I am something of a megalomaniac, and by “something of”, I mean “very likely certified but not clinically labeled as”. Some days my dreaming runs wild. I’ll admit that. I begin to think of what it would mean for one of my books to hit big. I consider how wonderful it would be to have literary respect and value as a novelist and speaker. I revel in the success I have not and may never attain.
Frankly, on those days, I need a reality check before hitting the keyboard. I really do. As a Christian, my desire should be for God’s glory and Christ’s exaltation, not my own. My pride, selfishness, and greed for the praise of men are all of great danger to my soul, and if I’m honest, money and power and praise could do me a great deal of hurt in the long run if I fail to consider them in context of my walk with the Lord. Accolades can take my eyes from my true purpose, and they also may keep me from telling the truth should it be unpopular. Success and the desire to gain or maintain fame could very quickly stall my willingness to give my energies to the Lord and thereby diminish the value and worth of the very skill he has provided me.
Thus, I must recalibrate my mind before I set down to the keys. I must be honest as to the reasons I am writing–for my readers and their benefit, whether that benefit be instructional, entertaining, or a bit of both. In order to do this, sometimes I must remind myself of some, if not all, of the following:
“Remember, if you’re going to write, you will not get…”
1) Validation – If you need other people to tell you how brilliant and talented you are, and you write so that they do…stop. Every negative comment you get will stick to you and overshadow ten compliments you receive. You may even get more negative feedback altogether. Therefore, write because something must be said, and you can say it. Get validation in Christ, where you should.
2) Rock Star Wealth & Status – For every J.K. Rowling (billionaire author), there’s about 50,000 C.J. Stunkards (poor authors), just like for every Michael Jackson, there’s a million “guys who made a song one time”. If you are very fortunate, you might land somewhere in the middle. Therefore, be content wherever you find yourself on the spectrum of wealth and power so long as you are telling the truth through your words.
3) An Easy life with Lots of Free Time. HA HA HA HA HA. Sorry, I had to laugh at my 20-year-old self for having such foolish expectations. Writing is a job, and you will have “those Mondays” as a writer, just like everyone else. You will also need to be motivated to go to work when you don’t want to, just like everyone else. You may even have days where you hate your job, just like everyone else. Plus, chances are, you will need to be more adaptable to change in your schedule by virtue of the fact that most will not understand that your “writing time” should make you as off-limits as they are during their “time in the office”. Oh, and if you do plan to write, you will likely need to “make time” to do so, and if that time is stripped from you, you will need to use otherwise “free time” to make up for the “lost time”. Get it. Therefore, be prepared to work hard, adapt, and work some more–this is no early retirement if you want to make a real go at it.
4) Respect – This is kinda coupled with Validation, but not. Let’s all just be honest, a slew of non-writers think that a slew of real writers are into writing for these reasons, so they won’t respect you outright…unless of course you get item 2, then they may respect you or pretend to, possibly to get something from you. Oh, unless you have runaway success, then they may very well envy and hate you altogether, because people tend to do that. Therefore, forget about obtaining the respect you desire. Write. Write well, and if you are fortunate, the respect will come (but do not bank on it).
5) Revenge – Remember all those people who said you couldn’t do it, and then you did it. Well, you proved them wrong, haven’t you…and now…well, now…well that’s it. That’s it. You have proven them wrong. But guess what? You’ve been wrong too, so you’re not really elevated in the whole experience. You are just having them join you on the pedestal of “being human”. Congratulations on getting your sweet revenge but not really, since it means nothing. Therefore, never write to prove someone else wrong. Write in order to make that which is right look more beautiful.
6) Unbridled Creative Freedom – Okay, this is not wholly true. If you are the only one reading your work, and you don’t care, you can have unbridled creative freedom. On the other hand, if you are hoping another human being can access what you are putting on the page, you will have some boundaries within which to play. You can be creative within those boundaries, but you will feel stifled at times (and please don’t get me wrong, the stifling is good, because it usually demands you create something better, within the boundaries). Therefore, use the proven skills and tools of the craft to operate creatively while also making your work accesible to the audience for whom you are writing it. If you want unbridled creative freedom. get out your Lego.
7) Anything Beyond The Writing Itself – And that’s the rub. This is a hard reality, but I realize now that it’s the truth. At the end of the day, the only guarantee from all your labor at the keyboard is that you have done labor at the keyboard. You will not be handed anything. You will not be given any rewards. If you spend twelve hours completing that last master stroke before deadline, you have no assurance that the first person to read it will enjoy it. You have no assurance that even you will enjoy it. All you will have, for certain, at the end of this writing session is what you completed during said writing session. Therefore, make this session count. If it were your last, ensure that your last was a doozy, that you told the truth without expecting something you should never have thought it would get you in the first place.
So, there you have it. If you are going to write, don’t do it for what you will not get from it. Frankly, when I look at that list, I feel put in my place–and my place is often here at the keyboard, trying to tell the truth, however I can. Makes me feel like writing now…cause I have something to say, and I can say it for its own sake without needing any of the above as reward for my time and energy.