Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I'm Proud to be Unimportant

First of all, wow. I knew I loved being a part of the blogging and writing communities, but your comments this week have taken that appreciation to a WHOLE other level. Thank you so much for sharing all of your thoughts and I have read each and every comment. I try to reply to everyone via email, so if you haven't heard from me, it's probably because you don't have an email address attached to your profile.

And I thought the best way to follow up yesterday's post was to use another portion that I love from Shannon Hale's awesome, "What I Wish I'd Known" list. These are items 1-4:

  1. You, the author, are less important than any bookstore clerk.
  2. You are less important than any librarian.
  3. You are less important than any reader.
  4. Basically, you’re much less important that you’d thought or hoped you’d be. And it turns out, that’s a good thing.

The last sentence is a my favorite part.

I'm sure there's some who might be surprised by that. I know some people think I pursue publication for fame and glory--hoping to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. But you know what? I couldn't care less about fame. In fact, the thought of it pretty much terrifies me. I've watched what can happen when fame becomes a part of someone's life--I saw it up close and personal when I worked in Hollywood. And let me tell you, it ain't pretty. It's not fame's fault. It's a little thing called "Entitlement."

Fame doesn't come easily for most people--especially in the literary world. We SLAVE over our projects. We endure revision after revision, critique after critique, rejection after rejection. So when we finally reach our dream and have our book published--especially if it does well--it can feel like validation for all that hard work. And it is.

But sometimes that feeling turns darker, and we begin to feel entitled to what we have--and that's a dangerous thing--trust me. I've watched entitlement ruin careers. I've personally seen it turn an actor into such a prima donna that even though their show was doing well in the ratings, the head of the network canceled it. His reason? (And this is what he actually told the press) Life's too short to work with a person like that. Their career has never recovered.

So I'm all for humility. I'm all for being unimportant. I would never want to let any amount of success--no matter how big or small--make me think I'm entitled to it. I'm not. I don't work any harder than any of you. I don't have any more to offer than any of you. And if I reach the goal before you, it's only timing. You'll get there. We'll all get there. And when we do--great!

But I don't want to let it go to my head. I'm with Shannon Hale (and no, I don't just like her because of her name). It's a good thing to be unimportant. It's keeps us humble. Keeps us grounded. And believe me, it gives us a much longer, much more successful career.

So what about you guys. Are you proud to be unimportant? Why or why not?


  1. Yup, I like being unimportant.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. We (the writers) have to stop taking ourselves so seriously sometimes. Great post.

  3. I am all for humility! And you will be an awesome published author. I just know it!

    I have to admit I find it kind of cute that so many kids at my son's school "recognize" me. It's just endearing. And amusing. Like they think I'm someone famous.

  4. Oh yeah, I'm definitely all for being humble and unimportant. I've seen people get a sense of entitlement from just getting an agent, or making friends/critique partners with an already published author--not even from selling a book!

    The whole reason I want to be an author is because I can put my stories and thoughts out there without anyone knowing who I am!

  5. It annoys me when anyone becomes too big for their britches. This is a great post - and I'm all for the humble :)

  6. What a fantastically important point to highlight. I'm nowhere near that yet--granted, I've dreamed--but will bank it in the memory bank for safe keeping.

    Enjoy your weekend.

  7. It annoys me when anyone becomes too big for their britches. This is a great post - and I'm all for the humble :)

  8. Yes! Great post, Shannon.

    Happy Friday, #1! You have an award at my blog today! :-)

  9. I agree. I think the more humble you are, probably the more connected you are to your writing. It's not just a vehicle for your ever enlarging ego. You're more true to your writing then. Have a great weekend!

  10. If you lose humility in this business, you lose your ability to be objective, and look at your own work with a critical eye.

    Not a good thing.

    Good post, Shanon!

  11. Oh, love this post! I have met some TOP picture book writers in my day (i.e. Laura Numeroff and Doreen Cronin) and I was really impressed by their humbleness. They were so sweet and unassuming!

  12. Yeah, I'm okay with it. I mean, once you become "important" then people expect things from you. And I don't wanna live with that on my shoulders, you know?

  13. I don't care about being important and the only fame I want to achieve is what comes if everyone loves my stories!

    Nothing like Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling, that is just crazy. I only want to be known enough that Stephen King will take my calls...and hang out with me.

    Other than that, I just want to write...and write...and write. And maybe eat ice cream.

    Thank you for following my blog and commenting!!!!

  14. Hell yes I like to be unimportant! I don't need MORE responsibility and pressure:)

  15. I'm back to actually spend more time reading your post. I was just hopping to notify award winners earlier.

    This is a wonderful post. I love the message that being less important is a GOOD thing. I WANT to be less important than my readers. I wish I could convince my students that being flashy and wealthy and important does not guarantee happiness or popularity.

    Well said, #1! As always! :-)

  16. I AM unimportant. And I like it.

    Awesome post!

    Happy weekend,

  17. oh, yes. That sense of entitlement is really dangerous. I prefer to be less important..takes a load off my shoulders!

  18. I agree.
    If your books are published then that is satisfying. I'd rather be unimportant with people enjoying my work, than feeling the weight of entitlement on me.
    It's hard enough on the journey without that to deal with. :)

  19. I agree that a part of writing that appeals to me is that I would never have to be in the spotlight. Just the feeling of accomplishement that would come with being published is enough for me and if I'd wanted to be the center of attention, I'd have used some other creative outlet- like acting or music, kwim?

  20. Yes, I agree! I think the limelight would annoy me and terrify me! I can't remember who said it or the exact quote (so I had trouble finding it), but someone once quoted that writer fame is the best kind because you're not recognized enough to be bothered while eating out. I think there was more to it, but I can't find the exact quote!

    Anyway, great post!

  21. Wait, you mean I'm not entitled to being an author???? LOL. I love that. And yes humility comes before honor. Great post. Have a great weekend! BTW, I missed Meg CAbot when she was in LA. BOO!

  22. The only thing I am entitled to on this earth is the air I breathe and that's about it.

  23. Hi Shannon,

    Well said. I couldn't agree more. I already see a lot of entitlement floating around from friend's kids. It's been enough to make me keenly aware of how ugly it is.

    Have a great weekend!


  24. If I were in a Star Wars movie, I'd surely like to be unimportant. The important/highest ranking ones all seem to get themselves strangled by Darth Vader.

    That same principle applies to life. The less important you are, the less likely you are to get yourself killed.

    I'm feeling very cheerful today; can you tell?

  25. Great post. The pressure of being important would suck. Plus, you're right, humility and persistence make all the difference!

  26. Great post Shannon! Humility and persistence, I shall make it my mantra.

    I have been meaning to stop by and say CONGRATULATIONS on getting an agent! How are you finding the submissions process?

  27. I am a mole and I like it very much that way, thank you very much. :P


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