I guess not everyone likes me. I guess not everyone likes my writing. I guess somebody who liked me or liked my writing doesn't like me anymore. I don't know who it is. Two days ago, I had 20 followers, then I had 19.
I hadn't studied the followers closely enough to figure who it was who dropped me, but when I find them...No, really. I have to be honest: I'm bummed. But I'm also unsurprised. Not that I don't like myself or my writing, although those feelings surface at many moments throughout the day, but because I myself am not a follower of too many blogs, of others' blather. Would that I could but there don't seem to be enough hours in the day even though I am down to a mere four or five hours of sleep. I will chalk it up to that, to this person being busy, to not being able to keep up with reading my constant stream of thoughts, regardless of how fabulous those thoughts might be...
It mocks me, though, seeing that 19 where once there were 20. Even 20 isn't nearly enough, I had thought, but one less? Then, I thought, what is enough? How different would I feel if I had 1,000 or 2,000 followers? If I had 2 million and then it dropped down to 1,999,999, would I be just as bummed?
I remember listening one night to Kyra Sedgwick on Jimmy Kimmel Live at my in-laws back in September talking about being invited to a dinner with Obama. She felt great, totally cool and awesome to be invited to have an audience with the president, albeit with a crowd. It showed, of course, that she had arrived.
Well, she said, she never did get very close to Obama. And then, from another door, she saw arrive a whole slew of celebrities, among them her friend Tom Cruise.
"Wasn't Obama great?" he said.
"Um, I never talked to him," she said.
"Oh," Tom said. "Weren't you at cocktails?"
No, she had responded sheepishly, she hadn't been invited to cocktails... There had, apparently, been an A list and a B list and she had been on the B list. I mean, it was a pretty high-level B list, granted, one most people would never get to be on, but still. For her, it was a slap. She then told another story of being figuratively slapped later in the evening by A-lister Demi Moore who said, in the course of a conversation about creating a website or a Twitter name, I can't recall, "Well, of course, your actual name will be taken...but you get something close."
Ms. Sedgwick recalled with candor going straight home and attempting, first, to get her own name. There it was, untaken by any would-be worshippers. Bummer. B-list, again.
I took her point. She wasn't whining, really, she was just being honest. Fame alone won't get you there. You could always be MORE famous, on MORE magazine covers, MORE in demand. I feel that way every time I check the stats on my blog. On the one hand, I feel happy as hell that anyone out there is putting in the time to read what I have to say, that I have the nerve to even put it out there. And yet, on other days, I feel like a complete dope that my endeavors, after nearly a year, have brought me only a few handfuls of "fans" daily.
I fear it will always be this way. That's life. If I publish a book, or two, or a hundred, if I somehow jettison to fame and fortune, it will still be this way. I am under no grand illusions. You are only as good as you feel about today's project. That is why it's important to keep working, to keep striving, to keep trying, to make your goals more general than fixed. Goals have to be about how you can keep yourself feeling good, not just how you gain outward acknowledgment.
Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet, touched on this back in 1903. He wrote to the young man desperate for his and others' approval of his work:
You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
Such advice both buoys and stymies me. It is much easier said than done but it cannot be otherwise. You can only move forward to where you want to go on your own momentum, not on the fleeting momentum that others might bring. The gold star can only work if you let it, if you feel deserving inside yourself.
Meanwhile, as I try myself to find myself deserving, please consider becoming a follower:)