This month’s issue features an interview with New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin. If it were accurate, I would of course refer to her as the #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Giffin, but as of this writing Giffin has never climbed higher than #2 on that weekly ranking. I would not mention these numbers except for a recent Internet kerfuffle involving Emily, Facebook, Amazon reviewers, and Emily’s husband, all of which began with her rather benign observation that just once she would like to crack that #1 spot. For those of you whose books have never made it onto The List, or for that matter have yet to publish a book at all, withhold your judgment. Authors quickly find themselves swimming in all kinds of numbers: advances, Amazon rankings, sales, reading attendance, words-per-day, royalties, and yes, highest spot on The List and weeks spent there. The math of life says that all these numbers absolutely must add up to something. Why else have them? Why else write them all down?
But what can they mean? You get to number one this week, and next week James Patterson has published fourteenth book this month and he’s number one. Who’s the real number one? Or the real number two, three, four, or twenty-five? These are the sorts of questions that can devour a life.
Yet how tempting to try and answer them, offering as they do the siren song of proof—proof of our value. If a writer is very honest she will admit that within her is something of unquestionable value, something desiring expression the same as a tree desires to grow. Translate this value accurately and you feel your first success. This is a success that has no number. It is the only success you will ever truly know, the only success you will understand, and the only success whose value remains as incalculable as you.
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