Seven billion and counting

As a novelist (and, frankly, as a human being), I find those numbers more than a little daunting, because they bring two facts into stark relief:

  1. There are so many people in the world (even narrowed down to those who speak my language) that only a very tiny fraction will ever read my books.
  2. There are so many books in the world that I—or any other individual person—will never read even a fraction of them.

Now, my attempt to talk myself down off the ledge of anxiety raised by thinking about the two facts above:

I don’t allow the sheer volume of humans in the world to paralyze me in daily life. I don’t curl up in a ball and retreat from human contact because there are so very many people in the world that I will only ever be friends with a fraction of them. I don’t throw myself desperately at everyone walking down the street in hopes that someone will notice me. I don’t survey the millions of people I’ve never met to find out what kind of friends they might like to have.

Instead, I figure out the places where people I might get along with hang out (whether real or virtual) and go there. I spend time getting to know these people, some of whom may become friends. I appreciate the serendipity that brings new people into my life. I remain true to myself, confident that potential friends will appreciate me for who I am.

Okay… translating into what this tells me I should do as a writer:

I should not toss my keyboard onto the floor in despair. I should continue to write what is true for me in the best way I know how. I should try to cultivate readers as I might cultivate friends (albeit a bit more broadly) by finding out where like-minded people congregate and offering them a vision of who I am and what I have to say.

In my non-writing life, I am content to have a few close friends and a slightly larger circle of acquaintances. I don’t despair over the fact that I can’t get to know even a small portion of the nearly 100,000 people who live in my city.

My goals as a writer have always been similarly modest. If I wanted a huge audience, I wouldn’t be writing slightly offbeat literary fiction. So, really, I can ignore those astronomical numbers and just get back to my writing. Whew!

All the same, I’m not against having more readers—so if you’d like to become one (or recruit others), that’s fine by me.

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