To My Friends Who Are Not Famous

Photo by Roman Kraft via Unsplash

To my friends who are not famous,

Hi, there. I know you’re out there because after I sent out my newsletter yesterday confessing to my struggle with wanting to be famous, some of you emailed me. You wanted to let me know I wasn’t alone. You wondered what the right way forward might be.

I can’t tell you exactly what to do. After all, some of you might BECOME famous soon – how much fun would that be, right? I can’t tell you the perfect proportion of time to spend promoting versus creating. But one thing I want to say is this:

Keep creating. Keep trying. Keep having fun.

I’m talking to you, writer of a small or medium-sized blog, rolling out posts every week that don’t get a ton of comments, likes, or shares. You may not realize it, but your words are rippling out into the world, and they’re affecting people.

I’m talking to you, Pastor of that Tiny Church in the Middle of Nowhere. You’re not worth less than the megachurch pastor in his shiny suit and sparkling smile. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Bigger church doesn’t equal better church. Keep going.

I’m talking to you, Self-Published Author, Mom of Five, Small Business Woman, Painter, Actor, and every other person who’s doing what they were created to do but might never be famous, might never be publicly adored. I’m talking to all of us. We need to revel in the enjoyment of the simple act of creation. Play. Live our beautiful, hidden lives. We need to go about our days and recognize how fortunate we are, those of us who have the means and the desire and the wherewithal to create.

Keep creating. Keep doing. Keep trying.

Now, there is a bit of difficult news, at least for those of us who have strong desire to be known, to contribute in measurable ways, to leave some kind of exceptional mark. The tough news is this: the world needs most of us to create our creations and focus on our calling even without receiving the adoration of the masses, without ever feeling the thunderous applause of a large crowd.

We’re no less needed, mind you. Even though our calling might be to fewer people, those people will be affected, hearts and minds changed for the better. We need to be okay with that. As Anne Lamott says, we need to be the kind of people who believe that “if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away.”

I shared the following words by Henri Nouwen in my newsletter, but I want to make sure you read them, because sometimes these are the words that keep me going. These words adjust my heart in all the right ways:

“There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society. Our newspapers and television keep giving us the message:  What counts is to be known, praised, and admired, whether you are a writer, an actor, a musician, or a politician.”

“Still, real greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive.  It is not easy to trust ourselves and our actions without public affirmation.  We must have strong self-confidence combined with deep humility.  Some of the greatest works of art and the most important works of peace were created by people who had no need for the limelight.  They knew that what they were doing was their call, and they did it with great patience, perseverance, and love.”

Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

I don’t think wanting to be famous is always a negative thing, but I have found the pitfalls. Believe me. The main dangers I see, when my desire to become famous turns towards obsession, are these: it leads to strong feelings of jealousy; it leads me to scrap and claw for my own piece of the pie, completely disregarding others; it leads to discouragement when I’m not the one speaking at the conference, when I’m not the one giving the interview, when my books are not the ones flying off the shelves.

So today, let’s you and me, in our relative anonymity, follow our calling “with great patience, perseverance, and love.” Let’s be okay with our current platform, no matter how simple. Let’s encourage each other, help each other. Let’s keep creating.

Remember, whether or not you’re known, praised, or admired, your work is important.




17 Replies to “To My Friends Who Are Not Famous”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this, Shawn! Exactly what my wife is often reminding me on my worst days, where self-pity and self-doubt seem much more available than God’s assurance of His calling on me. Your piece in encouraging me, and countless others, is valuable. I would have given up if it weren’t for encouragement to continue on.

  2. Duuuuuuuuude. Well timed, my friend. My blog traffic has, for some unknown reason, been plummeting lately. It’s not that I want fame. I want reach. Does that even make sense? I don’t care if people adore me (I’d actually rather them not. I’m an introvert and would rather retain my privileged of going to the grocery store without having to talk to “fans.”), but I want to know that what I write is making a difference in someone’s life. Is that too much to ask?????

    Today, as I was wallowing in self-pity, I received a message from somebody that said, “I really needed to hear that today.”

    And *I* needed to hear *that* today. Even if the audience is small, it’s wonderful to know that I do actually make a difference sometimes.

    1. When traffic plummets, you have to focus on why you’re doing what you’re doing, not on the results you’re currently getting. Hang on those messages.

  3. I love this! I just began reading your posts and I already love it! I can really relate to this topic because I once felt the need to be famous, not knowing that God might want me to just use my story on a personal level with 2-3 people and not up on the stage with thousands of people. More blessings for you!

  4. Small just seems so insignificant and then I HAVE to keep coming back to the fact that 12 men turned the world upside down. Small…….

  5. So wise and beautiful. This is a message that so many of us need to hear, and to be reminded of frequently! Thank you. Thank you for the ripple. Trust me that it is rippling on.

    Keep creating! :)

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