Thou Art Past The Tyrant's Stroke

Fear no more the frown o' the great,
Thou art past the tyrant's stroke;
 Care no more to clothe and to eat;
To thee the reed is as the oak:
The sceptre, learning, physic, must
All follow this and come to dust.
shakespeare, "cymbeline"

Write A Break-Out Novel.  Write the Next Best-Seller.  Improve Your Marketing Platform.  How To Be a Successful Writer.  Drive, drive, drive.  Success.  Fame.  (Money!)  It seems as though, if you are not the cat's meow, you are no one.  If you aren't the one at the very top, you've failed.  In our high-powered, high-definition, global world, full of beautiful faces and pristine marketing images, full of the news of success (and the infamy of bankruptcy and failure), the race is on to be the One and Only, the world's darling, the best of the best.  Anything less is complete, shameful failure.

In a sense this mindset is a byproduct of capitalism and the American Dream, a mixture of spun clouds and false dreams, but I don't think I will go into all that right now.  Suffice it to say that, in our relatively free world, we believe we have the right to be the best.  And we do, but so many latch onto that right and blow it wildly out of proportion, losing sight of the fact that, firstly, we have to the right to do our best.  Providence will determine whether we taste fame or not.  It is still incumbent upon us to do the best we can with whatever skills we have in whatever spheres we are placed.  This is your proverbial sine qua non.

In my case, that skill and sphere is writing.  What I am about to say may come across as pessimistic, perhaps even bitter and jaded.  I assure you that is quite the opposite of my sentiments.  I adore what I do and I am so glad I have the freedom to pursue a "writing career."  However.  However, looking critically at my writing compared with popular writing, I do not see much reconciliation between the two and I don't really anticipate ever becoming really famous.  Not in my lifetime, at least.  This is not to say that the possibility is not to be entertained, but judging from my own style and incorrigible allusions to the arcane and obscure, I don't reasonably expect my books to become famous.  This is also not to say that I believe my writing will not be enjoyed.  With the exception of one reader (whose review puzzled me, but one has freedom of speech and opinion) everyone I have run across who has read The Shadow Things has enjoyed it to varying degrees, but certainly enjoyed it.  Everyone who has had glimpses, or full on reads of, Adamantine and Plenilune has enjoyed the stories and their execution.  Personally, I think I'm a decent writer with a fair imagination and a doggish tenacity that will carry me far.  But I don't think I'm popular. 

This doesn't exclude me from pushing my manuscripts and marketing.  Nothing will come to anything if it isn't helped along.  But my expectations for my novels remain realistic.  I don't want to ravage the walls of my stomach trying to push my novels into a limelight they were not meant for.  If they do become famous, I will be pleasantly surprised and rather abashed, but I don't expect it, so I'm not going to worry about it.  There are laws at work in the universe, and while the public does not appear, at first glance, to operate by any order, they really do and one has to respect that.  You might throw in examples like C.S. Lewis and say that some sound-minded, deeply intelligent people do become famous world-wide.  I would have to say that I don't consider myself to be on the intellectual level Lewis attained - my training and natural thought-processes do not yet allow it - and looking at the Lewis fanbase, I wonder if the really good jewels in his writing have been extracted by as many people as like his writing.  I doubt it. 

That's the closest I will come to pessimism.  An artist has to go into his art knowing that a few people will "get" him, many people may "like" him, and lots of people will misinterpret him altogether.  But there is a time and a place for everything, and that's fact.  I don't think it reasonable to expect that my novels' place is the limelight of the American book market; if it somehow is, I don't have any notion as to when that time might be.  Until then, I'm content to quietly rip decent fiction from the bowels of my imagination, put it in some kind of order, and offer it to whatever reading public is silly enough to fall prey to the alluring music of my writing. 

5 ripostes:

  1. Are you calling me silly? Anyway great post! I know I fall to often into wanting to be "famous". Writing is writing. Oh and lovely picture, makes me want a cup just looking at it.

  2. I was talking to a girl about a year ago and mentioned that I had published a book. Her eyes went wide as she whispered "Does that mean you're famous!" in awe. I had to correct her and tell her that I wouldn't be famous for another year at least.

    I do entertain my fantasies of famousness ... but I know that when all's said and done, it's best to save my fantasying for my writing. I get more written that way.

  3. Such a good post you know, Jenny, and of course I have as little a chance at being 'famous' as perhaps a frog would but one does get those silly moments of 'fame-dreaming' no point denying! While your notion is 'real famous' I suppose I have my own measure of 'famous' (you know - just get published and have my books selling in our local Koorong and sign copies for my family and friends and make a very little profit of it and get some reviews to satisfy my ego that I can write a decent bit of story...:). I cannot see why NOT one day your works will be bestsellers (because you already so good, and goodness knows what time and lots of novel-writing will produce in you by God's grace), but also, the world has a nasty tendency for overlooking true lasting goodness and picking applause at the entertaining and shocking. Even Lewis or Tolkien for a long time in their days did not have the fame that they do have now. Patience, my love, patience! But you definitely have your loving, silly audience in us - we appreciate your writing dearly and soooooooo look forward to reading more of your books one day...

  4. "It's best to save my fantasying for my writing." Very well put, Kendra. You pretty much hit the nail on the head. There is no harm in aspiration and ambition (they are generally considered types of virtues), but there is a difference between aspiration and empty daydreaming.

    Joy - It is true that Tolkien and Lewis did not enjoy their full heyday until after their passing, and it may be that my writing will also enjoy universal appreciation after my own death. I, of course, cannot say, nor would it do to dwell on that. But the fact remains that, while my writing is good, it is not popular. I have no illusions about how good my writing is. :P Unfortunately, the value of a product or the faith the creator has in it is not what makes fame.