribblers that take at least a decade to mature. Even the few who rocket to literary stardom achieving both sales and critical approval at the first attempt aren't always to be envied. Being regarded as phenomena and receiving so much attention leaves little time for producing new work and can stifle creativity–they have so much to lose, and they are as likely to be assailed by self-doubt as every other writer.
    My own path has been long and has often taken the scenic route with diversions, missed turns and the occasional dead end. I've written news stories, features, academic essays, poetry, short stories, flash fiction, plays, novels... and I've experienced success and rejection or criticism in each form. The variety has shown me my strengths and weaknesses, what I can do if I have to and what I want to do. I count myself lucky that I've been able to experiment in relative anonymity with no strong expectations placed on me. Once you've had a big success, the pressure is on you to repeat it, and you can lose the freedom to try things out.
    Having huge royalties rolling into your bank account might be fun, but there are advantages to not being a household name, so enjoy being promising while you can.