10 Sep 07
I’m a bit of a lazy person. As such, I have perhaps not achieved the success as a writer that I could have done. Stephen King, on the other hand, is a Successful Writer. He has written numerous books, is consistently on the bestsellers lists and no doubt has a bank account which, if compared to that of a “normal” person, is like comparing Saturn to an annoying bit of grit which gets lodged in the grip of your shoe (except for the fact that Saturn is largely composed of gas, but you get the general idea). So what does that make me?
I’ve always enjoyed messing about with words. It’s only really been in the last couple of years or so, however, that I’ve put those words in a public place. In fictional terms, this pretty much consists of my collection on ABC Tales. I’ve also done a bit of paid ghost-writing work for the relation of a friend [*1], I’ve had a story published in a small printed magazine [*2], as well as in an online magazine [*3], I’ve been part of a touring exhibition of one-off hand-make books [*4], and I’ve been in a group show of a creative consortium [*5]. Oh, and I also write this blog, occasionally contribute to another blog [*6], and proffer my opinions, gripes and what-have-yous in various online discussion forums [*7], and by way of Comments on the blogs of others [*8]. Apart from the ghost-writing, none of the above has resulted in any actual fiscal income, and I don’t think one could say I have received any “official” writerly kudos of any sort, but…
Why should I or anyone else presume that I am any less successful than the likes of Stephen King? What, in this context, constitutes success?
Stephen King has written a lot of books, earnt a lot of money and writes full-time for a living. I envy the likes of Stephen King. I aspire – when I can be bothered – to a life such as his. But who’s to say that I am not also, in some sense, a Successful Writer?
I enjoy writing – I always enjoy writing… I can’t think that there’s ever been a time when I’ve thought of it as work or a chore.
I have, over the last couple of years, achieved an audience and positive critical acclaim. Since most of my writing exists online, I have no way of precisely knowing the size of that audience or what kind of percentage of the people who have read what I have written actually like it – but I know that there are people out there that do. I know that I have made some people laugh, think and simply appreciate the way I string sentences together.
I have personally grown and achieved a substantial degree of self-realisation from the process of writing. I have articulated my thoughts, my opinions, my imaginings – to the extent that I have achieved clarity for myself on the workings of my inner world (not perfect clarity, obviously, which is why I will probably be a writer for the rest of my life!).
So I have achieved success, on at least three aspects that come to mind.
I would like to have more time to write… but if I had that time, would I actually want to spend it writing? If writing became a bigger part of my life, would it start to feel more like work, and therefore possibly reduce its enjoyment? If the joy of writing was diminished, even to a small degree, I’m not sure how much that would diminish my desire to be a Writer (italicised and with a capital “W”).
I would also like to earn more money from my writing… but what, really, has money got to do with success? If one achieves all one sets out to achieve, through writing – acquires some kind of readership, enhances the lives of others (be it three or three million others), becomes more positively self-aware, experiences the pure unadulterated joy of putting words on paper or on a computer monitor or on a blog or a web-page – then even if one never earns a single penny or a cent or a krona, how can one not say that one has become a Successful Writer?
I have not yet achieved all I want to achieve through writing. I don’t, however, know what remains to be achieved. Am I destined to become a best-selling novelist, a playwright, a poet, a journalist, a writer of the most successful blog the world has ever seen? Maybe none of these things, or maybe something I haven’t yet thought of. But until I stop wanting to writing, until I stop enjoying writing, until I stop having something to say, I’ll always be, in some sense, a Successful Writer.
I’m going to keep telling myself this.
And I’m going to stop aspiring – when I can be bothered – to be Stephen King!
[*1] sorry, confidential, can’t give details
[*4] “Sitting Room”
[*5] the “Rough Diamonds” show of The Creative Alliance at the end of their “After Hours” course in November 2005
[*7] for example, that of ABC Tales, The Idler, The Big View, the website of Danny Wallace, The Supernatural World, Sproutlore (the fansite of the comic-fantasy author Robert Rankin), QI, the unofficial website of The Mighty Boosh, etc, etc, etc.