“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis
Above is a profound quote on humility, something that I have decided to embrace in regard to my writing.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past couple of weeks since my third novel was published. Let’s be real. Everyone who works on a dream wants to be noticed. Authors would like it if their books find an audience.
After all, we work very hard at our writing. We put in long hours, stay up late, get up early, and after the first draft is finished we go through it with a hatchet or scalpel, relegating paragraphs and even entire chapters to the trash folder.
And then we do it again… and again… and after the manuscript is read by an editor or a friend who will tell us the truth, we take out the hatchet once more.
All of this is done because we care. We have a story that we want people to read. And we want the readers to have a great time escaping into the worlds we create.
The above does not sound like something written with humility, right?
Well, its not supposed to. Humility is not the act of referring to our work or dreams with self-deprecation. Humility is what we do when we decide not to let our work be the sole characterization of our lives.
Humility is to know that there is something greater than oneself, and in whatever way we choose to acknowledge this, to be grateful for the gift we were were given, that of being inspired to write, do the work, and take the plunge and publish.
As a Roman Catholic, I believe that God was the source of my accomplishment. I acknowledge Him every day, and give thanks. Other folks may have different ways of practicing humility, and some writers may not practice it at all, but be that as it may, to practice humility can make us feel free.
Thinking of yourself less.
Here’s where the humility comes in. I used to worry overmuch about book reviews. I treated every review I got as a sort of validation, and was constantly worried that I would get bad reviews, or not enough reviews, or no reviews.
And, I admit that sometimes I still worry, knowing that Amazon’s algorithms are kinder to authors with many reviews, rather than the 14 reviews my book The Notice has.
But over the past year or so I have, for the most part, stopped worrying. I no longer check my books daily for reviews and ranking. (With the exception of right now, as I have a newly published book that I am promoting).
I just don’t do it.
Over the past month or so I have asked fans of books 1 and 2, and interested people in my authors group, if they would like to read and review book 3, but I am not going to stress about it.
People who have promised reviews will eventually write them, or if not they will give me private feedback that I treasure, because it helps me hone my craft.
When I stopped checking, I stopped worrying, and my life became happier. If God–who inspired me and got me through the writing process–wants my books to have reviews, then the books will get reviews. That is my outlook.
I mean, it’s not like I have reviewed every book I have ever read. Everyone knows that it is difficult to write a critical review. That’s why authors ask fans for short reviews or comments.
Comforting words from a wonderful author.
We small-time authors sometimes get depressed, and wonder why we are even bothering, since we struggle to get noticed and connect with the audiences we are writing for. The following was shared with me by a dear friend and fellow author. It’s an essay by Science Fiction author John C. Wright, entitled “Your Book of Gold.“
All Saint Veronica did was wipe the face of Christ with a cloth as He was being led off to crucifixion, a single moment of compassion and pity. And she was granted sainthood for the act.
If you only write one book in your whole life, and only sell 600 copies or less, nonetheless, I assure you, I solemnly assure you, that this book will be someone’s absolutely favorite book of all time, and it will come to him on some dark day and give him sunlight, and open his eyes and fill his heart and make him see things in life even you never suspected, and will be his most precious tale, and it will live in his heart like the Book of Gold.
If I am feeling down about my writing, I pull out this essay. It puts things in perspective, and makes me feel like my books have a purpose, even if I will never know about it during this present life.
I have no idea of what future generations, if any, will read and admire my work. I will never know. It is beyond my event horizon. So that is not why writers write.
I write for that one reader I will never see, the one who needs just such a tale as I can pen, in just such a time and place, some rainy afternoon or dark hour, when providence will bring my book into his hands. And he will open it, and it will not be a book, but a casement, from which he will glimpse the needed vision his soul requires of a world larger than our own, or a star in a heaven wider and higher than ours, a star aflame with magic more majestic than any star mortal astronomers can name.
I humbly but strongly suggest you write for that unknown reader also, and not for worldly praise, or influence, or pelf, or applause. The world flatters popular authors, and the clamor of the multitude of brazen tongues is vanity. It is dust on the wind. The unknown reader will greet your work with love. It is a crown of adamant, solid and enduring.
You will never meet that one reader, not in this life. In heaven he will come to you and fall on his face and anoint your feet with tears of gratitude, and you will stand astonished and humbled, having never suspected.
In his essay, Mr. Wright is humility personified. To follow his lead, and that of C.S. Lewis, and others who have discovered humility has been one of the things that freed me from thinking more about myself rather than less.
Of course I will have setbacks, and periods of anxiety at times. I’m only human. But thinking of myself less and my audience (whoever they are) more has made me a happier person.
And to everyone who has helped me on this writing endeavor–friends, family, readers, reviewers, authors and anyone I missed: Thank you from the bottom of my heart.