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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Letting Go of the SPECTACULAR

Lent starts tomorrow and so I had Matthew Kelly on the brain. 

Kelly is the author of quite a few Christian books; he’s also a motivational speaker and just in general, a down to earth guy who’s very relatable when it comes to the spiritual. And so I often jot down his interesting talking points, which explains the note on my desk. It was all caps with the words, “SEDUCTION OF THE SPECTACULAR.” 

It doesn’t, however, explain why I posted this note on my calendar for a Muffin topic. That’s for this Mardi Gras Tuesday, so have a slice of King cake (or a cupcake!) and see what you think. 

Oh, how I’ve been seduced by the spectacular when it comes to my writing career! And I suspect that lots of writers succumb to that seduction. We want the SPECTACULAR! 

The sale to a FAMOUS MARKET! 

The acceptance from a well-known AGENT!

The publishing contract from the BIG NEW YORK PUBLISHER! 

The prestigious, notable AWARDS! 

But what if our writing career never reaches those lofty heights?

Hmmm. It’s hard not to get caught up in the seduction of the spectacular because we live in a society that celebrates the AWESOME, the HUGE, the SPECTACULAR achievements. The not-so-spectacular achievements that make up most writers’ careers? Not so much. And I've been as guilty as anyone else. 

My books are with a foreign educational publisher; they’re well-produced and I was well paid. But when writer friends asked about them, I’d respond, “Oh, they’re just in the educational market.” 

When I had a column in a local magazine, I’d say, “It’s just a regional thing.” 

My anthology essays or stories would get the same treatment: “It’s just Chicken Soup for the Soul…”

Just. Just. Just. They just weren’t SPECATACULAR enough. 

That’s what the seduction of the spectacular does; it makes us feel like it’s only the big, important, amazing parts that matter. While nothing could be further from the truth. 

All the parts…the no-fee acceptance, the first paid (!) acceptance, the first speaker gig to a group of seven writers who’d never heard of you…all those accomplishments make up the whole of a writing career. Not to mention the hundreds or thousands of hours and dollars invested before our writing starts paying off.

And I don’t mean paying off in a SPECTACULAR way. Because the other truth is, many of us will never reach those big, amazing writer achievements. And sadly, many will give up, because their dreams and their reality don’t match. If they can’t be SPECTACULAR, then never mind. 

But others will persevere, and perhaps without even realizing it, the seduction of the spectacular will lose its grip. That’s what happened to me, and if you’re lucky, it will happen for you. 

You can be the writer who makes an impact in your own, perhaps less-than-spectacular, niche. Because when you embrace the just-right-career for you, there’s not just fulfillment but TONS of joy! And that’s worth celebrating with another slice of King cake (or a cupcake!), don’t you think?


  1. Cathy--You spoke to me today. This was the perfect post (as I'm trapped in my house, due to a large snowfall... well, I'm not literally trapped, but I have a snow day today, and when I have to go somewhere, I'll have to shovel the driveway).

    I've definitely said, "It's just Chicken Soup." However, smaller and less "spectacular" can be delightful. In fact, you've given me my next post.

    Thanks. And I have no cake mix in the cupboard, but I DO have the ingredients to make fudge. Perhaps I'll improvise for Mardi Gras...

  2. The seduction of the spectacular is big, but few of us will reach it or be happy if we do because there is always something bigger and better to reach for. Im being content with small.

  3. Ha! So that's why the Mardi Gras cupcakes.

    The spectacular is such an easy trap to fall into. "I'm just a children's writer." And marketing plays into this. "You too can have a six figure income!"

    We definitely need to celebrate the where we are and the steps along the way. What a timely reminder.

  4. Thanks for this inspiring post Cathy. I too needed to read this today. Wanting the spectacular can cause one to forget to celebrate all of the blessings, and "mini" spectacular writing opportunities we get. When we publish our work even if there aren't any great monetary rewards, but instead it is a piece that we are passionate about or one that encourages others, or when we write just for the joy of it with no expectations...that is one of the best kind of spectacular for us writers, and I think that is what we all have to remember.

  5. I'm all for fudge, Sioux, and I'm looking forward to your next post! :-)

    And yes, Sue, marketing definitely plays into this thinking as well. But if we stick around long enough, as all of us have, we know the joy of loving our work. Be it ever so humble, Jeanine, there's no place like our own writing career. ♥

  6. Thank you for the tough love, Cathy. I like Jeanine's phrasing of celebrating the "mini spectacular!" I feel like I have plenty of those things. I've been leading a Sunday School class called "Get Out of Your Own Head" for a youth group at church that both my kids are in and today I was feeling down in the dumps about pretty much everything (I'll call it deadline fatigue). My son was asking me what was wrong with me, and I started telling him. Then I looked at him and said, "I guess I need to reframe my thought spirals, don't I?" So then we started highlighting the positive things with my work rather than the hard things and it helped. Why are we always the ones to make things seem smaller for ourselves than they really are?


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