Remembered for Something

“We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.”

-Terence McKenna

It’s no secret that I have been struggling to write lately. Over the past few months the aggressive creativity that usually floods my mind has dissipated and become more of a slow leak than a torrent. Despite my absence of inspiration I have persevered as best as I can, producing a handful of blog entries, and fleshing out the admittedly shaky blueprints for two separate novels. At first I thought that this writer’s block was stemming from a sense of nostalgia as I finalised one manuscript and began to transition into the next. But it turns out that I was wrong. My inability to write had nothing to do with nostalgia; I have been suffering from writer’s block because at some point in the editing process of War I lost sight of who I was, and why I was writing in the first place.

It happened far easier than it should have too. See, I have always had this theory that there are two types of people in this world. There are those who want to be famous for nothing; and those who want to be remembered for something. Despite devoting my life, and my career to becoming the later, I have increasingly found myself slipping into the idiotic mindset of longing to be renowned and celebrated for what I do.

The humbleness that keeps this wolf grounded vanished, only to be replaced with an insatiable desire to fuel my own self worth. I sold out and became a fucking fake who was more concerned with the idea of being famous than being true to who I really am.  

When I finished the first draft of my sophomore novel I sat back in my chair and looked at the rough outline of a manuscript that I had created and found myself setting benchmarks to achieve. I knew that I had created a story that left my original novel Midas for dead. I had taken my protagonist and dragged him through hell; crafting scenes that I as a consumer of literature would love to read. So I set myself a goal: I wanted this novel to outsell the first. I wanted to improve upon my first efforts as a published author and continue to establish myself within the creative industries.

The plan was solid. But my ego allowed my creative mind to manipulate my aspirations and turn them into something horrible. Within days my benchmark wasn’t merely to outdo myself; it was to outdo everyone. My humble desire to grow as a man became an urge to look down upon others from a throne of literary success. I didn’t give a shit about whether or not people enjoyed reading my novel. My only concern was that they paid for a copy and I became illustrious in my success. And in that shift of mindsets from seeking personal achievement and remembrance from my peers, to desiring fame for the purpose of fame, I created a contradiction within my own microcosm that fractured everything that I stood for as a writer and killed my creativity.

When I started blogging the idea of securing an audience as large as I have been fortunate enough to amass had never even crossed my mind. I wrote to clear my head, to fight my demons, and to try and leave the world in a better state than when I found it. And yet just four years later my minor successes had momentarily gone to my head. Armed with a freshly produced manuscript and a head full of outlandish thoughts, I started reaching out to some of the largest public relations agencies in the country requesting professional representations for my talents.

The first two companies shot me down quickly, delivering generic rejection letters and emphatically stating that they do not review their original decisions. But a representative from the third agency provided me with a much needed reality check, composing an email that read:

“You need to realise that you’re an indie author. You’re not writing to sell products or to find fame. You’re writing because you have a story that you want to tell. Unfortunately it is because of this that it doesn’t matter how well you write; to an agency like mine, you have no marketability as a writer ”

The words hit me like a fist in the pit of the stomach, causing me to gasp in horror at what I had just read. I had spent months creatively frustrated as I pursued this bullshit concept of notoriety and fame. And then this stranger took one look at my work and found the contradiction inside of me that was causing my intellectual exacerbation and clouding my judgement. I have become so used to calling myself a world eater and a wolf that I temporarily lost the ability to know when my desire to write was causing me to bare my fangs and pursue goals that ran incongruously to who I really am.

Thanks to the brutally honest words of a stranger I now realise just how easily I could have identified the place inside of my head where the inconsistencies in my rational were flowing together and causing me pain. If I had stopped focusing on chartering oceans swelling with my own delusions of grandeur, or examining the heart of my writing, I could have looked introspectively inward and found where the contradictions of who I am, and my foolish desire to be famous for nothing were causing my artistic blockage.

