I want more. And yet, to a great extent, getting the more I want is beyond my control. And wanting more, particularly the inability to get the more of what I want, leads to moments of frustration, irritation, anxiety, and maybe even a little depression.
The remedy, so I’ve heard and read and even on a number of occassions advised others to do, is in one form or another to “surrender the outcome.” Control what you can control and ignore what you can’t. Stop worrying about what you can’t control.
Yeah, if it were only that easy.
Most of the time, I can surrender the outcome. I can focus only on what I am capable of controlling. But then there are times when the desire for more rears its head and the sanity battle is on.
(Note: The rest of this post was originally written in the third person, but I as I re-read it my words seemed a little disingenuous so I went back to first person.)
For me, there is one place where the battle between the constant tension of surrender and the desire for more takes place and that one place usually involves my writing. I want to sell more books and have more readers. Yet, barring my becoming the dictator of a country where I can decree that all the citizens must read my works (an unlikely possibility), I cannot force people to read my work.
In the midst of creating, I rarely give thought to more readers. I rarely give thought to any reader other than myself. Aside from those manic-psycho moments when I’m tempted to delete the entire file because of its wretchedness, I find a serene joy and happiness in stringing together words and sentences and paragraphs into some lucent creative idea. This is the best time. If you asked me during these moments if I cared whether or not any number of people would read what I’ve written, the answer would be, “It doesn’t matter.” And it doesn’t. Maybe its the pleasure in the act of creating or pride or happiness or some sense of accomplishment. Maybe its a writer’s high, similar to a runner’s high. At these moments, I am writing for one person, me.
But then what I’ve written, this piece of art, becomes a product to be put on display for consumption and critique. I might tell you it doesn’t matter to me how many people buy my book, but you don’t know how many times I’ve checked my sales report. Especially in the first week. Like every day in the first week.
And I want more.
My books sell, but not enough. I want more. At this point, I remind myself to surrender the outcome, to take joy in the process, to remember the time I spent crafting those words, and to find pleasure in the next book. It also helps to remember all the authors who died in obscurity.
Brief moments of happiness erupt when I hear how much people enjoyed one of my books. It made them laugh or it made them cry or it caused them to think about their own experiences.
I am humbled when someone tells me they given a copy of my book to a total stranger. They so enjoyed my words that they had to share them with someone else. Again, those feelings of joy and satisfaction fill me. But seconds later, not minutes but seconds, I am wishing more people were having the same experience as this reader.
It’s a constant battle.
My books have sold all over the world. When I was writing my first and second book, I never- NEVER- imagined such a possibility. But my books haven’t sold well enough for me to quit my day job and focus entirely on my writing. They might never sell that well. That would be a dream (and don’t think I haven’t calculated out how much I would need to sell to make this dream a reality).
But I remind myself, as much as I appreciate publishing and having people read what I’ve written, it is the process of writing, the act of creating, I enjoy most. Putting words together on a page is one of the most fulfilling things I do. For now, one of the best parts of my day is the 30-40 minutes every morning I spend writing and editing my next book. And the day after I finish that book, I’ll start on the next.
Part of me will surrender the outcome to whatever may be and another part of me will be wishing for more. It’s the constant tension of surrender and wanting more.