Bellybutton And All
I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Laura Munson this weekend, and the author of This is Not the Story You Think it Is gave me some astute advice, most notably: Everyone has a bellybutton. This is apropos to Laura because she had spent twenty years writing – and not selling – fourteen novels before authoring her breakout bestselling memoir. Like a lot of writers, those twenty years in the publishing wilderness were spent squinting at that distant spec of light called “success.” Or so she thought. Because now, by a writer’s definition, she is a success. That is, she got a good advance, she found herself on Good Morning America, and she is being asked to speak all over the country. Success, right? But soon after we’d met she stopped me as if we could not take another step or speak another word until she had shared the following: “Bill, I got it,” she declared. ”There is no such thing as success!”
To some people this is defeat. To Laura, and to me, this is pure victory. First, because of the sudden attention she and her book have attracted, Laura now finds herself in some fairly distinguished company – at least by literary standards. And all these Great Writers she is getting to meet do indeed have bellybuttons, just as you do. Secondly, she is still Laura. She is who she always has been and hopefully always will be.
There is nothing in the world wrong with wanting to sell your work, or have lots of readers, or make plenty of money. Except none of those things, as you have often heard, will make you happy – but what you may not have heard is that to think they will actually draws you away from the very source of your happiness.
To place your would-be happiness out on the horizon is to condemn yourself to wanting and wandering. So romantic to glimpse it and yearn for it, but happiness can only be postponed for so long before life reveals this yearning for what it actually is: fear. Fear that this, this life we stand in now at this moment, bellybutton and all, is actually all that life ever is or was. Fear that it should be more. And it will be more – at the exact moment you accept that life has always been more than wanting, and that success is not some destination but the grace to allow through what you have always known.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.