“This Will Change Your Life.” Really?
If you’re an aspiring writer (or even an established one), you’ve seen websites and seminars and workshops that promise to “help you write a bestseller.”
I’ve read and attended some of these myself. And I’ve learned from them. They haven’t been a complete waste.
But let’s dig a little deeper and ask ourselves what’s going on in our minds when we buy into such a promise.
“Bestseller” in this lexicon equals “success.”
The promise between the lines is
“This will change your life”
Fill in the blanks for what you imagine that means. Money. Fame. A better class of friends/lovers/whatever.
Write a bestseller and [XYZ Good Stuff] will materialize in your life.
I was having dinner with a friend the other night, a long-established and extremely successful writer both critically and commercially. He was saying how he had noticed lately that he wasn’t getting the same rush out of a new contract or a deal or a collaboration as he once did.
We theorized that the element of “this will change your life” had gone out of the equation.
Okay, okay … if you and I were in a rock band and we had a hit that took us from playing intimate venues to stadiums and arenas … yeah, I agree, that might be credibly said to “change your life.”
Like getting called up to the major leagues.
Or getting appointed to the Supreme Court.
Those would change your life.
But you and I are not rock stars or ball players or politicians.
Whatever success or celebrity we may attain on Day 249, when the alarm goes off the next morning, we’re back right where we were on Day 248.
We’ll grab the same cup of coffee, stumble into the same office, plop down before the same keyboard, and face the same dragon.
No Big Five contract will make that fight any easier.
No position on the bestseller list will guarantee that our next book won’t be, as they say on Get Shorty, “shite.”
In other words, the core challenges (and satisfactions) of our life are not going to change, even when something life-changing happens to us.
The blank page remains.
Our demons stay the same.
The struggle never goes away. It never gets easier.
That’s our life, yours and mine.
We’ve chosen it and we stick by it.
There’s a great scene in the Sam Peckinpah movie, The Wild Bunch (screenplay by Peckinpah and Walon Green).
William Holden plays Pike Bishop; Ernest Borgnine is Dutch Engstrom. They’re the two senior members of the outlaw gang that includes Warren Oates and Ben Johnson and as Lyle and Tector Gorch, with Jaime Sanchez as Angel and a great Edmund O’Brien as Freddie.
It’s night, a campsite in an abandoned adobe, after a day in which a long-planned holdup has gone catastrophically awry and the Wild Bunch, with heavy losses, has barely escaped. Now they’re regrouping, trying to figure out where to go and what to do next.
Holden and Borgnine have tucked into their respective blankets and sleeping gear. They’re leaning back on their saddles, which they’re using as pillows.
I’d like to make one last score and back off.
Dutch absorbs this skeptically.
Back off to what?
The rueful expression on Pike’s face shows he grasps the fatuity of what he has just said. He and Dutch speculate about what heist they might try next. Steal an army payroll maybe. Rob a train.
They’ll be waiting for us.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Another exchange or two passes. At last Dutch rolls onto his side and pulls his blanket up around his shoulders, preparing for sleep.
I wouldn’t have it any other way either.