Daily prompt: Chance would be a fine thing…

Daily Prompt
A Bookish Choice
A literary-minded witch gives you a choice: with a flick of the wand, you can become either an obscure novelist whose work will be admired and studied by a select few for decades, or a popular paperback author whose books give pleasure to millions. Which do you choose?

The second. No question.

But we all know there are no free lunches, and the problem for me would be that selling millions of copies presupposes I’ve been out there yakking and gladhanding and all those other things I’m supremely bad at, which is about as likely as a mole joining a performing circus. All very well to run off at the mouth here, where you’re all worlds away and neither know nor care who I am. Something else again to leave the safety of my mole hole and add a person to the mouth.

But that aside – assuming the witch can deal with it one way or the other…

I’m not some altruistic literary Mother Theresa. I’m selfish. I write first and foremost because I like doing it. It makes me happy. And I want people to read what I’ve written because ultimately, filling the computer’s hard drive with private blathering isn’t enough. If you’re saying something, you want people to listen. If you’re writing, you want them to read. And how do I want them to feel when they read? Involved, connected, happy, sad… Part of the story. As I’m feeling when I write it.

Reading has been my first port of call for as long as I can remember. My mental panacea. It’s my entertainment…comfort…company…refuge… And while I’m selfish, I’m not hoggish. If I can produce something that does half that for other people, then I’ll feel I’ve achieved something. (Which is selfish again: don’t we all want to feel we’ve achieved something?)

So writing for the erudite and largely cerebral few doesn’t appeal to me. But on the other hand, I have Standards, I hope. All the best-sellers in the world wouldn’t overcome the mortification of knowing I’d done a sloppy job on the writing.


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10 Responses to Daily prompt: Chance would be a fine thing…

  1. Fran Macilvey says:

    Dear Helen

    You know, this witch is a happy thought, so why introduce realism here to spoil it? To continue with the witch’s wand idea, there could be lots of readers would be drawn to you by your lovely writing, which would promote itself; and you would employ lots of willing helpers who could – of course! – manage to find you lots of free lunches. Let your imagination fly, honey! xx 🙂

  2. “If you’re saying something, you want people to listen. If you’re writing, you want them to read.”


  3. “Mole joining a performing circus!!!!” How I understand that. I lean towards number one choice while understanding the appeal of mass popularity. But I think of Elizabeth Taylor, Angela Thirkell, Eva Ibbotson…..and that would be awfully charming company.

  4. ashokbhatia says:

    Good thought. Give me the first one any time!

  5. Popularity doesn’t mean you have to write badly. Hopefully, if we got that kind of opportunity, we would be able to write something worth reading. That fairy can drop by ANY time. I’m almost ready.

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