Monday, September 8, 2014

that we may be waiting for the wrong type of fame


I think it's easy to get the idea that fame and fortune is the ultimate measure of success. I've been writing novels for years, and the idea pops up all the time. If you're not getting accolades, and if your target audience don't recognise your name, some people suggest you're not doing the 'platform' thing properly.  The juicy carrot is always dangling a few inches beyond your reach. Yet you assume the goal of fame must be achievable, because you see others in your same field taking great, crunchy bites of their own magnificent carrots. Sometimes that encourages you to never give up, and other times, if you're honest, it makes you envious because their offerings seem to be no better (or maybe even worse) than yours.

Author Julia Cameron suggests that it feels a bit like waiting for rain in a drought. 'We keep squinting toward the horizon, jealous of our luckier neighbours and dissatisfied with our own condition,' she says. Her words gave me funny images of Elijah asking his servant, 'Can you see anything yet?'

After several fruitless looks, the young man replies, 'Yes, there are a couple of new reviews on Goodreads and a slight increase in your Amazon sales ranking.'

We know what happened in the Bible. Elijah and his servant rushed out in order to beat the soaking deluge they'd already predicted to King Ahab. In our analogy, we grasp these measly signs and push on, trying to prepare ourselves for the downpour of sales, ads, praise and money we hope will follow. But in our case, the small cloud just wafts away. 'Hey,' we complain. 'That's not what happened with Elijah!'

Julia Cameron goes on to muse that our culture has taught us to think of fame as a necessary by-product, but she suggests that it's full of empty calories with no nutritional value. We are taught by the media to keep seeking the amazing breakthrough, after which our lives will be abundantly blessed, but we only need to look at the sad revelations, not to mention several premature deaths, of many celebrities who seemed to have had it all to see that fame is not all it's cracked up to be.

'Not all artists will lead public lives,' she goes on to say. 'Many of us as talented as those who fame strikes may toil out our own days in relative anonymity.' And that's okay, because it may not even be healthy for us. I'm reminded of an article written by Ann Voskamp recently, in which she argued convincingly that the human soul isn't really even built for fame. I couldn't help but be convicted by her pointed question about which platform I'm trying to scramble up on anyway. The article is here.

A couple of days ago, I came across a touching article by Ann Swindell. I love how she found perspective about all this bothersome business from 'The Great Divorce' by C.S. Lewis. Basically, we may be surprised to find that while our desire to be recognised as offering some meaningful input is natural, fame in heaven is very different from fame on earth.  You can read it here.

And then this morning, as I was scrolling through my news feed on Face Book, I chanced upon a great article by Lisa Mikitarian, which gave me another clue that we may stress far, far, far too much over something which God doesn't necessarily think is that big a priority. Read it here.

If you haven't had enough yet, here's one more link to follow, by Yours Truly on this very blog. Even though I wrote it a few years ago, somehow, the worries about this stuff started creeping up on me again, as they tend to do if we don't keep our focus. It's here.

So with all this, I'm encouraged to make sure we're listening to our Creator and not our culture. I think, keeping in mind how easy it is to get the two mixed up at all times may be a key to help. I appreciate anything that may clear my mind in this confusing world where we're brought up not to be attention seekers as children, and then later, chastised for not seeking attention in the adult world of self-promotion.

8 comments:

  1. That was a great perspective Paula. I love the analogy of Elijah's servant running back and saying there are a couple of new reviews on Goodreads. Very funny. It's great to have your work valued, but you're so right that God's perspective is the one that counts. Worldly fame and fortune isn't what it's cracked up to be (though a few more royalty cheques would be nice :) ) For a Christian writer, the more important thing is whether we're faithfully fulfilling God's calling. Thanks for sharing and may those little clouds on Goodreads and Amazon turn to big storms soon :)

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  2. Hi Nola,
    It is important to keep our perspective, isn't it? (I'm sure we all agree though, about the royalty cheques.) But we've got to be thankful for those little clouds :)

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  3. I've always struggled with the idea that, with this kind of thing, fame should come. It's so easy to slip into the trap of thinking that it is the measure that decrees you're good at this creative thing. There is a realistic concern in it too, though, because if you don't get enough sales, you might not be published in the future. However, as my husband is fond of saying, 'Even if you don't ever have another book published, you've got three, and that's more than a lot of others.' I know it is but the other ideas in me cry out for equal recognition.

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    1. Hi Lynne,
      I've had just the same feelings as you. If we don't get the word out, lack of sales will mean no future books. And my husband has said something similar to yours :)
      It is a tricky issue, and that is legitimate, as well as the thoughts expressed in these links. It's one of those things we need to leave to God, but it can be difficult to take our hands off.

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  4. Wow, Paula. I really needed to read this today! As much as I can keep telling myeslf that I`ve given my book to God for him to use however he sees fit, I never expected once I had a book published that the waiting/wondering/hoping would still be such a challenge.
    I came across your blog having read your lovely review for Making Marion, but I will definitely be coming back! Thanks for those wise words ( and the great review:))

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    1. Hi Beth,
      It's so great to hear from you. Yes, it's easy being carried away by all the voices telling us what we should be doing to market our books. I'm not sure if it's the same for you in the UK, but in Australia, we sometimes feel as if we should be doing even more to draw our books to the attention of American readers, which can be tiring if we try to take it all on board. Sometimes I've got to remind to take a step back, deep breath, and remind myself what it's really all about.
      I loved Making Marion! The characters have stayed in my mind and her wonderful, wry humour never missed a beat. I'll be lending and recommending it to several friends and family. It really struck a chord with me.
      If ever you'd like to read an Aussie contemporary Christian novel, just contact me.
      Blessings,
      Paula

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  5. Hi Paula
    This is now my 4th attempt to leave another comment - so apologies if I am bombarding you! I would love to read an Aussie book - if it was anything like your blogs I would savour it. I have been surprised at the difference between the UK and US Christian fiction market - but it sounds as though Australia is more like here? I have had a lot to think about in terms of what I write, and who I`m writing for...

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  6. Hi Beth,
    That would be lovely. The best way might be via email. If you email me, paulavince(at)internode(dot)on(dot)net, I will send you a copy. I don't have your contact details any other way.
    I have a feeling you might be right. I haven't visited the UK since early 90s, but a friend of mine has been there within the last few years, and says the Christian fiction market seems very similar to ours. There is such a lot to learn and speculate about that subject. Anyway, I can mention more over email :)

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Thanks for your comments.

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