Monday, May 30, 2011

The Humble Author

Last week, I alluded to the fact that pride looks for one’s own success at the expense of others, while humility seeks the success of others. I was speaking primarily about authors because authors struggle over the issue of praising their own work. Looking at my own work, the two non-fiction books are very clearly books that are designed to help other people. But it’s never so clear when we look at novels. If our goal should be to help others, what should a novelist be doing?

The traditionally published author can say he’s helping the publisher’s employees put bread on the table. But even the most haughty author can make that claim. We would hope that there would be something significantly different between the haughty author and the humble author. If the author puts aside pride and takes on humility, we would like to see some change that takes place in the way he does things.

With novels, it’s all about the story, so any difference will show up there. I think the difference between the proud and the humble is that the proud author will write the story he wants to write, but looking for things that will cause the readers to praise him for his work. The humble approach would be to consider the problems the readers face and look for a story that could help the readers as they face that problem. Novels are more about emotions and feelings than they are about teaching. Novels give the reader the ability to experience things that he can’t do or it would be better if he didn’t in real life. The spy novel puts a man behind enemy lines while he remains safe in his own home. The mystery novel lets a woman catch a killer, without placing herself in danger. But what people learn from those experiences apply to real life. The humble author looks for the best experience he can give his readers through the story he tells.