Think of an author. Who comes to mind? I’ll bet it’s someone really famous and successful. Someone who has sold a heap of books and probably made a lot of money into the bargain. Someone who has affected the lives of millions of readers around the world. Maybe someone like J.K. Rowling or John Grisham or that Game of Thrones guy whose name I’ve temporarily forgotten.
And I suppose that makes sense. After all, if you’re going to think of anyone, you’re going to think of someone well known. You’re not going to think of someone that hardly anyone has heard of. You’ve probably never heard of that person either, so why would you think of them?
Well, I’m here to say something a little bit controversial. A little bit out of left field. Maybe a little bit crazy sounding. I’m here to tell you that all of those famous authors – the ones who have been so successful and sold so many books and made an indelible mark on our culture – are all going about it completely wrong.
Here’s the deal. We writers didn’t decide to be writers because we wanted to be successful. We didn’t really want to sell lots of books and make lots of money.
No, we did it because we’re in love with the true art of telling stories. We wanted to write stories for the sheer joy of writing those stories. We had no grand goals of connecting with millions of readers. It was just us and our stories – a pure and unsullied relationship.
We consider ourselves to be artists. And like all true artists, we aim to suffer for our art. We want to live lives of abject poverty, starving in our garrets while the world rushes past. We want to endure the slings and arrows of cruel fate, as the world fails to appreciate the greatness and wonder if what it is we are producing. Every book that we fail to sell is a point of pride – a hallmark to our greatness.
And, most importantly, we want to be able to complain about it. We want to whine and moan about how hard it all is. We want to gripe and whinge about how nobody understands the true importance of what we do. We want to carp and grumble about how difficult it is to be a true artist in this world that is overrun by banality and trivialities.
Which is where all of those famous and successful writers have failed. They’ve failed utterly to be poor, struggling artists. They’ve failed utterly at being whiners and complainers. Basically, each and everyone of them is a disgrace to the good name of writers everywhere. The less said about them the better, as far as I’m concerned.
I’d like to complete this post by making a vow. I intend to stand true to my values as a writer. I intend to never become successful. I will regard every book I actually sell as a stab to my heart. I will aim to live out my life in resentful poverty.
Though I may decide to be a little bit flexible about these.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as