I was reading something by a young writer on Medium; in their twenties still, lamenting unfulfilled wanting to be famous – not impatience of youth, in my view, but in absence of having done the work to be worthy of accolades.
While I see them as a writer with a following, what I read was journeyman work at best – not stellar, yet anyway, but good enough to make them a living. Making a living alone is worthy, and I don’t mean to denigrate that writer or anyone else, but what made me gag a minute was their published wish to be famous.
Famous for what?
Obviously, famous for writing is their desire, but writing about what, and why – what drives the writing, what makes the writer tick?
The mirror flipped around, and I took a look.
While I would love to be commercially successful as a writer – and famous would be nice, I suppose, but most essential methinks is to be relevant. If someone is writing about fly-fishing – then relevant to fisherman, and to the fish.
But what is relevance for the meandering mind?
Is it to be relevant to others with a meandering mind?
I can see anyone who pursues anything excellently in their field – writing, farming, community service, science, business, sport, or art… becoming famous, but for someone to have an ambition to be famous just for the pleasure of being famous – again, I wanted to gag, so I wrote this in reply to them instead:
Writing, just for writing’s sake, is good enough. It was good enough for so many great writers. However, what trumps writing is doing. Doing something for others. Doing something for a cause. For a community, for a child, for a parent, for a friend — and mostly, for a stranger. No reward, no earnings. No prize, no money, no influence, no fame, no statue, no building with your name on the front door. Do for doing’s sake. In the process of doing, you will meet and influence people — you will build reciprocal relationships on the basis that all transactions take place; people want to do business with and work with people they know, like, and trust. Be one of those. Write about that. Write about them. Readers will follow, customers will follow, friends will follow — there is no other reward because we all live until we die, and then there is nothing for us, or of us, anymore except for that part of us and how we lived (and wrote!) living on in others.
What we do – in our writing, in our work, in our relationships doesn’t have to meet any standard set by anyone other than ourselves, determining what matters for us, what makes our ideas, efforts, and outcomes relevant to us, for us, and because of us. Whether anything we do is relevant to anyone else is an incidental coincidence.
We have so many examples to guide us in this thinking.
I don’t think DaVinci painted his Mona Lisa for us – he did it for him. Michaelangelo, too – created remarkable sustainable art, of his craft and talent … but surely, his goal was not to be revered hundreds of years later. His goal, like most of us, was to sustain himself and make an adequate living doing what he was passionate about as the primary goal.
All the great makers – of art, of buildings, of organizations, and creation of things lasting did their lasting work because of their own compelling and sometimes selfish reasons; they didn’t do it to get rich and powerful, they didn’t do it for fame or money. Those, when they came, were byproducts and rewards that followed the work and acknowledged their talent.
Every day, every one of us should do what we care deeply about and nothing else. I don’t mean, “quit your job,” but rather BE CLEAR about what you care about, and then work at what you care about – and in this way, relevance will never be a question you need answer to anyone but yourself.
Fortunately and unfortunately things always change. Another alternative, especially if you want more fresh air, might be a good pair of winter walking footwear. I have a pair that I think would work well, but only use them for shoveling snow. LH – Lethbridge, AB