Blog,  Creativity,  Writing

Blog 5.20.24

Being ‘mid’ is supposed to be an insult, or so I’m told. This kind of hierarchical bullshit rating system has plagued me for my entire life. I remember when I was a teenager, the boys would refer to girls as numbers (between 1-10). Then the internet came along and we had sites like “Hot or Not” – basically dismissing anyone who wasn’t considered ‘top tier’ in the looks department. In our society, which is based on hyperactive levels of competitiveness and the myth of meritocracy, we actually assign moral value to people who are considered physically, intellectually, socially, economically and/or artistically ‘at the top’.

But I’m here to preach a different gospel today, friends. I’m here to tell you that striving for ‘mid’ is not only worthwhile, it’s actually essential for a happy life. Because the truth is, we’re all mid. Oh sure, occasionally you’ll get someone who is born to write symphonies while they’re still in diapers, but for the most part, anyone who appears to live on Mount Olympus is a ‘winner’ because they are average people who just happen to have of a combination of four things: luck, hard work, privilege and the ‘smoke-and-mirrors’ industries that can turn anyone with a modicum of talent into a superstar. (I’m looking at you, J. Lo.) So, to go through life deluded by dreams of stardom – whether you achieve it or not – is to go through life ignoring the reality of who you are. And all that ‘love’ that people seem to want to throw at you when you’re a big name? That’s not love. That’s them, looking for you to reflect their own dreams and desires back to them. Try stepping a toe out of line and contradicting public sentiment and see what happens.

Are famous people really happier than the rest of us? Survey says no, actually. In fact, the rich and famous have all the same problems as the rest of us, but with the added “benefit” of having millions of people up in their business at all times, threatening, stalking, commenting on their appearance and their personal lives, and trying to exploit any connection they have with them. Just ask Tim Ferris.

This morning, my writing partner and I were talking about how important it is to come to terms with reality – as a writer, but also, just as a person. How we’re born into a society that not only facilitates, but demands that we constantly strive to be ‘more’ than we are. It tells us that we need to improve before we’re even old enough to know ourselves. We internalize this nonsense, because along with it comes the promise of love, adoration and acceptance. Who doesn’t want that?

I read this piece from LitHub last week and it resonated with me. This author has embraced her ‘mid-list’ status, and isn’t afraid to tell the world. I admire that. Largely, I suspect, because I am not destined for literary stardom, myself. And yet. I want to be a professional novelist. Not so I can go on talk shows or be quoted as a meme, but because this is the work I love to do. And really, what more could someone ask for besides being able to earn a living at work that they love to do?

Anything else – notoriety, fame, fortune, influence – these things aren’t important to me. (Well, I wouldn’t mind having a fortune, but I’m ok with my middle class existence.) The point being, if you can make a living with your art, why do you need more than that? I hear people all the time talking about how horrible capitalism is, and very few of them advocating for living simpler, more modest lives. Once you make it past poverty into the middle class, its almost a requirement to have goals of greatness that push you to keep ‘investing in yourself’ and ‘curating your brand’ – or whatever. What’s wrong with just being good?

Look, I admire many famous writers. But it’s important to remember that a great deal of them became famous posthumously and while alive, they lived a normal existence. There are a lot of non-famous writers I admire, too. People whose names aren’t easily recognizable, but who are writing good fiction and putting it out into the world. As far as I’m concerned, this is a good goal to have. Anything else that comes along is just icing on a very tasty box cake.

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