10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #8
See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
#8: Once I publish my novel, I’ll have arrived in the literary world.
Can you believe it? I actually thought this once. I thought my novel was that good. Very prideful of me.
At the time, it seemed like a simple and logical conclusion.
Publish a novel=be a published novelist=enjoy literary acclaim. Right?
Well, no. That’s sort of like saying, “If I win a race, I’ll have won the men’s marathon at the Olympics.” When it comes to literary status, publishing a novel isn’t reaching the top of Everest. It’s cresting one of its tiny foothills.
Becoming recognized as “somebody” in the literary world isn’t as simple as we’ve been led to believe. Think about movies or TV shows you’ve seen about struggling writers who persevere and overcome tremendous odds, only to achieve a big contract, fame, and fortune in the end.
The media has only fed this illusion. The only authors who are touted before our admiring gazes (for the most part) are those who’ve made it big (names like Rowling, Grisham, and King). What we don’t hear about are the thousands of other authors who work regular day jobs, find meaning in their writing, publish novels, but never become rich or famous.
And for many of us, that’s okay because we write for other reasons (I’ll get to that).
As far as achieving prestige and notoriety in the literary world, how many of us really sense God’s leading to achieve that? Are we tempted by “pride of life”? Sure, God may lead some to this place of status, and they may be able to make an impact on this world. But can they do so without getting a big head? Notoriety comes with its pitfalls.
Kicking and Screaming
Sure, I’d love to win literary accolades (and possibly struggle with pride as a result). But accepting a writing award in front of a large crowd isn’t something I would frankly relish. Just the other day, my wife and I agreed that though we were happy to get married in 1996, we didn’t necessary enjoy the wedding itself. All those people staring at us . . . and being the center of attention . . . uh, no.
It’s definitely not me.
Recently somebody asked me which literary world I would want to live in if given the chance. I said,
I would absolutely love to live at Bag End in Hobbiton—pre-Sauron days preferably. I’m like Bilbo. I’d love to live in peace and quiet, write stories, and not be bothered by any troublesome adventures. But I’m probably too tall.
Appear on the Today Show and talk about my book? I’d probably do it if invited (my publicist would throttle me if I didn’t), but I certainly wouldn’t enjoy it. True, if this is something God wanted me to do, I’d certainly need to be willing. But it’s not something I’d seek after. So much for literary acclaim. If it were handed to me on a golden spoon, I’d probably go kicking and screaming.
So if my writing isn’t about achieving literary acclaim, why do I do it?
I do it because God has wired me to do it.
I simply love good stories, whether I’m reading them or trying to write them. If I’m parked in a chair for relaxation, rarely will you see me without a book or my Kindle. I love stories that grab my imagination and pull me into a different world . . . a world I don’t want to leave.
Stories I write come from story ideas that grab me and won’t let me go until I get them down on paper or in Microsoft Word. At the same time, because I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, story cannot exist in a vacuum. The struggle we call life has an overriding divine purpose (the gospel)—I firmly believe that. In fact, I believe it so strongly that writing any story without my worldview trickling in to some degree is probably impossible.
Ultimately life is a story of redemption when we look at it from God’s perspective (which is really the only right way to see it). And until you know Jesus Christ you won’t understand what that is.
Some Christian novelists are okay with writing clean, moral tales . . . and stopping there. I don’t think I can do that. But that’s just me. I think God has given me a greater responsibility—to put “meaningful” in suspense.
So . . . literary acclaim? Sure, I’d be honored to win some awards someday, but I can live without them. If I sold enough books to keep my publisher happy, that would be great.
But achieving God’s acclaim is what drives me more than anything else. I’m more concerned about doing with my life what He wants, even if that means living in obscurity as an unknown.
What about you? Maybe you’re not like me. What gets you out of bed each day? Do you feel called to do what you do? Does the idea of being famous scare you?
- You Have Been Delivered!
- On Vacation
Thanks for a great and soberingly-true article. I especially love the reference to Bag End and to novel completion being “one of the foothills” of publishing. I’ve certainly found that to be true with every literary accomplishment–crest that hill you thought was THE mountain and view the mountain RANGE towering overhead.
For insight into why I write, I’m including a link to an article about my writing catalyst–prayer. God completely blindsided me with this whole venture.
(note the nod to C.S. Lewis–another fave 🙂
Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it. It’s nice when authors can encourage each other. I’ll check out your article. I also love C.S. Lewis. Thanks!
Adam, ever since I started freelancing, back when I was doing it as a sideline, I tried to articulate WHY I was doing it. Recently, I pulled it together, and it goes something like this: my mission as a writer is to rell stories that show people what it’s like to live in the Kingdom of God, and my mission as an editor is to help other writers do the same. That’s what gets me out of bed.
Fame doesn’t scare me, although it would be a bit daunting. What I’m afraid of is failure. Not material failure, but failure to obey God’s call or to fulfill my mission to the best of my ability.
Enjoyed this post immensely. As writers, we do want to be published, so our works can reach the maximum number of readers (esp. if we feel we’re writing with a mission). But I agree, in the end, if we’re writers, we’re not going to be able to STOP writing (I’ve tried, and often toy with it. God always pushes me back into it). No matter how long the stops and pauses between acceptance e-mails, we have to continue to have faith that this is what we’re supposed to do.
Hey, thanks, Heather, for chiming in. I appreciate the encouragement.
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