Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
Most writers dream of making it big. But what does “making it” mean, exactly? The answer is different for everyone. There are lots of resources about how writers can make money and improve their craft, but today I want to focus on every writer’s purest motivation: to gain the validation, attention, and admiration of important and attractive people. That’s right, Famous Author Bill Ferris is talking about your level of famousness, which is a healthy and totally controllable thing for you to fixate on.
[Note that I’m differentiating between fame and success here. While a small handful of folks like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling have both, many writers have one without the other. Financial success is outside the scope of this column, but to find out more information on how to get rich as a writer, just Google “writing” and click on literally any search result.]
Writing is a never-ending and non-lucrative job, and if we can’t get paid in money, then we should expect to sign a few books for readers, to get recognized when going through the Drive Thru, or at the very least get some “likes” on social media (which is the true coin of the realm in the influencer economy or whatever).
To find your ideal level of fame, we need to identify what type of writer you are.
Type Zero: Fame? What’s That?
Motivation: You write what you write, and people can like it or not. You’re just doing this for you.
Ideal fame level: Your boss knows you write during your lunch breaks, but doesn’t take that as an indication that you’re slacking off on the job.
How you’ll know you’ve achieved it: You’re either a wild success or unpublished, and in either case, you’re already at your ideal level of famousness. So take your emotional maturity and well-adjusted priorities elsewhere, because the rest of us divas are trying to make a breakthrough here, okay?
Type 1: The Bestseller
Motivation: You want to get booked on every morning show, and go on months-long publicity tours so you can get laid in every time zone. You have an insatiable hunger for praise and validation, for someone, anyone to notice me. Er, I mean you.
Ideal fame level: You can’t leave the house without someone approaching, photographing, or cursing at you.
How you’ll know you’ve achieved it: 1. You’re a guest on a book podcast, and the host has actually read your book. 2. The subject(s) of your infamous tell-all book will no longer speak to you.
Type 2: The Purist
Motivation: You don’t write for recognition, you write for art. It’s only about expressing the deep truths of your soul.
Ideal fame level: Toiling in obscurity until your work is championed via the dissertations of nicotine-addled grad students thirty years after your death.
How you’ll know you’ve achieved it: 1. You take the word “reclusive” as a compliment. 2. You turned down an invitation to appear on a book podcast because of your long-standing boycott of their primary sponsor.
Type 3: Everyone Else
Motivation: On one hand, it’s wonderful to be recognized for your work. On the other hand, you’re so very tired.
Ideal fame level: That sweet spot where folks on the street know your name and fancy people will ask you to come talk to them, but not so famous that a trip to the grocery store means getting mobbed by autograph seekers and paparazzi taking photos of you in sweat pants and buying off-brand frozen pizzas for dinner.
How you’ll know you’ve achieved it: 1. You’re a guest on a book podcast, and though the host hasn’t read your book, they feel guilty about it. 2. When you post a joke on Twitter, all the replies are progressively less-funny versions of your own joke.
Now that you’ve identified your ideal level of fame, all you have to do is achieve it…somehow. Find out how in a future column, or maybe just adjust your expectations.
What’s your ideal level of writerly fame? Share it in the comments!
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