It’s a beautiful day in the Bay today. As I drove downtown for my haircut, I put the window down just a bit — it’s still nippy in the mornings here, but spring is definitely in the air. Sunglasses on. Music blaring over the sound of the dying (dead?) muffler on my ’95 Oldsmobile. Yeah, even a gangsta lean, though not in earnest and not even to be ironic, but simply because I don’t like my head touching the roof like it does.
On the way home (not so gangsta lean-ish with a nice trim on top), I caught the back end of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing. One refrain in particular caught my ear:
Some with win, some will lose.
Some were born to sing the blues.
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on…
…and I thought, “Hey, that’s exactly how it is with writers.” It was an epiphany (of sorts — 3.2 on the Richter scale, but nonetheless), it struck me that if you accept this, it will be much easier to write.
The reason is — and this gets to the heart of why we write — most of us will never become “bestselling” authors. Even most of those lucky enough to get published and sell a moderate number of books will never be able to live off the proceeds. A very slim minority will win any sort of awards.
In short, I realized that we can’t be in this for money or fame or awards. We have to be in this for ourselves, at least from the viewpoint that we need to derive some sort of satisfaction or enjoyment from the process itself. Some will win. Some (most) will lose — at least by these definitions.
But there is another definition of winning that is more important. Just having the amazing gumption, fortitude, perseverance, and courage to sit down at that keyboard to commit our thoughts and dreams to paper — well, every one of us pounding out pages is winning. True art isn’t about the awards from others, it’s about bringing your vision to life. That should be the goal. And if you do it in earnest, even if you’re the only one to like it (and that’s not very likely, btw), nothing else matters.*
That is what makes it easier, because it sorta takes all the pressure off, doesn’t it?
So I raise my cup of coffee to all of your out there this morning, bringing your own art to life. I’ll be writing too, but my keyboard encounter will be of the first kind: day job related. Soon enough though, I’ll be back at the novel…
*Part of writing “in earnest” still means trying to connect with the reader. Even when I’m writing for “myself”, I always write for the reader. Never forget the reader. For me, true art isn’t just self-expression. It’s about expressing myself to others in a way that others understand, at least on some level. (This might be a blog post in itself…)