Today is the first time in months that I have sat down at my laptop and felt like me again. I haven’t continued blogging at The Renegade Press for the past four years because of a yearning to be revered. I have done so because I have fallen in love with sharing myself with the world and touching the lives of strangers; however briefly that may be. I blog because I would rather be remembered for something than famous for nothing.

The next time that I lose sight of who I am, I will remember to take a look inside of myself and remove the contradictions causing me pain, so that my creativity can flow once again.

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

56 thoughts on “Remembered for Something”

  1. Welcome back to the real world. I too am an Indie writer, my book ‘The Italian Thing’ did not win me any awards but I did not expect to wind up like Steven King. I continue to write and am working on another book. I go through periods of blockage but that is because life gets in the way. I usually wait it out and when life settles down I continue on.
    If my book made just one person smile (it is a humorous memoir) then I have done what I set out to do. I also blog and put my stories that are mostly non fiction and post them to my blog. I am 73 and do not expect more from myself than what I have to offer.
    I think we would all like to be famous for our work but that isn’t going to happen. Who knows, some day some one might pick up my book and decide it would make a funny movie. I might not still be on this earth by then, but like many artists and authors I might be worth more dead than alive. :o)
    Hang in there, you are a good writer. Keep writing because you love to, not because you have to.

    1. (…my sentiments exactly. At age 62, I am more interested in getting these books that have resided in me for nearly 6 decades, than becoming rich and famous…though I wouldn’t close that door if it opened!)

    2. “Keep writing because you love to, not because you have to.” So true of almost everything in life. The joy tends to leave when the motivation is exterior. (On the other hand, history provides us with a lot of examples of good writers, artists, musicians, etc. who would have starved had they not produced.)

  2. What a lesson to us all who become silenced by ambition. To do a thing for the love of it has its own rewards. Thank you for your insight and wisdom, for your humility and honesty too.

  3. I’m glad you could read those harsh words with understanding. As a survivor of business-focused education, I have come to see “success,” (like gravity!) as a harsh mistress. Most of the writing advice I have read focuses on sales (a.k.a. “reaching” the reader), so let’s not leave this field out of that materialistic drive. In addition, my particular perfectionist streak distorts my motivations just as you described. What you have been through hurts and brings distress even if a person succeeds, but it seems to be society’s admonition to most of us. One of the reasons this fails is that even in “success,” the material gains do not address the inner fears, failures, and isolation. My latest bit of evidence for this: I just heard a surreptitious tape of a successful actor raging about “If anything goes wrong . . .” His wife’s divorce case involves that tape. If your “success focus” has been short circuited before you put more years into it, you may be one of the lucky ones.

    I am fortunate to recognize that I write now to pass the time and to try to keep in touch with people who care about me. Memes and evasive nonsense cannot do that, but honest writing can. For a somewhat higher ambition, I’d like my writing about my life to give someone else some illumination on theirs. If some way arises to make money on that, so be it, but I refuse to chase it down.

  4. This would be a sad story if it were not so applicable to so many people, myself included. The “marketability” factor has seen several of my manuscripts turned down. I now write for myself and my friends. Sooner or later, if the work is good enough, someone somewhere will pick it up. I will not trudge my hooves through the cattle market ever again! Thank you for confirming me in my resolution to be a better writer in my own way.

  5. Live for yourself and you will sink to the bottomless pit of your own vanity. Give of your self freely to this world and the world will love, laugh and live with you. You are a man of talent. Use it to contribute to humanity. Be a man for others amigo.

  6. It is so helpful for me as an indie author working towards publishing my first book to hear this message. I love writing and understanding that the road is bumpy and there are obstacles that stand in the way for someone like you who writes so well just serves as motivation to keep going. It also reminds me of why I would rather be an indie author than send manuscripts out to large publishing companies. Thank you.

