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.

46 responses to “A reminder about what really matters”

  1. Raquel Avatar

    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 Avatar

    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 Avatar

    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. Sherrie Petersen Avatar

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

  5. Sonje Avatar

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

  6. Shari Avatar

    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 Avatar

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

  8. Jon Avatar

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

  9. Juliann Wetz Avatar

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

  10. Joelle Wilson Avatar

    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 Avatar

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

  12. Stephanie Mooney Avatar

    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 Avatar

    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. Andrew Fukuda Avatar

    Agree! Great post.

  15. Liz Czukas Avatar

    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 Avatar

    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. Stephanie Perkins Avatar

    Wonderful. This is wonderful.

  18. Myra McEntire Avatar

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

    Thank you. Thank you so much.

  19. Valia Avatar

    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. Rebecca Enzor Avatar

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

  21. Jennifer Avatar

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

  22. Jenny Avatar

    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 Avatar

    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. Samantha Willis Avatar

    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 Avatar

    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. Lisa T. Bergren Avatar

    Perfectly said. Thank you.

  27. Amanda Kendle Avatar

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

  28. K. Marie Criddle Avatar

    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. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    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. jennie englund Avatar
  31. Kristan Avatar

    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. :)

  32. […] “A reminder about what really matters”  http://kristanhoffman.com/2011/11/14/a-reminder-about-what-really-matters/ (W/ an assist from Disney!) – @kristanhoffman (Kristan […]

  33. terri tiffany Avatar

    Loved this! Thank you for this reminder!

  34. Susan Kaye Quinn Avatar

    Perfect. And thank you. :)

  35. Rebecca Bloomer Avatar

    Wonderful! I’m keeping that!

  36. Elissa J. Hoole Avatar

    Really nice perspective!

  37. Elissa J. Hoole Avatar

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

  38. Pseudo Avatar

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

  39. Christa Avatar

    Yes! Perfect. And very well-adapted.

  40. Krispy Avatar

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

  41. […] dont’ get overwhelmed about how you measure up, Kristan Hoffman gets down to the heart of writing, reminding us about what really […]

  42. Coleen Patrick Avatar

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

  43. […] Kristan Hoffman – Writing Dreams Into Reality (that title says it all about her blog). Awesome blog to check […]

  44. Jayne Avatar

    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. ;)

  45. Bilal Kamoon Avatar

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