Thursday, November 23, 2017

I’m Thankful

From Jim

If you could choose between being incredibly popular, prolific and commercial like James Patterson or being a revered, admired writer who will go down in history as a classic which would you choose and why?

Short answer: Both. Who wouldn’t want to achieve financial and critical success?

Long answer: I’m thankful but motivated.

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On the subject of financial success, I’m fond of quoting Mr. Bernstein, Charles Foster Kane’s business manager in Citizen Kane. “Well, it's no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want to do is make a lot of money.” That may be true. I can’t say for sure because I haven’t tried it. While I’d love to make a lot of money, I’ve always wanted more than just that. That’s why I wouldn’t steal to acquire wealth, for one thing. Or work for Donald Trump, for another. And that’s why I wouldn’t write and try to sell something I don’t believe in. 

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When vampire books were all the rage, I didn’t jump on that bandwagon and try to write one because they didn’t really appeal to me. I’m not criticizing vampire novels. I’m only saying I’m not interested enough to write one myself. The same way I’m not interested (or qualified) enough to write a physics textbook or a legal brief.

I don’t begrudge writers who reap wild financial rewards. Nor do I invoke Mr. Bernstein’s aphorism to describe their success. You can’t fool readers, at least not for long. If writers are finding success with their books, it’s probably because they’re doing something right. Something they believe in. We all have different interests and passions. That’s what makes a horse race. (By the way, the sixth Ellie Stone mystery, A STONE’S THROW, comes out June 5, 2018, and it’s about horse racing. Very exciting and there are horses! You don’t want to miss this one.) 

Excuse the BSP, but we were discussing horse racing, after all. Oh, right. We were talking about success and/or literary legacy.

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The problem with achieving immortality in a pantheon of writers is that you’re no longer around to enjoy it. Kind of a hollow victory, isn’t it? Whereas money buys so many things, not least of which is a sense of accomplishment. 

I admire J. K. Rowling (like bowling) for her books, courage, and all-around awesomeness. And she went from living as a single mother on the dole to rocking it as a billionaire, all thanks to her amazing imagination. No seed capital from Daddy or some angel investor.

So, for me, the ideal would be to achieve a balance between the two. A healthy dose of accolades and piles of cash. And both in this lifetime, please. But if that dream never comes true—if you put a gun to my head and forced me to choose—I would have to go with what I’ve already got. That is I’m happy to be a writer. I’m thankful to have an agent, a publisher, readers, and some much appreciated recognition. Because it’s really all gravy, considering I’d be writing just the same even if I had none of that. Creating is the best part of writing, and I’ll never forget that. And I’m sure Jo, for all her riches and millions of adoring fans, hasn’t forgotten that either.

Happy Thanksgiving! 


Cathy Ace said...

Super post! Happy Thanksgiving to you...and all those reading this who celebrate :-)

Ann said...

I am thankful I’ve had toe opportunity to know you. Besides your brilliant books, your kindness and intelligence are treasured. Happy Thanksgiving

Vidhya said...

That was lovely, Jim

Usha Bhende said...

Very well put Jim. Always a pleasure to read.. your books or thoughts!

Jennifer Kincheloe said...

Thank you, Jim. A very nice post.