To Thine Own Self Be True – Balderdash?

To Thine Own Self Be True…

…So says Polonius in Hamlet.

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Recently I asked a question of my Facebook readers:

What is the most important life lesson you’ve learned so far?

One reader answered with the somewhat predictable:

“Always be true to yourself first!!”

Hold on…As blogger Nicholas Clairemont said at Big Think: “We are all victims, suffering in vain, alone in our wisdom, against an unfair society that condemns iconoclasts.”

And thus, another chimed in with a response that really struck home:

“Do not blindly follow your heart. While you must always follow your heart and the instinct which tells you what is best for you and yours, know and recognize the potential consequences of those choices. Each decision opens different doors and sometimes the hardest door to walk through may be the one you need.”

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For the majority of my life I lived up to expectations. I did it well. A good daughter, student, a college graduate. A credentialed teacher. Home and family. I was the picture of standard success.

But what did I really want? What was the thing that would make my heart sing? What would drive me from bed in the morning with a spring in my step and keep me up late at night to pursue more and more? What was MY passion?

When I found fiction writing I thought this was IT. It consumed my every thought and minute. My normally well kept house went by the wayside. All resources went into the enormous learning curve involved in the publishing world. I poured heart, soul and time into ‘it’ for these last eight years.

I had found “it”.

…But at what cost?

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The publishing world moves at a snail’s pace–yes.  It can take years to learn craft and be contracted. Did it come too fast/ too easily for me? Was eighteen months from first keystroke to publishing contract too fast? It sure seemed like an eternity to me, but to others who have chased the publishing dream their entire lives, I was the anomaly.

To be published is NOT the key to publishing success. The vast majority of books remain in relative obscurity. There are simply too many–too much ‘noise’ to compete with, to be ‘discovered’. The chances of having a hit are one in a million.

Why do we authors continue? Maybe it is something akin to playing the lottery. You can’t win if you do not play. Some of us, no doubt, go in with rose coloured glasses thinking that this road has the pot of gold at the end. Most, however, this author included–write to be read. We write to move the reader. We write to give life to the ideas and characters in our heads. We write to convey the emotions of life. We write to make a difference in the life of the readers.

We do NOT write to get rich.

This writer has poured eight years of her life into her art–her craft. My family and friends have enjoyed watching my joy, no doubt. To observe the joy of someone on fire with passion, someone you care about is wonderful.

As I look back–did I have the right to use family resources to support my dream? Sure–I had spent all my life supporting others. But did I have the right to claim an unfair share of the family resources for this period of time to play the publishing lottery?

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Should I have tempered my joy and passion with the realities of its repercussions?

Could I have foreseen the crippling effect of the recession or the devastating end of life expenses for my parents? No. Loss after loss has eroded my muse/ my joy.

Is it fate or bad luck that all efforts to stand out in the roaring crowd of authors and new books has met with minimal response? When is it time to throw in the sponge and ‘get real’.

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Most authors have day jobs to pay the bills. Writing fiction is an artistic pursuit and as such, the majority of pursuers will be ‘starving artists’. What gave me the right to ever think differently?


Alas and however, as a wise man once said: “Writing is like a kiss. It takes two.”

Authors cannot kiss alone. And neither can I.

“Do not blindly follow your heart. …know and recognize the potential consequences of those choices. Each decision opens different doors and sometimes the hardest door to walk through may be the one you need.”

The hardest door for me to walk through is to ‘have to’ reenter the work a day work force to pay those pesky bills. Time and energy outside the publishing world.  Reality sucks, but it may be the door through which I NEED to walk. It may be the one my anemic writer’s muse needs. Or it may be the door to something wonderful I cannot foresee.

The cost of some dreams is too high. The consequences too great.

Right now it feels like a whole lot of loss.

Really everything that needs to be said against this platitude was said by the great George Bernard Shaw, who remarked, “Life isn’t about finding yourself; Life is about creating yourself.”

The creation goes on…


What are your dreams? Have you/do you pursue  them with abandon? At what cost?

I love hearing from you. Please leave a comment and be eligible to win a PDF of the story or novel of your choice from my backlist.


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18 Responses to To Thine Own Self Be True – Balderdash?

  1. You are writing from your very soul and I totally agree with you. It’s as though you were telling my story. I began my adult life as a pianist/composer. Eventually the poverty and solitude killed the career and I drifted into teaching. But through teaching, I became an author. So now I’m back to living on the edge except that now I’m married so it takes a lot of the pressure off of me. Writing is a wonderful thing. I love living inside the worlds I create. The characters are so dear to me.

  2. You express the writer’s dilemma very well, Christine. It’s a shame there is a cost to our dreams, but you are a passionate writer, and I’m sure you will create something from all the experiences – good or bad – that life throws at you. I just read this great speech by JK Rowling, who has also had her financial hardships. I thought you might be interested:

    • christinelondon says:

      Helena–such a marvelous speech. One I have not listened to a in a very long time.

      “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

      Thank you for reminding me of it and for passing it on to readers who may not have benefited from Ms Rowlings hard won wisdom.

  3. David Smith says:

    You said that most writers write to be read. Possibly. I’d love to have my writings read, but I write because I can’t NOT write. I have all these characters ramping round in my skull. They have to come out. And, as my wife will testify, on a day when I don’t write I’m very bad company.
    Yes it would be great to be published, to have lots of people reading my efforts. To hit the jackpot and make a load of money from it would be a dream. But to stop writing? Only when the breath leaves this body – and even then I’ll probably turn into a genuine ghost writer 🙂

    • christinelondon says:

      This writing does unclog the spider’s webs in our brains. Cheaper than therapy others have said. Whatever it is—it is truly a ‘must’ to many.

