JA Konrath has an interesting post today about Ingram numbers. Now for those of us who don’t yet have a book — or multiple books — to worry about, maybe this post is just interesting in an optimistic-for-the-future kind of way. And yet, I liked this piece of advice about careers being cultivated. I think it’s relevant to anyone who wants a writing career, and not just to those with contracts and deadlines.

I used to believe that publishing was all about spaghetti theory: publishers would throw books at the wall to see which one sticks. But now I’m thinking it is more like growing a garden. Careers are cultivated. Some may grow like crazy without much help. Some may die no matter how much help they are given. But the longer the garden stays alive, the more attached the gardener becomes. The more attention the gardener pays, the bigger the garden gets. In the end, the prize roses get the best fertilizer—but it can’t hurt to do a little fertilizing on your own.

If you’re not yet published by NY, as I am not, how does this advice apply? I think it’s important to try and view writing books as an organic whole, not as an end. So many unpublished writers just want that book contract, and then they believe magic happens. No more rejections, no more loneliness standing on the outside of the publishing wall.

Um, no, not true. Just go read Roxanne St. Claire’s guest blog over at the Writing Playground and you’ll see that successful authors still struggle with doubt, depression, and rejection.

But, if you treat your career like a garden NOW, even before the print contract, tend it, feed it, nourish it, and help it grow, you’ll be better prepared for what happens after you get the contract and the numbers game becomes relevant. It sure can’t hurt to think of publication as one more stop on the journey, and not the end of the journey. Keep moving forward, even if you have to take a few steps backward from time to time.