(day 23): contradictory feelings

On being ambitious and content at the same time

(day 23): contradictory feelings
Photo by Yente Van Eynde on Unsplash

Off late, D has been asking me about fame.

He once mentioned he'd like to grow up and become an author and write a series of books that would make him famous.

A few days ago, he suggested to me that I could get my books into the local library's bookshelves, so that lots of people would read them and I'd become famous.

My response to him was "I write because I love writing, not because I want to be famous. Fame is something that's not in my hands."

Two days later, I realized that my words had been utter nonsense! Total bullshit!

Heck, I want to be famous! Of course, I want to be famous. I want thousands, if not millions, of people to read my books so that I may make a living writing and selling books.

The writing part could perhaps happen in complete obscurity, although seeing how much I've been reaching out to my writing community off late, I doubt one could sit in a cave and keep typing book after book for years on end.

Who knows?! Perhaps there is somebody like that out there; it takes all kinds to make a world.

But the selling and making a living part doesn't happen in isolation. Anything that entails engagement with other people cannot happen in isolation.

It was yesterday, on Saturday evening, when we were hanging out with friends and I was telling them how hard I often find it to keep going, especially when rewards are hard to come by.

I admitted aloud that I want all the adulation and the awards, I'm not content with meagre sales anymore. I want all those material rewards that will motivate me to write more.

And they were quick to understand how I felt and acknowledge how hard it is to keep going when you don't see the kind of rewards you wish to reap.

Later, I read this lovely article about ambition in last week's newsletter from Ghost.

This had appeared in last week's newsletter, which I hadn't read properly. So imagine my surprise when there was no weekly newsletter from Ghost in my inbox this morning.

A little digging around led to me last week's edition in which Ghost had given a heads-up about not sending a newsletter this week owing to an organization-wide event. I had completely missed the memo.

Anyway, so last week's newsletter had a link to an article on ambition by writer, podcast host, and writing tutor, David Perell.

Ambition breeds a particular kind of frustration, and the more ambitious you are, the larger it looms. Without like-minded peers, ambitious people become suffocated by life — chained by tall poppy syndrome and the dogmas of complacency.
As social creatures, humans need to feel validated by their peers in order to go all in on who they are. We become like the people around us, so it’s hard to sustain ambition in a complacent environment. This is why actors move to Hollywood, musicians move to Nashville, and basically every podcaster/biohacker/Internet-writer type lives inside a twelve-mile radius in Austin, Texas.
~ David Perell

I had never looked at it this way. I thought actors moved to Hollywood in search of more opportunities, but somehow I hadn't equated that to ambition in my mind.

Of course, you go seeking more opportunities when you are ambitious in the first place, duh!

When I went out for a walk this morning, it occurred to me that it's perfectly alright for me to want fame, especially through my writings.

For a long time, I haven't been able to achieve the goals I had wished to, and to curb that disappointment I had convinced myself that ambition is a bad word.

Because, to me, being ambitious meant I was discontent, and somehow that was a strict no-no! Because gosh, am I not a spiritual person? Which means shouldn't I be present and content with whatever is there in my life at present?

What utter bullshit!

Why was I tamping down my ambition thus?

Was I afraid to put in the work? Perhaps.

Was I afraid of failure, and the countless disappointments I'd meet en route to success? Definitely.

Today I understand the meaning of the words: With great freedom comes great responsibility.

When we are free to choose how we spend our time, we are responsible for the choices we make.

When we are free to choose what kind of food to put in our mouths, we are responsible for the choices we make.

When we have plenty of money and are free to choose how to spend it, we are responsible for the choices we make.

I have always wanted the freedom, but when I had it, I've often squandered it.

And there's almost always an element of fear involved in these decisions.

This morning, I was quite overwhelmed at the thought of the countless little things I have on my agenda.

This being a one-person operation is causing me a lot of frustration when it comes to managing the nitty-gritties of self-publishing and promoting my works.

In the past, I've often let go of writing time to accommodate other life events. Those decisions, while gratifying in the short-term, almost always lead to frustration sooner or later.

And this is the cycle I remain stuck in.

I'm tempted to end this post with a bunch of to-dos, like wake up at 5:30 AM and exercise. Or should I wake up at 4 AM and write first? Or should I wake up at 3 AM, so that I have gotten both writing and exercise done before anyone else at home wakes up?

I don't know.

But one thing I've learnt today, is that it is perfectly OK for me to be ambitious and also be happy where I am.
It is perfectly OK for me to want fame and also enjoy my place in this world, however obscure, at this point in time.
It is perfectly OK for me to love writing and also feel frustrated at the lack of progress I'm currently making in my manuscript or the slow progress I'm making in terms of sales in the outside world.
It is perfectly OK to have love and also feel longing at the same time, no matter how much love we have.

One of my favourite lines from Christopher Pike's Thirst series goes as follows:

"Krishna means love," she said. "But Radha means longing. Longing is older than love. I am older than he. Did you know that, Sita?"
~ Thirst No. 1 by Christopher Pike

So here's to ambition, and here's to finding ways to fulfil that ambition without losing my sanity in the process!