By Andrew E. Kaufman
A long time ago (very long) in a land far away (well, not so far, really) there was a little boy named Andrew (that’s me), who always felt he had so much to tell the world. The problem was, as often happens with toddlers, not much of what he said made a whole lot of sense, and as also often happens with toddlers, when the audience grew thin, it only intensified his determination to spread The Gospel According to Andrew. In other words, Andrew was a chatty little boy. In other words, you couldn’t shut him up, even if you wanted to.
I guess you could say I developed a bit of a complex over this.
Then one day, my grandmother sealed the deal when she bought me my first book. It was called Nobody Listens to Andrew, and besides the fact I was sure it was written exclusively about me, and besides the fact that it trumpeted my tragic story, I also discovered something else very important: the true value of the written word.
After that, I was unstoppable.
I became obsessed with that book to where I’d make my grandmother read it to me every night. I’m pretty sure I had it memorized word-for-word—I’m also pretty sure she did, too, even though she probably wished she hadn't
Eventually, I moved on to other great literary works. I think Curious George came next, and after that, I developed a penchant for the Dark Side with Where the Wild Things Are. Needless to say, a thriller writer was born.
By then, I was pretty confident I knew what my path in life would be. I would someday write The Great American Novel—you know, much in the tradition of Nobody Listens to Andrew and the like.
The point of all this (I know you were probably wondering if there was one) is that, as writers, we all come from the same place. We have stories to tell and an intense desire to share them with the world, and while we’d love to make a living at it, most of us would still tell our stories anyway, because really, it’s not about numbers—it’s about The Journey, the unmitigated joy we feel each time we open a blank page and watch our imaginary worlds come to life. That’s where the magic begins.
I think on an intellectual level we know that, but on an emotional one, we often forget it. We become obsessed with sales rankings, reviews, how many Facebook likes we have, and lots of other silly things that in fact have nothing to do with why we became writers in the first place.
We forget what's really important.
The moral of Andrew's story, and maybe yours too, is that whether you sell a lot of books or you don’t, success is only fleeting if you define it within those parameters. But if you don't, there’s one thing that nobody can ever take away, and that one thing is your love for the written word.
And because of that, no matter what, you will always be successful.
Listen to Andrew. The dude knows.
Thanks for the reminder not to focus on the silly things. The Journey—the process—is what's important. It's what provides the joy.ReplyDelete
Ah, The Process...how can we ever forget that one?Delete
Wise words, Drew! Thanks for making me stop and think about what's important. And kudos to your grandmother for giving you that book!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Jodie. I was fortunate enough to be born into a family that loved literature. I feel like I was destined to someday write it.Delete
Well said, Andrew. And look at you now...Everybody's listening to Andrew!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Teresa. I guess I found a more subtle way to do it. Screaming at people just annoyed them ;)Delete
Storytelling is a powerful and positive addiction. I wish I had discovered that earlier. But my love of writing nonfiction started as soon as crafted my first sentence, so I relate.ReplyDelete
I hear that, LJ. Like you, I first pursued life as a journalist, and while I got to write, I eventually realized I'd taken a wrong turn. It took a while to get back on track, but I know I'm where I belong now.Delete
Wonderfully, imaginative way of getting your point across. I'm pretty sure I not only heard what you said (and a timely message it is!)but came away from reading the post with a nostalgic smile. Kudos to you for sticking with it, even when no one was listening. And thanks for reminding us about what is truly important.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Linda. Amazing how important those first books can be during childhood, and how they leave an indelible mark on our lives.Delete
What a delightful post, Andrew! Really from the heart and so smart. And praise be to that wise grandmother for giving you the warm support of a book that told YOUR story long before you were able to do it yourself.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Susan. It really was a special book for me, and apparently for lots of others as well--it's amazing how more than fifty years later, it's still very popular with children. I guess some messages are timeless.Delete
Drew, you kill me! Such a fun post, and a real insight into how a writer is born. We all listen to you now. By the way, IS there a bear upstairs in your room? Cause, I can call an exterminator if you need one. Or Goldilocks. I hear she's good with bear removal.ReplyDelete
Do you know how many years I checked under the bed for bears? After all, it was very important to listen to Andrew. To date, I'm happy to report the bedroom is bear-free. Thankfully :)Delete
I guess thriller writers are allowed to raise real smiles of joy. I remember Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine and I think a Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. And lots of comic books. I may have learned to read because I wanted to know what Superman was saying to Batman.ReplyDelete
I started with poetry.
This got me thinking. How many stories do we tell ourselves, stories we write down someplace - in an alternate reality that just doesn't make it onto paper or screen?
We tell stories because we want to be listened to. First, as you say, we want to hear our own voices. Then we want others to hear them.
Thanks for a post both whimsical and poignant.
Thanks for your comments, David. I think many of us started out as casual readers and then felt inspired enough to take that experience to the next level, or maybe even recognized a certain degree of raw creative ability within ourselves. Either way, I'm glad I got here and had a lot of fun taking The Journey.Delete
Andrew - This was, by far, the best way to describe what most of my radio show guests have tried to explain to me and my listeners on Authors on the Air radio. What a delightful and thoughtful blog you have written. I look forward to talking to you about this next week on the air.ReplyDelete
Authors on the Air
Looking forward to it as well, Pam!ReplyDelete