Lauren Beukes is an award-winning, best-selling novelist who also writes comics, screenplays, TV shows and occasionally journalism. She is the author of The Shining Girls, Zoo City, Moxyland, Maverick: Extraordinary Women From South Africa’s Past and the graphic novel, Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom with Inaki Miranda.
My meaning of Success | Being able to do what I love for a living. I get paid to make stuff up! Becoming more successful has added a tremendous amount of pressure, but I’ve realized the only thing I can control is writing the best book I can and not worrying about how it will be received.
What drives me | The idea that stories are the best way to understand who we are in the world. And plain old fear of failing.
My Career and Life Highlights | Having my daughter in 2008, who is now five and smart and curious and funny and kind. Winning the Arthur C Clarke Award for Zoo City in 2011, going on a world tour for The Shining Girls, making a kids show, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika that ran for three years with my husband, getting my first job as a professional writer as a journalist at SA Computer Magazine in 1997.
My strongest talent | Sheer bloody-minded determination. Failure is part of the game and success takes a long time of building on your strengths and reputation and skills. It typically takes ten years to hit an overnight success. In 2011, I was unemployed, super-broke and I nearly lost my house, but I took a risk on my new novel and got a book deal that let me become a full-time writer with financial security. Roll with the gut punches. Get up off the floor when you get knocked down. Learn humility and grace and gratitude and don’t give up.
Characteristics that lead to my Success | Curiosity, empathy, imagination, determination, ambition, a lot of practice.
The principles and values I live by | Be cheeky. Ask for what you want. But don’t be an ass-hat. Be grateful and gracious. Success isn’t a solo event, there are people who will have helped you along the way. Try and do the same for others.
How I deal with Self Doubt | I doubt myself all the time. It’s part of what drives me. I think there was a study that showed that the more competent you are at your job, the more you realize you don’t know, the more you doubt yourself. That’s the excuse I’m sticking to. It does drive me to try harder, to make my work better. But it can also be crippling. Writer’s block is not a block, it’s a lump of fear and procrastination. The only way through it is through it, one sentence at a time.
Resources I use to stay Inspired | I have smart, interesting, engaging, creative friends in real-life and on Twitter, which is the best source of inspiration, curated content and a great way to engage with the world. My friends and family keep me grounded. MacFreedom locks me out of the Internet, serving as my artificially installed willpower so I can actually get some work done. And I read widely, from Alan Moore to Lorrie Moore.
The Meaning of Life | Be curious, live bravely, love, dream, engage with the world, stand up for what you believe in, fight injustice, give back, care.