A reminder about what really matters

A few days ago, my dad forwarded me an email titled “the Charles Schulz philosophy.” Now, snopes.com has informed me that Charles Schulz did not in fact come up with this little exercise, but it’s still a good one. So I decided to adapt it for us writers.

(Big thanks to Disney for all the characters who read!)

There are two “quizzes” below. Scroll slowly and read carefully to get the full effect. Note: It’s okay if you don’t know all the answers, just keep going.

1. Who are the 3 wealthiest writers in the world?
2. Who are the last 3 winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature?
3. Who are the last 3 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction?
4. What are 5 of the “Top 10 Best Books” of last year?
5. What’s the latest book on shelves that was signed for a 7-figure deal?

How many did you get?

The point is, few of us remember the headliners of yesterday. And these are no second-rate achievers — they are at the top of our field. But the applause dies, accolades are forgotten, and the “crown” is passed on.

Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. Who are your 3 favorite authors?
2. What are the last 3 books that made you laugh or cry?
3. What are the last 3 books that inspired you?
4. Which 5 books do you most frequently recommend?
5. What’s the last book that you stayed up until the wee hours of the night reading?

Easier?

The lesson: The books and authors who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that you connected with, the ones that moved you on the merit of their prose, characters and stories. Not the ones that someone told you were good or worthy. Because the success given by others is never as enduring as the success bestowed by our own hearts.

Keep that in mind as you check your Twitter stream and learn that so-and-so has a new agent or just got a big deal. Keep that in mind when you read publishing blogs and see the latest award nominations or starred reviews. Keep that in mind when you’re on Facebook and your feed is filled with posts about book tours and movie rights.

And then put everything out of mind when you’re sitting down to write. Because that’s your time, your space, your joyful play with the characters that you love and the world that you’ve built. Let nothing get in the way.

46 thoughts on “A reminder about what really matters

  1. Raquel says:

    Thanks for the reminder. And it’s absolutely true– although prestige and recognition are nice, that’s not what it’s about. For me, I want to live joyously and touch peoples’ hearts through my creative work. Everything else is icing.

  2. Jessica Baverstock says:

    I loved this post (and the pictures)!

    I think this is where it’s good to remember that our work has a niche, and it’s far better to have a small group of people who love your work, than a large group of people who are following a trend. The large group will move on when the next trend comes. The small group will stick with you through thick and thin. I know which type I’d prefer to have around.

  3. T. S. Bazelli says:

    I was just thinking about that this morning! It’s so easy to get focused on exterior markers for success, when all that stuff really doesn’t matter. Thanks for reminding me why I do this ;)

  4. Shari says:

    I’ve read the original version of this and loved it. Your adaptation strikes home in a very real, very inspiring way. Getting to connect with books, characters, and the authors who make them come alive is – and this may sound corny, but I believe it’s true – a special kind of magic. Thanks for showing us that through your own gift of words :)

  5. Joelle Wilson says:

    Thank you Kristan for posting this today. Your words gave me a new view of my writing.

    Especially this part, “And then put everything out of mind when you’re sitting down to write. Because that’s your time, your space, your joyful play with the characters that you love and the world that you’ve built. Let nothing get in the way.”

  6. Stephanie Mooney says:

    I love this post! It really puts things back into perspective.

    I think you’re right. There’s something magical about telling a story and sharing it with other people. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that.

  7. Meghan Ward says:

    This is a wonderful post, Kristan! A great reminder for me, too, who is about to send my ms out on submission. Eek! Scary! I haven’t forgotten your Amazon review, by the way. Will get to it this week!

  8. maine character says:

    This is perfect, and perfectly done.

    Heck, I can’t even remember who won the Super Bowl last year.

    What matters is what moves us, personally – whether it’s watching the big game with the family or sitting alone with a notebook, working on a story only we can tell. And that’s open to everyone.

  9. Valia says:

    Thank you so much for this! Today has been one of those days when I doubt everything that I am as a writer. This post helped to remind me that what I write is who I am not what others say I am. I really appreciate you sharing this!

  10. Amy Denim says:

    This really was a great post. Loved the adaptation. We all oooh, and aaww when we see big headlines about book deals and authors, and most of us secretly wish that will be us someday. It really can crowd up the mind when we are trying to write.
    Thanks,
    –A

  11. Anthony Lee Collins says:

    Great post. I remember when I was in bands, some musicians always wanted to go for gimmicky promotions and show-biz stuff, and then we’d ask them, “Yes, but do you actually _like_ bands that do that stuff? What bands really move you, and why?” and it was never the bands with the gimmicks.

  12. Kristan says:

    I had responded individually to some people, but when my website crashed, I lost my own comments (b/c they don’t get emailed to me). So I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone for reading, spreading the word, and commenting. I’m really glad this resonated with folks. :)

  13. Jayne says:

    Oh, so well said. Thanks for that exercise and reminder. Even if it wasn’t Schultz who said it, it sure sounds like him. Now it sounds like you, too. ;)

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