  7. Great piece. Skill-“Full!”………….. One thing I have come to learn about blogging is that the writing has to come from our authentic voice. It is the clarity and integrity that can relied upon from a good wordsmith which matters. Our words need to flow from honest experience. Your’s have. Whether your words are ever published by another source, you are publishing. Some of the most formidable words ever written were published as handbills. Humility with immense power can be found in the most humble resources.

  8. This is an experience shared by many indie writers…which doesn’t minimize its impact on the individual. In my case the letter said “beautifully written, not commercial enough’. I wasn’t willing to give up how and what I wrote for commercial reasons. I’ve focused on my local market successfully; my book is in our local independent bookstore, my city’s library, my university’s library, and I’m reading at a nationally-known writer’s festival next month. All of this is more than enough ‘fame’ and this is a market I know and respect and am happy they like my book and my writing. But I write for me, for the stories I have to tell, and not for anything else. Reaching that realization was, as you say, very liberating. All the best!

  9. Reblogged this on Resonant Point and commented:
    I do not know how I would be able to handle such brutal… Honesty. No, it is honest from a publisher to tell any aspiring writer they have no chance because in their eyes you have no value. That is repulsive to me on a spiritual level.

    This is also why I am not looking for a publisher. Or an agent. Till such time as an agent or publisher sees value in my work once I publish, I am going to do this on my own. Thank you to The Renegade Press who shared this little tidbit about the formerly all powerful gatekeepers to the craft of writing.

  10. Thank you for the lesson, Chris. For years, I pursued the idea of fame. It took me quite some time to realize that just doing something that you love and something that you have an affinity for is enough. You can never tell what is in the future.

  11. This. “I have done so because I have fallen in love with sharing myself with the world and touching the lives of strangers; however briefly that may be.” Exactly true. (Clapping from the North.)

  12. I am glad that you were able to discover what was stifling your creative flow. Do not be too hard on yourself. I think at some point all authors have delusions of grandeur, but perspective can get away from you. I’m glad that you have regained your perspective and your experience is an excellent cautionary tale for those true artists who are temporarily blinded by the light.

  13. Thank you for reaffirming that self-publishing is the best way forward for me – I’ve had my doubts! And that quote from the agency is astonishingly blunt. I can only shake my head, thank them for their honesty (and yours), and continue forward on my own path. You’re not the first writer to lose sight, even momentarily, of why we are writing 🙂 Stay strong.

  14. Thanks for being so frank and genuine. Embrace your vulnerability as difficult as that could be. When you write from the heart, you’re writing for it too. Keep writing and inspiring 🙂

  15. That sounds similar to taking up residence in a narrow specialty. It is easy to lose sight only people who know what you do, know what you do; and who are meant to be. You can’t grow as someone else. I’ve learned this lesson, too. It is a different type of success, which can still garner much of the same result, if creatively sought. Cheers to your finding your path, as well.

  16. Thanks so much for sharing this. As an indie writer about to publish my first book I’m feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty of the non-writing part of the job. I’m ready to start writing again and I’m having the same feeling you had, this one will be even better. It was good to be reminded why I write. Thanks again

  17. i hate when that happens… i satisfy my inner showboat by belly dancing for events and teaching crazy women when, at my age, i probably shouldn’t! then when the time to write comes i can get serious about why i write…

  18. This was really honest, and hit home. This reminder I hope will resonate in my life as well. Intentions are everything and it is great that yours has become more honest and true. Keep doing you!

  19. This is, I guess, true for every writer. Writing is a very humbling experience. Sooner or later we all have to realize that we write because we love to write, not to become famous. If our writings have any merit, the world will find us anyway. All you have to do is keep them accessible enough, like my ‘The Delhi Metro’ which was discovered in by Oxford University Press, UK, and published in 2012 in one of their textbooks. For an obscure India-based writer like me, it felt like an unexpected bolt from the blue…

  20. Hmm. Well, it IS human nature to want to put something out there that people will ‘like’ or buy. (I’m reminded of the ID, super ego, and the ego…something,’s been a while since that psychology class…) And, if your sole source of income comes from writing something someone will buy…it would be very easy to start obsessing. Wanting to feel superior and confident…so that the words would just fall onto your writing tablet…we’ve all heard how confidence is important in getting things done. In this case finishing your book. I really like what you have written above (I’m going to ‘like’ it too). Thank you for sharing a bit of the inner-workings of your mind.

