I am not a bestselling author. If we’re talking fictional narratives, I’m not even technically an author.
And the thing is … I’m not exactly sure if I even want to be.
I pretty much have always been and always will be a writer. And though I would love to finish and publish a book someday, I don’t think I can do so with the added pressure of trying to sell hundreds of thousands of copies of said book.
That’s just me, of course. I love writing. I don’t particularly love talking about myself or promoting the things I publish … I know, I know, you have to. Trust me, I get it. But you have to A LOT MORE when you’re trying to get the attention of the New York Times or whatever.
I’ve pretty much decided that when I do start publishing books at some point (when? who knows!), I’m not going to worry about whether or not I get on a list. I understand how the industry works — the more you sell, the more likely you’re able to keep writing. I hear that.
But I also know I’m not the only one who isn’t hard-set on one traditional writing path. My career could go in a dozen different directions within the next few years. If I don’t end up writing novels for a living … I’ll be OK.
You will, too.
Saying you don’t want to be — for lack of a better phrase — a rich and famous storyteller doesn’t mean you don’t want to write stories worthy of bestselling titles. It doesn’t mean you aren’t willing to work hard, or that you don’t want to be recognized for the effort you put into creating characters and plots that change readers’ lives.
It simply means it’s not your end goal. It’s not how you define success. Many people do — and that’s OK. But writing a bestseller isn’t the only thing you’re allowed to strive for. Your goal can be as simple as finishing a first draft you don’t absolutely despise!
You can strive to self-publish a 20-novel epic fantasy series. You can spend your entire life as a writer creating fanfiction that only a select group of people ever read. You can use your pull to the writing life to do quite literally whatever you want, as long as it’s legal and not hurting anyone else in any way.
You don’t have to write a book that millions of people are going to buy just so you can say you did. You can, if you want to. You don’t have to.
It’s OK if you just want to tell stories that are interesting to you. It’s OK if you just want to write what someone will pay you to write for now. It’s OK if you have no interest in everything that comes with writing renowned, award-winning content. It’s OK if you just want to write because it makes you feel alive.
To some degree, sure, we all wonder what it would be like to see our names on one of those lists someday. It’s in our nature as humans to imagine the wildest possibilities life could throw at us. It would be an unforgettable milestone — absolutely. But is it what you want?
If the answer is no — be honest with yourself here — then you are free. You can forever be in total control of what you write, when you write it, and what you do with the things you write once you’re done with them.
There’s nothing wrong with not wanting what everyone else seemingly wants.
In the long-term, admitting to yourself what you do want out of your life as a writer will serve you and your audience much better than spending all your years trying to get your name on a list that really, at the end of the day, does not define who you are or what you stand for.
Dream big. But also dream within the parameters of what you truly want.
Be brave. But be honest. And fall in love with the worlds you create, first and foremost, always.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is an editor and writer, and a 12-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food, and Star Wars.