You Will Never Be Satisfied

One of the fun things about attending conferences and workshops is that you get to talk to fellow writers. In so doing, you glean useful information about writing, publishing, marketing, and whatnot. You also learn one important fact about writers in general: no matter how splendidly their careers are going, they’re still not satisfied.

  • Over this past year, here are some of the gripes I’ve heard:
    One guy complained because of the relatively low royalty he received on a mass-market paperback that has sold over 100,000 copies to date.
  • Another author had a beef with her publisher, who wouldn’t pay for all the conferences and conventions she wanted to attend.
  • A duo were miffed because the most recent party they attended at George R. R. Martin’s house wasn’t that much fun.

I was looking at these people—all of them very nice people, by the way—and saying to myself, “Are you kidding me?”

But they weren’t. They were serious. Good as things were for them, they wanted things to be better. And I can guarantee you that if things did get better, they’d want them to be better still.

I asked one of my colleagues, a Psychology professor, why human beings so often seem dissatisfied with their lives. He theorized that it’s due to our evolutionary heritage: we’ve been successful as a species because our brains are designed to solve problems. But this adaptive advantage becomes a disadvantage when there’s no problem to solve, because then we make up imaginary problems to satisfy our brain’s biological imperatives. This made sense to me and explained the dissatisfaction I’ve felt at various points in my life.

This phenomenon has particular relevance for those writers—the vast majority of us—who remain at the less-than-bestseller level. We tell ourselves that if we could have what the famous writers have—wealth, comfort, security, movie deals, foreign rights, screaming fans—we’d be satisfied. But in most cases, we wouldn’t. We’d still want more.

With this in mind, I’m making a conscious effort to focus on what I do have as a writer, not on what I don’t. I have five published novels to date, with several others in various stages of the journey to publication. I have readers who like what I’ve written. I have invitations to talk at schools, opportunities to attend conferences and festivals. I have books with my name on the cover sitting on library shelves and people’s nightstands. I have a supportive agent, friends in the writing community, and no end of stories to tell.

No, I don’t have millions of dollars in the bank or millions of books in print. I don’t know George R. R. Martin and have no immediate plans to hang at his house. Neither do I expect to become one of those writers who can sit around and complain about how much fame sucks.

But if I ever do become one of those writers, can you do me a favor and knock some sense into me—or at least remind me to reread this blog post?

Bellin Gandalf

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). He is the author of three YA science fiction novels: Survival Colony 9Scavenger of Souls, and Freefall. Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

3 Comments on “You Will Never Be Satisfied

  1. How disheartening! To have so much success and STILL not be satisfied??? It does make sense from an evolutionary perspective, but still…maybe it also says something about the WAY we measure success. I’ve found when I’ve become too attached to equating “THINGS” with success, I make myself very unhappy. “Things” fall apart. They don’t last. You buy a new shirt, you eventually get a stain on it. You buy a new car, eventually, it will need repairs. “Things” do not last. For me, it’s better to focus on experiences. Time spent with people I care about or the act of learning a new skill.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Striving for more keeps us from being complacent! It’s evolutionarily bred into us. But you’re right that focusing on the negative instead of the positive can prevent us from enjoying the here-and-now.

    (P.s. Is your bio out of date? It only mentions 3 books, but your post says 5.)


  3. I’m sorry for being off topic here but the way you said ” ‘Things’ fall apart” made me think of that novel by Chinua Achebe and put a whole light on the novel. Also, you’re totally right; the experience we accrue over a lifetime are undervalued compared to the importance we put on material possession.


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