Maybe you watched it – the Viral video about fame featuring Russel Brand and Lady Gaga lamenting the hollowness of fame and how being famous didn’t really make them happy. Speaking as an audience member and not participate, I wouldn’t mind confirming this for myself. I’d like to give all that money and fame thing a whirl, then tearfully admit it wasn’t all I thought it would be, but wow, those clubs are fantastic!
Got that out of the way.
The essential message isn’t bad. For writers, our wildly successful path looks like Emmys and Oscars and Pulitzer Prizes. Just short of that, it’s joining the NYT bestseller list, or gaining the top slot on Amazon. Achieving these lofty goals helps feed more success because nothing inspires success like success. In addition, that Bestseller label actually helps sell more books. A few more books.
I have hung out with Emmy winners and a Pulitzer Prize recipients. The conversation revolved around housing and lack of funds for same.
The questions to ask right after achieving fabulous, killer success is: now what? Is there space to continue to be creative? Once you’ve told your story around the campfire, are you finished? Did the good story give you better access to the heat? Do you get closer to the desirable warm flame?
I thought about this. Let’s say I’m at a cocktail party packed with strangers (so different than drinking with the aforementioned prize winners). My introduction can include – must include – I’m a best selling author. The expected response should be: Wow, how fabulous, you are clearly the most important person in the room and can you autograph my cocktail napkin?
The real response will be: “Oh? Have I read your book?” I will deliver the book title with a surge of pride. The party guests will shake shake shake their collective heads because the only book they read last year was about folding their underwear.
I wander to the drinks table questioning life and the emptiness of the universe.
At the same party, if I introduce myself as an author, the same question will be asked: have we read anything you’ve written? And I say, hell no, do you have any idea how many books are floating down the Amazon?
And we move on to more interesting subjects like housing prices.
- What other people think is none of my business,
- No one reads books.
- What does matter is the work.
Circle back to the opening idea, that short video. The fame, apparently, is fine but it’s also loaded with conflicts with other people. If you become a commodity, you also give up the space and time to be creative. Which is what got you the fame in the first place.
I think we all have stories, it’s in us: hardwired into our brains and our bodies. There is a lot of publishing and storytelling going around and not many places around the campfire. But what if authors and storytellers move their campfires to another part of the field and tell their stories there? Is the fire any smaller? Are the flames not as warm? No.
Are there success stories of artists who manage their art without blowing into a well documented hot mess? Of course. But those are famous singers, popular actors. Novelist don’t often make the cover of Look or People. That may be okay. In fact, when my granddaughter asks me what have I done with my life? My answer will be, I wrote this book, you may like it.
If I were a best selling author at some point, the answer is much the same. I wrote this book, you may like it.
Who do I want to impress? The kid. That’s all. Just the kid.