The majority of writers toil away in obscurity, achieving little to no fame and leaving only a few things for ancestors to discover when they decide, foolishly, to look into their family history. I’m not trying to sound overly dramatic (well, okay, I am, sorta), but it’s true: writers put their work out into a world that really doesn’t care if it’s wonderful. The universe is always trying to kill you, paraphrasing from Neil DeGrasse, and it’s doing much the same to your writing. The people who want to want you to succeed (or, at the very least, don’t want you to fail) are few and far between.
And that’s exactly where a writer should be, I feel.
Let’s take a minute and imagine that you’ve “made it.” Let’s think about you, dear reading writer, sitting in your well-appointed office, sipping on some fancy drink and pushing off calls from your agent because, hey, you already made the money you need to for the next six lifetimes. You can hardly remember the last time you had to choose between paying the electric or the car insurance, and you are the only person in life who has any say on what happens in your life.
What’s your writing look like now? Is there any drive at all to keep writing? Chances are, if you’re a great writer, you still have that drive to create – but perhaps it’s a bit more of a forced effort than it was before you struck it rich with those three best sellers.
Because now, unlike then, you aren’t escaping anything. You aren’t just creating for the sake of creating. Now you’re creating because it’s expected of you, perhaps, or because you’ve got nothing else to do during the day. Can you imagine—writing out of boredom?
But back when nobody knew you, you were struggling to find the time to write. You had a full time job and bills to pay and sleep to be slept, but you wrote anyway. You scratched out a few minutes at work or an hour or two in the small hours just to get a story out on paper. Writing wasn’t something to pass the time—it was something to be done. It was something to sneak in and lose sleep over. And I am willing to bet that the satisfaction gained from it is much more than the satisfaction gained after being “known.”
And why is that? Well, because the writer who writes in obscurity is doing so for the sake of the art alone—to get that poison out of their blood. The writer who is making a paycheck from it is doing so because they are obligated to, perhaps, and not because they necessarily feel the compulsion to (or, at least, that isn’t the only reason anymore).
So this is just a little reminder that, as a writer, being unknown isn’t the same as being a failure. It’s not even close. You write in the un-famed home office or forgettable cubicle of your desk job, but you’re no less a writer than anyone else. If anything, your work is more valuable than someone who doesn’t need to worry about falling asleep at the wheel because they stayed up all night working on a story.
You may never get a readership of thousands, but your work will be unobstructed by the need to write, and that will make it as pure as possible.