Came across the following quote on another blog.
“Lifetimes seldom fill a hundred years
why suffer for profit and fame”
- Shih-Wu (1272-1352)
It instantly reminded me of a post Brad Warner made about six months ago, in which he says the following:
I have chosen to try to make my living through my art, to be a professional writer and to devote myself to that craft rather than doing it as a side business. I am also a Zen teacher, but that's something I do for the love of doing it rather than to make money. Yet I write to make money. I don't have any qualms about this fact and I have made it clear on numerous occasions.
In order to make your living as an artist you need to be famous. No two ways about it. In order to earn as much from any kind of artistic pursuit as even the lowest level worker in any office or factory you have to spend a whole bunch of time effort and energy on promotion. So, yes, I pursue fame. But I pursue it not for the sake of being famous, which is mainly a pain in the ass. I pursue fame for the sake of making it possible to earn a decent living as a professional artist. And, as I just said, this has involved taking a massive pay cut. If you're thinking of pursuing a career as a writer, do not do it for the cash.
As a writer who has made almost nothing financially on his writing (a single $5 check), I do sometimes wonder about these kinds of questions. I'd love to have much work out there, have a few books published and get read by some people. And I'm also the opposite from Brad in that I'm not a big self-promoter, nor do I have any interest in "pursuing fame." Nether approach seems very smart in the end, though, as far as I'm concerned. This pursuit of fame business seems fraught with pitfalls. On the other hand, simply having my writing land anonymously in slush pile after slush pile hasn't exactly produced much, other than a healthy collection of rejection letters. What's interesting is that the longer I have practiced Zen (and yoga), the less drive I have towards being a famous writer. It's not something I aspire to anymore.
And yet, maybe one can have the passion to write, be published and read - to be heard and maybe have some little impact on others through "word creativity" - without that passion being tied to fame and fortune. I do think it's possible. What I find so troubling about the pursuit of fame, as artist (I write and I take photos), is the blur of motivation. How can you remain sincere, honest, thoughtful, and truly open creatively when you are also trying to please people, piss people off, get certain people's attention, etc.? Maybe it's possible, but I highly doubt it.
But let's face it: Shih-Wu is also asking us with his quote: What are you going to do with this precious life which goes so quickly?
No matter what, if you loose sight of questions like this one, you're going to slide away from the heart of this life. And that, even if it's surrounded by piles of adoration and money, is very sad.