An Actual Handbook for Real Mortals
I don't know why authors keep having to defend the necessity of craft within our profession.
I mean, I'm not going to say anything new here. Everything I'm about to say has already been said hundreds or thousands of times, by me and hundreds or thousands of other writers.
But a few weeks ago a sometimes actress tried to scam her way onto the NYT bestseller list by buying a few thousand copies of her book, which she adapted from a screenplay that she wrote herself so that she would have a film to star in.
So, here we are.
In the slew of interviews and media coverage that followed, the person in question said something that really stuck with me, for reasons that are all terrible. She said:
"Ever since I was a little girl, I always wanted to be famous."
And I thought: this right here is what is wrong with the cult of celebrity, and the celebrity book deals that it spawns. They breed the idea that a person can get to be famous and have book deals and have a voice, without having anything to say or knowing how to say it well.
The whole thing is ridiculous.
Look: You want to be famous? Forget that. Forget it right now. There are 8 billion+ people on this spinning rock, and you aren't inherently any more deserving of attention than any one of them. You don't even know what fame would mean for your life -- you don't even know what life as a famous person looks like.
You want to be famous? What does that even mean? That's a hollow ambition if I ever heard one.
Do this instead:
-Find something you love doing, and get good at it.
-Take classes and go to workshops and read whatever books you need to read and practice your butt off.
-Get feedback from whomever gives feedback in that profession.
-Listen to the feedback and implement it.
-Keep doing that until you're really good at your chosen something. You'll know you're good, because you'll get promotions or contracts or gigs or whatever passes for "steady work" in that profession.
-And if that isn't happening, then keep getting better.
Eventually, this is what will happen: You will be making money doing something you enjoy. Maybe it will even be something you love.
And maybe you'll be famous, and maybe you won't. But when you like what you do for a living, you probably won't care about that anymore.
And let me tell you something else I know, from friends who have lived it: if you don't like what you do for a living, then fame is a miserable existence. And if you get famous, then liking what you do for a living is the thing that makes the crappy parts of being famous bearable.
So forget all about fame. Focus on doing something good in this world, and on doing it well.
Accolades are so much more satisfying when you've earned them.