For all that authors are often shy and reclusive people, authoring comes in no small part from a desire to be heard, paid attention to. It’s probably not just an author issue – any activity with the potential to bring fame and fortune carries the attraction of our being important. Being a parent makes you a god in a small person’s life for a while. Status, in all its various forms, is something humans tend to care about. But how much status? How important do we need to be?
At the other end of the scale there’s the issue that if we aren’t important at all, we may be excluded. There will be no room for us at the table. There are a lot of practical reasons to fear this, as well as the social implications of being outside the tribe.
So here I am, with a pile of books I’ve written, and this blog, waving myself about on assorted social media. Much of it comes from a desire to be useful, some of it may have more to do with a desire for importance. This is something I’ve thought about a lot, not least because I’ve noticed that my desire for importance is reducing, not growing, and this I find interesting.
I think the hunger for importance and feelings of insecurity go hand in hand. At the times in my life when I’ve made the most effort to take on roles that would give me a veneer of importance, I was not in a good place. The more insecure I’ve felt, the more deliberately I’ve sought the attention and affirmation of others. It’s not a mad or unreasonable response to try and sure up what feels fragile and unstable. It’s when the books aren’t selling that I watch the blog stats. Some of this is because ‘importance’ has a value. Important Druids are more likely to be offered paying gigs, more likely to sell books. We exist in a culture that values celebrity and equates fame with worth, and therefore to appear important is to have a worth that often brings direct financial benefits. It’s easy to get really caught up in this kind of thing, especially when you’re struggling for money and feel close to the edge of viability.
My life has changed a lot over the last few years. I’m more financially secure now than I have ever previously been. I’m more emotionally secure than I have ever previously been. The core of my life is a stable home and family unit where I feel safe, valued, and mostly on top of things. It matters less that I’m a long way down most other people’s priority lists. It matters less that other people sell more books and get more attention. Being viable, not being hard pressed and anxious, it is easier to think about how I can be of value and not worry about what comes of that. It’s easier to focus on the few people who enjoy what I create rather than get distressed at a lack of worldly success.
This process has made me think somewhat differently about how other people approach opportunities to be important. There’s the desire to lead, guide, give and nurture on one side, but on the other there’s the need to prove something, a hunger that comes from trying to offset a lack. From the outside it can be hard to work out which is which, but it’s worth considering that people who seem most interested in their own importance can have all kinds of things going on that would be perhaps better dealt with through kindness than by taking them down a peg or two and so making the underlying issues that bit worse.