“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates…or making friends. It’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work and enriches your own life as well.” ~ Stephen King, Writing; A Memoir of the Craft
This is a very important message for all writers. You might look at King’s quote and say to yourself, ‘Easy for him to say. He’s a rich and famous bestselling author.’ But Stephen King has been through the trenches. He has worked hard at his craft and deserves every benefit. He’s had great failures and struggles in his personal life and in his career (as do we all in different ways), so I find his words particularly wise and valuable.
Writing has enriched my life more than I can put into words. When I started writing seriously in my forties, I had no desire to be a bestselling author. I wasn’t, and still am not, looking for fame and fortune. Prolific bestselling authors have contracts to write a certain amount of books in a certain amount of time, always running against the clock to meet deadlines, and have many other hoops to jump through. This is not wrong or bad. I’m sure the most seasoned, well-known writers are used to this by now and it doesn’t seem to be a big deal. Maybe they get a thrill out of meeting those deadlines and writing books that sell. The important thing is that they are being true to who they are and not writing what publishers demand.
I’m speaking of non-fiction writers as well as novelists. There are so many amazing authors I have enjoyed and benefited from over my lifetime. Quality authors who choose topics that reach the soul or who teach me about important issues. Certainly, they should enjoy the money and prestige because they worked very hard and deserve it. They are blessed and more power to them. But for me (and I’m just saying me), that all feels like medication side effects – I mean deadlines and contracts and such. I don’t like deadlines and demands when it comes to writing. Fortunately, I’ve rarely had any formal ones. Usually they are self-imposed. I consider that a flaw to some degree. Deadlines stress me out. On the other hand, if they are reasonable deadlines, they can be very motivating. I value good writing advice but am not happy to have editors messing with my content. Make suggestions, share your experience and knowledge, but don’t jump in and carve up my work.
It would be nice to have a little more money and move out of my trailer and have a little extra to meet emergencies and other needs and be able to enjoy the occasional extras, but I don’t spend my life pining away for cars and houses, and things. I have my most important needs met and quite frankly, I think it’s easy to take the simple things for granted. I love when I can pay my rent, utilities, and other basic bills, and have enough food and gas. I have running water, heat, etc. And at 62, I am in relatively good health. I have absolutely amazing friends and family, and my faith in a gracious Savior, and they mean more to me than anything. That’s my true wealth.
I don’t mind hearing someone tell me something I’ve done blessed them in some way, but I don’t care to be famous for famous’ sake. Too many negatives and temptations. I want privacy and I don’t want to develop a swelled head. Fame and accolades can be a great lure into egotism, although I have friends who would let me know if I was headed in that direction.
I’ll never forget a joke I heard one time about a nameless celebrity who was waiting in a very long line at an airline ticket counter t. It was taking forever and he was very impatient. Finally, he stormed up to the counter to speak to the airline attendant, cutting in front of the person being waited on.
“This is taking forever,” he said. “I don’t want to miss my flight, I have very important business to attend to. I want to board now so do what you need to do and do it quickly”
“I’m sorry, sir. You will have to wait your turn like everyone else. They’ve been waiting just as long as you. We’re doing the best we can.”
Indignant, said celebrity shouted, “Do you know who I am?”
Without missing a beat the attendant got on the loudspeaker and made an announcement. “Good afternoon airline customers, we have a man here who doesn’t know who he is. If you know him, please come and claim him. Thank you for flying United.
That joke just cracks me up. I would so much prefer to be the attendant than the celebrity. She’s got it. I know fame brings such temptations. Should it happen to me I hope I would be humble and appreciative.
With all that in mind, I want my work to be seen. Not to be popular, but to make a difference in someone’s life in whatever small way that might be. If I’m writing fiction or poetry, I want people to be entertained, their hearts touched, to have a character, story, or message resonate with them, and that they learn something. Sometimes I want to share a piece of my heart and bring hope to another broken person. The responses I’ve received from readers over the years have blessed me. It’s wonderful to know I’ve reached a soul. On Hubpages, which is my only public work at this point, many times people have said something I said helped them in some way. That’s my goal.
Should I ever, somehow, some way, become a well-known, bestselling, big money making writer, I hope I could focus on authenticity in my work and keep the reader, not a paycheck or interview, in the forefront. I just want to write what’s on my mind and in my heart and do it well.
I am glad for Stephen King’s reminder.