How Important Is It to Be a “Famous” Writer?

Blue OwlFor many years it was my dream to be a famous writer. Like, a REALLY famous writer. My idol was Jack Kerouac, and while that was partly because I loved the beauty of his writing (and still do) it was also because of the recognition he achieved. Never mind the fact that fame only contributed to his tragic downward spiral, that’s a story for another day. The point is that I wanted what he had—status, notoriety, and success.

I knew that if I had those things I would be happy.

But a funny thing happened on the way there…I noticed that when I concentrated on using my writing to gain recognition from outside parties, my writing suffered. I suffered too. Writing that way wasn’t much fun. And I also realized that I had no idea what outside parties wanted from me. I would think I had a grand idea for a little while, and then it wouldn’t seem so great. Or I’d try to write something that was really “current” only to find the times had already changed and that thing wasn’t “in” anymore.

So I gave up and wrote what I wanted to. I wrote from my heart and everything was awesome…for a while. Because then my old ego stuff showed up again. Part of me still wanted to be famous and adored. Only now, I was doubly ashamed of that part of me. Hadn’t I decided those aims were ridiculous? Didn’t I know that universal approval was an illusion?

Well, yes.

But that doesn’t mean that part of me just conveniently went away.

It wasn’t until I shifted my perspective that I was able to solve the problem. I wasn’t “bad” for wanting to make a big impression on the world. The only bad thing happening was that I had this constant conflict going on between my ego and my heart and I’d decided that my ego should lose. I didn’t realize that was like cutting off my nose to spite my face. I was still functioning with a separatist mindset, in which there are winners and losers, the “good” and the “bad”. And I was losing tons of precious energy down the drain as I fed the fight between the two.

Then I saw that there are two me’s, tending to two different things. The first me comes from my power center, and it’s primarily concerned with achievement and rewards. Power-Center-Me believes that gaining power is the only way to be loved and find happiness. But power is like a car. It takes a whole lot of doing and having to keep up with it. The car needs fuel to run, and maintenance on its parts. When Power-Center-Me is driving, I can’t help but notice all the other cars on the freeway and if they’re better or worse than mine. Power-Center-Me is always thinking about an upgrade. I also get impatient in the car. I want to just get there already even if I don’t quite yet know where there is.

In contrast, when I’m working from my heart I’m tapping into Heart-Center-Me. The thing Heart-Center-Me is tending to is more like a tree. It doesn’t need very much. Just water, sunlight and air, all of which are free and easy to find. When I’m hanging out with my tree I’m not worried about going places because I’m content to just be right where I am in that moment.

What really helped me to grow as an artist and a person was to realize that I don’t have to destroy the car to save the tree. Power-Center-Me has her place in my life and sometimes it’s appropriate for her to show up and drive the car. But when I’ve been stuck in traffic for too long and things are out of balance then I need to spend some time in nature with my tree.

The true wisdom of a conscious writer works toward accepting all the parts of the Self and learns how to bring out certain parts in the right time and place. So when you’re writing that very first sloppy draft, it’s time to go into the forest and sit with your tree. Heart-Center-You is the best you to bring your story out. But when it comes time to pitch your book to the outside world, let Power-Center-You get behind the wheel and drive the car.

If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, I highly recommend these two books:

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Be Here Now by Ram Dass

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5 Comments

  • Reply JHolmes, author 12 May, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    What great imagery! Thank you, Lauren, for explaining so well why I feel so conflicted about my writing sometimes. That must be when Power-Center-Me is feeling neglected 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 12 May, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Thanks for reading! I wrote this post because I feel conflicted much of the time myself, and I had an awesome conversation with another writer this past weekend about exactly that conflict. As we were talking I came up with this metaphor and then wanted to expand on it in this post.

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 13 May, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I recognise this ambivalence very well. The time that an agent rang me up and said she really loved my manuscript and had read it overnight, I put the phone down feeling unhappy. The call I had hoped for, and which promised the dreamt-of fame, actually filled me with discomfort. I realised that I didn’t want it after all – which was lucky as she didn’t want my novel after I had rewritten it to her spec after all.

  • Reply Glynis Jolly 14 May, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    I do write because I want to compete, but not with other writers. I’m competing with myself. Questions like “Can you get through this rough draft?”, “Can you make that changes and adjustment to make this story worthwhile?”, “Can you take the criticism of editors to make your story better?”. There’s, of course, other questions along the way but you get my point. This probably doesn’t sound like writing from the heart. The questions are my motivators. I don’t think I could write worth a d*** if I didn’t write from the heart. I know the motivators would work on me.

  • Reply Jo 18 May, 2015 at 5:12 am

    Absolutely loved this Lauren. You always seem to intuit exactly what’s needed. It’s such a gift. Thank you, again, truly inspired. 🙂

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