This is Post #100, and my goodness: how that little number has kept me from writing all week. I keep thinking, “It’s number one hundred! It’s special! Therefore, I need to make something special of it!”
Well. A quote has been simmering in my head ever since I read it weeks ago; now seems as good a time as any to share it with you guys. This little excerpt is part of a much longer interview with Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time-Traveler’s Wife. The question is in regards to her sizable advance for her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry.
Q: How does that amount of money change your writing life?
A: …Back in the ’90s, I started going to artist colonies. The one I go to most is Ragdale. I remember the first time I ever went to Ragdale, and I was just like, Oh my…I’m going to get up today and I’m going to do what I want. I’m going to make stuff. And it was such a fantastic feeling to own your own day. You know, nobody was going to tell me what to do that day. And I thought, that’s what I aspire to, just to be in control of your time. So there was a point a couple of years ago where I suddenly realized I had achieved control over my day. And that was really exciting. So from that point on it’s all pretty much the same: the freedom to make what you want when you want. And I think that’s just what we’re all looking for is that kind of liberty.
– from the November/December 2009 issue of Writer’s Digest | click here to read the full interview
Her answer caught me off guard when I read it. From someone who has achieved what so many writers aspire to — publication, loads of people who have read and enjoyed her work (though ‘overnight success’ came only after many years of hard work and twentyish agent rejections), a huge advance for her second novel — this quote carried a lot of weight for me.
After all of this, it sounds like she’s most satisfied with freedom, liberty, control of the way she spends her time.
I think this is an amazing reminder to those of us who are still on the opposite end of the “success” spectrum (whatever that means; I guess I mean the way success is commonly perceived, i.e. sales and popularity and money). The money is satisfying to her because it buys her more time to do what she already loves to do: create.
Niffenegger’s wisdom inspires me to appreciate what I have, right now. To enjoy each moment spent creating — whether those moments add up to eight hours a day or eight hours a month. To not say “I’ll be happy when ____” but to drink in the experience as it happens. To not wish for a day when I’ll be rich, or popular, or Queen of the Bestseller List, under the deluded idea that these things in and of themselves are a source of lasting, deep, inner happiness. Because they’re not. You can have all these things but still be utterly discontent, hungry for more, anxious and unsatisfied. All of this reminds me of a verse in Ecclesiastes¹ that says, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This, too, I see is from the hand of God.”
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against popularity and money and sales and all the things that could come from the love of creation, and diligent work applied to that creation. I’ve just been thinking about motivation behind my time spent creating, and a realistic perspective of the grass that looks so green on the “successful” side of the fence. That no matter what happens today or in the future, I can take joy in this day, and the freedom I have to create.
Just thought I’d share that with you, since it inspired me to love what I do, even more, as I do it.
¹Taken from the NIV translation of the Bible, it’s from Chapter 2 verse 24.