  21. Sorry, big thumbs on a small phone make for premature sending! But anyway, good on you for being and to reflect and change. And although brutal, I wish rejections would come be as specific as the one you got since it helps to know why you’re not a fit for certain publishers.

  22. It’s not always easy to look inside and find the answers you seek. Some times it can take months or years to put it all together. Maybe it’s something our subconscious is hiding, or maybe it’s just hard to look at ourselves from the outside. It’s wonderful that you got what you needed from a stranger. Now you can take that and move forward with more understanding of yourself.

  23. This speaks to me as I have had to overcome more than one writer’s block. The first one was because I lost the threads to my novel in a pit of disorganization which I rectified by buying and learning Scrivener. The latest one was a loss of my muse. But I have had a block similar to the one you describe here, though I didn’t get the gut punch realization that you did. It was a slowly dawning one for me, which might have been more painful, since it took longer to break.

  24. It’s not easy to open your heart like this and I can relate to what yu are saying. I certainly have no desire to be famous as a writer, but what hounds me is the need to support myself financially and I can’ help feeling that this need chips away at mt creativity.

  25. I also struggle to write and can’t help thinking that part of my problem is that the world is now too difficult to write about … well, it beats blaming myself! Good luck in your struggle …

  26. Though I do not suffer from writer’s block, I can relate a hundred percent to you about being mentally oppressed by visions of grandeur. A very frustrating thing, to say the least. Since we are inspired by famous writers making a living from their art, we fantasize about having their fame. Because being famous means we have touched a lot of people. But the drive for success quickly turns into a factory mindset where we lose the emotional meaning behind what we do and, instead, focus on a rigid system of results.

    It depends on what you mean by securing fame. Because you have touched many lives? Or because you can enjoy the brief flashes of celebrity life? You have found the right conclusion. We write to express ourselves to the world, hoping that thereby we can touch the lives of others. The money or fame are simply secondary benefits that don’t need to be the vision we follow after. Writers are remembered because of what they say, not because they’re famous or powerful for some obscure reason. Wonderful post, fellow blogger. I wish you continued inspiration and writing!

  27. Whow… reading your lines makes me feel like I’m not alone and at the same time you’re really inspiring! I’ve never written as a profession so I never had the need to write something and express myself, but I just recently started my blog and it is harder than it seems be inspired and write. Even if you know what you want to write about… putting your ideas right to express them in the best possible way is way harder! Maybe this is very philosophical, but I suppose that writing this is something that even with lots of practice you will always have, as the more we write we learn. And the more we learn, the more we think differently than before… and thus expressing ideas is something where you’re always struggling against your old self.

  28. Thank you for this. Reading about your own conflicts and discovering who you were as a writer really put a perspective on my own journey. Your words have inspired me to take a look at myself and question who I am and what I want from my writing. This was greatly appreciated!

  29. Wow. So much to look forward to when I begin to look for someone to publish my first novel. Your words however, are wise. I will always try to be true to my story and tell it as it should be told. I wonder how quickly I’ll drop that idea when a publisher or agent tells me to change something…

  30. Hi Chris,
    I’m wondering if you’ve checked out Joanna Penn’s excellent ‘The Creative Pen’ podcast? She focuses on indie authors and is an indie author that is published globally and makes a six figure income and also helps people to focus on the love of writing. I find her really inspiring. Keep writing and learning and sending your work out there–and keep building an audience for your work.

    1. Hey Michele,
      Thank you for the suggestion. I haven’t heard of The Creative Pen, but I’ll definitely be checking it out. I love finding new and exciting authors and mediums, and this sounds like something I’m going to fall in love with!

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