Is it even worth it?

November 5, 2014 ThoughtsWriting  One comment

I am just now, a good year or so into my writing career, getting comfortable with the fact that I am, indeed, a writer. A year ago — that dreaded time when you graduate from college and everyone expects you to like go off and cure cancer or be president or something equally great — when asked what I was doing, would sheepishly look down, kick at the ground, and cough/mumble, “I’m writing a book.”

I was embarrassed to say it because people didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) know how to react or were judgmental about it. Especially when they asked who I was published by (answer: self-published), where they could buy it (only on Amazon. Oh, not at Meijer? Or Barnes and Noble? Not even Target? They ask. And why not.), or if they might’ve heard of my book or maybe seen my name on a bestseller list (probably not, and definitely not).

And that made me really uncomfortable because I was always that person who could quantify and qualify my worth by socially-accepted titles: co-Editor-in-Chief of my high school newspaper, graduated Summa Cum Laude (both high school and college) with a 4.0+ GPA, was on the Dean’s List and honor roll, member of the National Honor Society, Psi Chi, and Phi Beta Kappa (America’s oldest academic fraternity). I attended a Big Ten university (Michigan State University, if only for a year). Got accepted to New York University. Could have easily gone on to graduate school or med school (even though the thought alone makes me want to poke my eyes out).

So people’s less-than-enthusastic reactions to the uncertainty and unknowableness that is being a writer made me doubt whether writing was even worth it.

It’s taken me a year and a half to be able to look people square in the eye and say, “Hey dude, I’m a writer. It’s what I do. I make shit up. Take it or leave it.” (Then I start singing, “Take me baby, or leave me” a la RENT in my head.)

It’s also taken me a year and a half to figure out that I have let everyone else tell me what success is and what I should strive for: book sales, rank, profit, awards, number of reviews, whatever. And while none of these things are bad, what I’m just now starting to realize is that I never started writing for any of those things. It was never about the money or recognition or “success”. The very idea that my book has to compete in a saturated market full of books (a lot that I eventually want to read) makes me squeamish and really feverish and like I need to put my head between my knees.

You-cant-hide-your-anxiety

When I get down to the nitty-gritty, I realize I started writing simply because I wanted to. Because I love to. I didn’t start writing for accolades or fame or to make millions. In fact, I don’t really care about any of those things. But because of how vulnerable I felt and how new the world of writing was, I let everyone else define what success — and my worth — was. Like if I didn’t sell a million copies and get my book out into every possible store, not only was my writing horrible, but my actual worth as a human being was nothing.

But the truth is, when I’m writing, I don’t care how much money I make on it. Or if I make any money at all. At the risk of sounding like a pretentious asshole, I’m about art for the sake of art. I think that people have taken this pure, priceless creation and tried to assign a dollar amount to it, and that’s an ugly thing. It’s taking something that’s so inherently personal and intrinsic and forcing it to be extrinsic (which the second something goes from intrinsic to extrinsic, all my motivation goes out the window). It’s taking something that you truly love to do — and just because that’s how you spend most of your time — all of sudden it has to be something you sell, something you make money on, something that gives you a title – lest you be title-less and make everyone else really uncomfortable.

I can’t help but feel that in this consumer-driven, capitalist world we live in that everything you do needs to be quantified – and your very existence validated – by how much you make, your rank on a list, how many “things” you’ve won, how many degrees you have, how long your workweek is, how many articles you’ve had published. And I hate that. I may be delusional, but I refuse to live in that mindset.

I think it’s gotten to the point where my closest friends and family (and myself) have finally accepted the fact that my daily schedule (and income) are ambiguous at best. They know now that I’m not going to be a scientist or pharmacist or something else that has a really impressive job title.

Also, by nature, I am not a competitive person. I’m the, “Can’t we all be friends?” person. I hate the idea that to be successful my book has to beat out other books. Because I love books, and think they should all be equally cherished.

Belle+Loves+Bookstores

So then, this begs the question: how do I, Lauren Rosolino, define success for myself?

It’s not about sales or numbers. I’m not worried about winning an award or being the next big thing. I honestly don’t know if I could handle it. I get really uncomfortable with recognition sometimes.

I define it by something far less quantitative – how much I love what I’m pursuing and the impact it has on readers. The first is a pretty easy thing to figure out. The second is hard to know unless your readers tell you directly. (So readers tell your authors if their work matters to you!)

What I want is to have a readership I can engage with and create work that impacts peoples lives. But what if this never happens? What if my stories never reach people? Will writing still be worth it? If at the end of my life, all I have to show of all my hard work is a stack of novels, will they be worth it in and of themselves? Will my life have been in pursuit of something worthy? If I have spent my life doing what I love, but with little recognition, will I be okay with that?

These are hard questions.

I know enough about the publishing business by now to understand that it is indeed a business; it is about what sells, not about the quality of the work. It has a lot to do with the right person, at the right time, supporting your work. Success in terms of being on the bestseller list or going viral, is kind of out of your control.

So what I do care about is whether my work is good quality and something I can be proud of. And whether the right reader will find my book and how to make that happen.

I think it happens slowly. It happens as you write the book and put your best out into the world. Then slowly, as you release more and more books, as more and more people read and review them. As you do more giveaways and make more genuine connections and pour your true self into your relationship with your readers. A few witty tweets probably wouldn’t hurt either.

I’m truly only in the beginning of my career, so only time will tell if those things will happen. And it wouldn’t hurt for me to put more effort into understanding and executing this process.

But.

If those things never happen, is writing worth pursing in and of itself?

Yes.

Because, I believe at the end of my life when I look back on what I have done, I will be fulfilled. I will have explored and searched and sought out truths and answers. I will have fought for understanding and acceptance. I will have put beautiful things out into a, sometimes, ugly and cruel world. I will have done what I’m here to do.

And as I’ve said from the beginning, I would be at a loss if my favorite authors had succumbed to the doubts and fears they undoubtedly had. The world would be a much darker place if JK Rowling had never pushed on for Harry Potter. Or if JRR Tolkien decided he’d had enough of middle earth. So, if any one of my books makes a difference in at least one persons life, even if it’s just one line out of one paragraph, than it will have been worth it.

And if not, then at least I had a hell of a good time doing it.

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Until next time, farewell & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity. 

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One comment to Is it even worth it?

  • […] right now enough? If I never make a lot of money or get published or become recognized for my work, will doing what I love to do (writing) everyday be enough? Will I be okay with that? Am I happy with how my life […]

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