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?


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.


  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. 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. 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. Excellent perspective. Just getting to the point where people (besides friends!) are reading my books will be a good thing :)

  5. Sonje says:

    If you’re writing for external rewards, you probably won’t be writing for long.

  6. 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 :)

  7. Trisha says:

    I still can’t believe he forwarded an internet quiz. Or that he read it in the first place.

  8. Jon says:

    Such a refreshing perspective, thanks for sharing the “quiz,” whether written by Schulz or not.

  9. Juliann Wetz says:

    Charles Schulz could not have put it better. Thanks for the words of encourgaement, Kristan!

  10. 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.”

  11. Margot says:

    Awesome post Kristan. Really puts things into perspective, huh!

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. Agree! Great post.

  15. Liz Czukas says:

    I really really needed this right now.

    Thank you, Kristan.

    Also, now I totally want to know the answers to the first set of questions.

    – Liz

  16. 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.

  17. Wonderful. This is wonderful.

  18. I just put my head down on my desk and cried.

    Thank you. Thank you so much.

  19. 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!

  20. Wow. This is perfect. Just perfect. Passing it on to all the writers I know!

  21. Jennifer says:

    i’m scrambling for my pen. right. now.

  22. Jenny says:

    What a wonderful reminder! And it couldn’t come at a better time for me. I needed to read this. Thank you for posting.

  23. Sue Roebuck says:

    This has had the biggest impact on me. Just what I need to hear right now too. I hope you don’t mind but I shared it on FaceBook

  24. This was a great article, very encouraging to non-millionaire writers everywhere! Thinking of the answers to the second quiz made me smile :)

  25. 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.

  26. Perfectly said. Thank you.

  27. Ah, well worth clicking over. Fantastic point and beautifully made.

  28. Seriously so beautiful, Kristan. Thank you for the reminder! I will not be swamped by things that don’t matter, I will not be…

  29. 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.

  30. 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. :)

  31. Loved this! Thank you for this reminder!

  32. Perfect. And thank you. :)

  33. Wonderful! I’m keeping that!

  34. Really nice perspective!

  35. (though I still can’t seem to manage to answer the second set of questions…maybe I’m actually braindead, haha!)

  36. Pseudo says:

    This IS an amazing post Kristin. I love when someone can give me a new and welcome perspective like that. Thank-you.

  37. Christa says:

    Yes! Perfect. And very well-adapted.

  38. Krispy says:

    Way to put things in perspective! Thank you for this post and for sharing this philosophy. It’s amazing, and so, so true.

  39. This is a great post–had to put a link to it in my blog today. Thanks!! :)

  40. 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. ;)

  41. Bilal Kamoon says:

    I liked how you changed the original philosophy and made it about books (:

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