J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

Success Will Break You (Until It Forges You)

Conor McGregor just threw a wrench in his own works (if you haven’t been following the drama, McGregor refused to show up for a press conference in Vegas, was cut from UFC 200, and subsequently tweeted his own retirement). He probably didn’t mean for things to grind to such a complete halt, but as he posted on Facebook, the demands of press and promotion were detracting from his training regimen.

Basically, he cracked. He couldn’t handle the pressure of simultaneously training and promoting, and he chose training. Unfortunately for him, the UFC demands both.

I don’t bring up the example to pick on McGregor. Everyone who pursues a dream will break at some point.

It’s too much. I can’t do it. I’m done.

If you’ve never had those thoughts, if you’ve never said those words aloud, either you’re a young whippersnapper, or you’re made of stone, or you’re just not trying.

Success is harder than failure. If you fail, you can just walk away. Maybe there’s some embarrassment, but your good friends will love you anyway.

But success means obligations, people depending on you, fates other than your own on the line. Success means more, way more, of the work you did in the first place to get where you are. Plus a whole lotta other stuff you might not have anticipated.


In the late nineties I co-promoted a weekly dance music event that reached an insane level of popularity. Spesh and I were the envy of every promoter in San Francisco. Our line stretched around the block. Everyone wanted to be at our party (music lovers, freaks, artists, models, tech workers, drug dealers, homeless guys, everyone). We let them all in too. At the end of the night the cashier handed me a stack of bills at thick as my fist (mostly fives, but they added up).

It was one of the more stressful times of my life. I didn’t always have a great time at my own party. I worried about being over capacity and fire hazards. I worried about the floor collapsing (from down in the basement, you could see it throb). We tried to be fair and responsible promoters. We had great people working for us. But there were still mix-ups, problems, hurt feelings, huge expectations, and towards the end of our decade-plus run, major financial pressure.

It’s too much. I can’t do it. I’m done.

After thinking that and saying it many times, it finally was done. The weekly event ended years ago. It was a sad moment, but also a huge relief.

We still do the occasional pop-up. No pressure, no expectations. DJs playing music, people dancing. Why we started it all in the first place.


I follow quite a few authors on Twitter. It gives me a feel for what the day-to-day of being a full-time fiction writer is like.

On Twitter you can watch authors crack in real time. Looming deadlines, multiple projects, delayed royalty payments, demanding day jobs. Watch the freak outs, tweet by tweet.

Older writers, not so much. Stephen King has done his share of freaking out under pressure. He cracked, rebuilt himself (read On Writing for the full story). William Gibson is as cool as cucumber. One book every 4-5 years seems to work for him.

You hit your wall, you find out what you’re capable of, you adjust. What does adjust mean? Maybe less work. Maybe less booze. Maybe fewer responsibilities. Maybe less publicity.

If I’m hard-working and fortunate and talented enough to have real success as an author, I’m sure I’ll feel the pressure. I’m sure I’ll have at least one crisis of faith. I’ve cracked, at least once, in every activity and career I’ve succeeded in to date (event promotion, music production, DJing, running a record label, freelance programming).

But you pick yourself up, you adjust. If the rewards are no longer worth the effort and the pressure, maybe you stop and do something else. (Nothing wrong with that. The pursuit of a dream should be at least a little fun, not a complete grind.)

Or, hardened to stress, forged, you keep going.


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  1. This is an excellent article J.D. – thank you.

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