Tip #17 in the “Art of War for Writers” from James Scott Bell is: “Stay hungry”.
It’s a bit of a sobering read. Most of us writers climbing Publication Mountain have the thought that getting to the top is when at last we’ll “arrive”, and never have to worry another day in our lives.
Not so fast, says Bell. “Most writers think getting published is the key to the Kingdom. We have arrived in a literary Valhalla to take our place among the gods of print…It’s all an illusion, of course. There is no Valhalla. It’s more like a dusty Barnes & Noble. And whatever shelf space we have can dry up in an instant.”
He shares of writing friends who were dumped by their publishers and others who can’t get a contract though they write award-winning novels.
Part of me wants to say, “Yah shore ya betcha, Mr. Bell. Easy for you to say, looking at us peasants from the other side of the fence.” But intuitively, even Scripturally, I know he’s right. If fame is the goal, then our pursuit of art is all wrong. (Right now, I’ll just settle for security. Enough provision so I can live to fight – and write – to live another day.)
The Bible is filled with warnings about how quickly life can turn on us, and if we don’t have our eyes on the right things, we will end up empty and in despair. “Seek first the kingdom…” Jesus stressed.
And for the artist? Well, it’s about the art, isn’t it? You paint, because you love to paint. You make music because it brings joy to your soul. You write because you come alive when you put words together in a magical way that touches the heart.
You paint, because you love to paint. You make music because it brings joy to your soul.
Bell quotes a famous screenwriter from the 1940s, Preston Sturges, who seeing the fleeting nature of Hollywood success said, “When the last dime is gone, I’ll sit on the curb with a pencil and a ten-cent notebook and start the whole thing all over again.”
I think that’s what it means to stay hungry.