Friday, July 20, 2007

De-Toxing Fame

One final word on J.K. Rowling seems necessary, for though I've been critical of her involvement in what I call the "Cheney-fication" of her work, one overriding point to be made about her is that she has dealt admirably with an obscene level of fame.

Rowling has been dropped into a trap more perilous than devil's snare and has not just survived--she in fact stands as a living model of how to endure the assault of fame.

Nevertheless, no one truly thrives under fame's garish glare and noise, because it is, in fact, a poison to the living personality. A casual glance over the landscapes of Hollywood, professional athletics, and the mass media would be sufficient to remove any doubt as to the toxicity of fame.

Rowling's strategy on handling fame has probably been more instinct than calculation: she retreats, she stays in motion, she appoints guardians who keep the media and other hounds at bay, and she defends her private life like a mother bear protecting her cubs.

Though I am not, and never will be famous, I have learned something about fame from observation and inquiry. One secret to working through this issue seems to involve an inner affirmation of recognition over fame. Whenever we avoid the harsh glare of fame, we invite the softer glow of recognition, which is simply the acknowledgement of effort.

This, indeed, was Rowling's original quest when she wrote the first of the Potter books. She sought recognition for her work, and the chance to become free of that lower-middle-class treadmill of subsistence.

As she later admitted, she overshot the target in that respect, but not through any calculation of her own. Maybe a stock trader or a hedge fund manager would set out on his career with the notion of eventually becoming a billionaire; but not an author.

I can speak from experience to this: writers do not wish to be rich, only free. We ask only for enough critical and material recognition to allow us to keep writing, and to follow the star that has guided us through sleepless nights of work and the dark stream of three-line rejection letters from agents and publishers. Most of us sense that fame would only complicate matters and make the work itself hard, which it never is by nature.

So should fame ever be thrust upon you, as the old saying goes, that would be the time to thrust back. Reject it as far as possible, and then retreat as you can. Otherwise, the snare will wrap itself around your creative heart and eventually morph you from an artist into a mere celebrity. There can be no greater tragedy in the creative realm than this.

No comments: