Fame. What is it good for?
In this article we take a writerly exploration of fame.
Many of us want to famous but how good is fame, really?
Two powerful ways to gain fame include starting a new religion of love, pacifism, and unity or leading your country to war with everyone. Unfortunately, these tend to be good ways to get killed too.
What is fame?
widespread reputation, especially of a favourable character; renown; public eminence
Fame is the ability to stand out, get attention, and then keep that attention.
Which means you need something that is unique and valued by others. At the very least talking about you must offer value to others.
Do this right and your fame will open doors. It will also close other doors.
Fame will not fix your insecurities
The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.
Robert Hughes, Modernism’s Patriarch (Time Magazine, June 10, 1996)
One of the lies that social media can create is that by becoming popular you will stop feeling insecure. If you can just get moire likes – more fame – you will learn to stop doubting yourself.
The truth is that with fame comes more self-doubt and more insecurity. If you are looking for fame because you hope it will fix something in your life – stop. Fame cannot do that.
Fame can get you introductions with agents or invites to celebrity parties but it can never make you feel better about yourself. That is something you have to do for yourself. the chances are that if you feel like an imposter now, you will still feel like one when you hit the bestseller list. Better to make peace with that feeling than hope that fame can fix it. Which it cannot do.
One of the greatest journeys in life is overcoming insecurity and learning to truly not give a shit.
J. A. Konrath
How to become a famous writer
According to Writing Cooperative, the first two steps include identify yourself as a writer and then train under a master. Followed by put in the work, being good at more than one things, and being kind to people.
I suspect that learning your craft and putting in the work are probably key. the other points might help but I am not 100% certain.
According to Quora, it would seem that fame requires dreaming big and getting good at social media. Also, being sexy helps.
However, The Week points out that hard work and skill are probably tangential and the biggest factor is dumb luck. That and knowing the right people.
If you can’t be somebody important, the next best thing you can do as an aspiring writer is to know someone important.
Noah Berlatsky, The secret to becoming a famous writer
Social media fame
With the rise of social media came the Internet celebrity. Someone who gained fame through what they share on the Internet.
Fame case study: Bo Burnham
Bo Burnham is an American comedian, musician, actor, filmmaker and poet. In 2006, Bo Burnham filmed himself performing two songs and posted them on YouTube to share with his family.
These songs soon became extremely popular mostly on account of how funny they were (that’s my opinion if you disagree tell me in the comments).
Bo Burnham went on to win awards, a record deal, and a bunch of other opportunities.
The take away lesson from Bo Burnham’s fame was that he did not go out looking for fame but just did the things he loves – making people laugh. After all if you do what you love and get no fame, at least you are doing what you love.
Dirty Secrets Celebrities Used to Get Famous
One stable way to get fame is to do or say things that cause outrage. Of course, this might not be a form of fame you can enjoy, but it is fame.
Every celebrity that gains fame does so because in one way or another they break through the background noise and then capitalise on the attention when they get it.
This may mean allowing yourself to get caught up in a scandal or two. It also may mean being seen with other famous people. If that is a life you want, no one is stopping you but there is a good reason we see so many celebrities get burned out. Fame, it turns out, is hard work.
Being famous is not all that good
Many celebrities will tell you that fame, like money, cannot make you happy. Fame can be stressful. Once you are well known, the press and fans will always be there asking questions and interrupting your life.
Will Smith says that he gets sued about 15 times a year. He keeps lawyers on retainer just to deal with all the legal heat that comes from being famous.
Fame can bring (among other things) depression, restrictions of personal freedom, and people who follow you and try to take unflattering pictures. Fame has been likened to being put in solitary confinement in a prison.
Forbes asked 165 talent agents and managers who identify the issue as a major concern of their highly successful clients. This is what they found.
- Loss of privacy (77.6%)
- Being subjected to hyper-criticism (70.3%)
- Fear and anxiety that the success can go away anytime (66.7%)
- Dealing with lies in the media (57.0%)
- Being taken advantage of by family and friends (41.8%)
- Being taken advantage of by professionals they employ (37.0%)
- Targeted by criminals (27.9%)
- Saying goodbye to “everyday, normal life” (24.8%)
- Stalkers (13.9%)
- Anxiety over feeling like an imposter (12.7%)
Other issues that being famous can bring is that a lot of staff who work for you now depend on you maintaining your fame. While, at the same time, every previously private moment of your life is on view all the time.
Becoming a famous writer
The best fame is a writer’s fame. It’s enough to get a table at a good restaurant, but not enough to get you interrupted when you eat.
According to WikiHow this is how you become a famous writer.
- Read a lot
- Write about subjects you enjoy – a lot
- Be lucky
Luck and connections can get you stated far faster while talent, skill, and effort, will get you further eventually. Neil Gaiman once famously said that the harder you work the luckier you will find yourself being.
One of the things that few people will tell you can help build successes in any creative industry is this – collaboration. You can get further working with like-minded people than you ever could alone. That’s why we started Thanet Creative but that’s another story.
You might like to check out Lessons from watching a classmate become a famous author.
Talent matters more than fame
If you want to make it as a writer, fame is only so much help. Tallent, on the other hand, is dynamite.
All the shortcuts to fame count for nothing if they do not build on a foundation of some amount of marketable tallent. It seems that hard work and dedication do matter after all. It just so happens that luck and good connections matter too. However, you cannot use good connection nor find luck if there is no foundation (skill and effort) for them to leverage.
Neil Gaiman on being a successful writer
I’m not quite sure how to end this exploration other than with the words of Neil Gaiman. This is his commencement speech at the University of the Arts 2012.