For Sunday, February 21, 2016:
“Whether fame or notoriety is your fate [as a writer], put it behind you and put the typewriter in front of you. And put next to your typewriter these words from Albert Einstein: ‘The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working.'”
Rita Mae Brown – STARTING FROM SCRATCH: A DIFFERENT KIND OF WRITERS’ MANUAL
True confessions time: Sometimes I feel envious when I see accounts of people younger than me who ‘make it’ and are successful in the eyes of the world. This is especially true when I know for a fact their writing is no better, and sometimes worse, than mine.
I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I’m human.
It’s not that I seek fame – I sure as heck don’t seek notoriety! – but I confess the idea of walking down the streets of our small town and having folks come up to me and say ‘Oh, you’re the writer I’ve heard about! May I get your autograph?’ would be kind of nice. Once in a while.
I’m too much of an introvert for that kind of a thing to happen too often, but I don’t think I need to worry about it. (In my daydreams, though, I’m much more extroverted …)
There’s nothing wrong with daydreams. We all have them – is there a writer who hasn’t dreamed of winning a Pulitzer, or a National Book Award, or (be honest) a Nobel in Literature? We’re writers. Don’t we spend a lot of time in various permutations of a fantasy world? Those daydreams galvanize us, serve as a bit of a spark, something to strive for.
But we also have those aspirations because we read the award-winning works of others, and liked – or, flip side, didn’t like and thought we could do better – what we read. Perhaps when we started out, we (okay, I) wanted to have what they have, but I like to think at least a little part of us wanted to do what they do just for the sake of doing it. We wanted to participate in this grand vocation called writing, too.
Henry Miller has a good reminder, one I need to keep beside Einstein’s words: “Writing is its own reward.” The older I get and the longer I write, the more I know this is true. Seeking, or even waiting for, fame does corrupt. It can stifle our creativity, stop us in our tracks. Rita Mae Brown also says, “[N]ever hope more than you work.”
So I try to check my envy at the door every time the nasty thing nudges its way into my thinking. I’m getting better, I must say. I know for sure that success doesn’t mean fame and fortune. It means reaching that one person, whom I may never meet, with my words at the very time s/he needs to read them.
I’m blessed to know that has happened on more than one occasion. When I’m not too busy fantasizing, and when I’m honest with myself, that truly is reward enough for me.
I confess that I might keep hoping – if anyone from high school reads this, I might be convinced to accept that alumni award (just sayin’) – but I also know I must keep working so one person ‘out there’ will receive what I write when s/he needs it. Because I love to write.