I watched my wife scramble to pull the car up and listened as my editor put me on speakerphone. “You hit the list,” he said and the room around him erupted in cheers. Then someone else in the background on the phone added, “You know you can scream, too.”
So I did. I yelled and raised both arms in the air as if I’d scored the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl of Nerds.
After a round of congratulations from everyone on the phone and learning the actual number I’d hit — six — I returned to the car and walked around to the driver’s side window where my wife awaited our celebratory dinner. I hugged her and smiled when I saw tears in her eyes. I cannot confirm nor deny that I might have also had tears in mine.
A few weeks later I was surprised with a luncheon at my publisher’s headquarters. During introductory remarks in front of the corporate office, Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain, reminded me that I would forever be known as a “New York Times best selling author." She joked that it might look nice on my tombstone. I replied that the granite was already on order.
Every author has a different experience that first time, but the excitement is universal. Fortunately it isn’t the only way to have your writing validated, or yourself for that matter. It’s not the loftiness of the goal so much as the goal itself.
You don’t have to discover a cure for cancer or win the Nobel Prize to be great humanitarian. Maybe you just need to know where the Band-Aids are stored in the back of the cabinet. Do you really need an Oscar sitting on your shelf, or will you settle for knowing your kids think you tell the world’s best bedtime stories?
Becoming a New York Times best seller won’t define your life, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re selling a bazillion books. What it does mean is the hours you write before dawn when no one is watching are appreciated. If you're an aspiring author, it’s a goal worth having like any other.
What have I learned? Hitting the New York Times best selling list hasn't made me luckier, wiser, cooler to my kids or any better at loading the dishwasher. Still, while it won't get me to heaven any faster, it might not look that bad on a tombstone.
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