  4. Thank you for your heartfelt thoughts and adult decision to change your life according to your need. You’ve had eight wonderful years of creativity, and I see many more in your future.

    Most folks have to make their passions their hobbies, and we accept that, because, let’s face it, life is about paying bills and feeding our families first. Maslow’s theory for life prevails. When push comes to shove the best thing to do is to meet our basic needs.

    I predict your passion for writing will flourish as you tend to the necessaries, because you are the rebel you are. You will prevail and offer many wonderful books in the future.

    There is room for both creativity and a nine-to-five job, many wonderful authors out there prove it day after day.

    hugs, and you know all I wish is for your success any an endeavor you undertake.

  5. Lea Schizas says:

    Christine, I’m coming in here not only as a writer, but editor and publisher.

    As an editor, the passion to help others perfect their craft is strong…so I remain.

    As a writer, the passion to pen my characters life stories is strong…so I remain.

    As a publisher, the passion to offer an opportunity to writers to see their work published is strong…so I remain.

    Notice one important link…PASSION.

    Notice one other important word…REMAIN.

    Everyone has their own reasons and emotions for either remaining or leaving this world of writing we find ourselves in.

    The old saying ‘don’t quit your day job’ is there because it’s true especially nowadays with so many books releasing each week, as you so stated. To be found among the sand sprinkled vastly in the publishing world is truly a job and a half. Let’s not go far…mention of Rowling above reminds me of how her new book wasn’t selling as much as the house hoped it would until it leaked she was using a pseudonym. Then it jumped to the best sellers list. This alone proves how hard it is for an unknown author to get noticed.

    Earning income is a goal we all try to reach but it’s not easy without having income to fall back on.

    An important aspect for everyone to contemplate is this:

    What do you deem as a ‘successful author’? For me the response would be simplistic for the writer in me: to write with the hopes my words entertains some readers. My success was accomplished as soon as I wrote THE END because there are far too many writers who begin yet never complete their project. So for me, those two words embrace success.

    • christinelondon says:

      Agreed my wise friend Lea. I was a success when I first wrote “The End” and a success beyond imagining when I signed that first contract. And a success when I got that first fan letter. If I never penned another word, I am a successful author in my own eyes. I have a legacy most never even hope to attain. E-books are forever and there are eyes yet unborn that will read my words. Pretty awesome.

      …and now to the ‘real world’ needs. The muse is not deceased—just resting.

  6. Brenna Chase says:

    What a lovely, thoughtful post! Yes, dreams are important–I’d love to have readers smile when they finish something I wrote, to give the same joy to others the writers I’ve read have given to me. But to blindly go without thought of others, or the consequences, I couldn’t do.

  7. Brilliant post Christine. I think creative souls must create or die. I’ve always loved words and creating things so writing became a natural outlet. I’ve dabbled in many artistic modalities and carved, sculpted, sewed, painted, penciled, etc to vent those creative bursts. When I was fifteen I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Forty years passed and little by little my hands just couldn’t do the work they used to. But I can still type! 🙂 My laptop is my canvas now and I paint with words.

    Best luck with your creations.

    • christinelondon says:

      I admire you very much Rose. You have shared your word with real flare and have made the best of limitations. That, my friend, is true courage and creativity.

  8. Jean Lorrah says:

    Christine, I never earned enough from writing to quit my day job–I finally retired from teaching six years ago, after teaching for almost fifty years. But, as many have noted, the characters insist on having their stories written, and I wrote all through that time. No anomaly, I was nearly forty before my first novel was published, but since then I have had a successful career. Do a search on my name on to see.

    Since I retired I have even learned a new form of writing, and now have a screenplay (written with Lois Wickstrom) in preproduction. And the series of Sime~Gen books that Jacqueline Lichtenberg and I write is now being turned into a video game–see for complete information.

    So don’t treat having to get a day job as some kind of tragedy. If you are a writer, you will continue to write. Did you know that on average, at any one time, there are only 1000 freelance writers actually earning a living by writing? And that most of them
    write nonfiction? Welcome to the club of all the rest of us.

  9. Hey, Christine, as others have said, this is a stirring post. I’ve been through those times when I had to leave what I was doing to help bring home the bacon (actually make college payments for daughters. 🙂 ) I didn’t leave writing. I hadn’t begun that part of my life yet. I was a school board member in a large urban district and loved doing that unpaid work. (And I believed I was good at it.) The economy took a turn downward and we were stuck. I went back to teaching. I knew I wouldn’t be able to juggle both for long and didn’t run for re-election. About that time I ran across a card with a waterfall on it and these words. “NEW BEGINNINGS. In life what sometimes appears to be the end is really a New Beginning.” I found that to be true. Though that was many years ago, the small framed card still sits in easy view as I sit here typing at my computer. I certainly hope you will find the same is true for you.

  10. Leona Pence says:

    A very thought-provoking post, Christine. Since I didn’t start writing until late in life, I haven’t had to worry about the same type of things you mentioned. Writing became my way of coping after my husband of forty-four years died from lung cancer. My four children were all grown and in homes of their own.

    I believe all those doors in life that we pass through, either willingly or reluctantly, are meant to be, are part of who we become. If somebody had told me a few years back that I’d have a novel published at my ripe old age, I’d have called them crazy.

    I’m sure you have a lot of characters fussing to get out of your mind and into your next book. A lot can be written in one hour a day. You’re a very good writer with a lot of years to make your dreams happen.

    Best wishes and lots of luck in whatever you do.

    • christinelondon says:

      Thank you for sharing your journey Leona. I am so sorry to hear of your husband’s passing and so very impressed with your later life journey to publication. How healing this writing can be. Much more success to you and your writing. 🙂

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