Success at writing rarely adds up to anything you can touch. You either write because you enjoy writing or (more commonly) you like how it feels to have written something. These are merely things you do with yourself. Even if, by some miracle, you become Jennifer Egan overnight, you still have to face the same question: Do I want to practice my craft today or not? Can I find meaning here? Does it feel good to do this, even when I fall short? Can I accept that I will usually fall short, that it takes a ton of work to gently massage a bad thing until it becomes a good one?
Because even though you might think you don’t want to work hard at anything, I think you’re wrong. You worked very, very hard to get here. Clearly, you enjoy hard work a lot.
Go watch that documentary about Jerry Seinfeld returning to stand-up comedy after making something like eight hundred million dollars from his sitcom. Because in the end, even for a megarich megastar, it’s all about craft. And WHAT is harder than trying to make a joke funny enough to make a room full of people—PEOPLE SKEPTICAL ABOUT MILLIONAIRES—laugh? Why would Seinfeld try to do something THAT DIFFICULT, that embarrassing and possibly catastrophic? Because the alternative was to retreat to Neverland and hire a doctor with a fondness for propofol.
If you’re not dodging chemical bombs or walking five miles through the desert heat to find potable water, you have to wake up and shut off your bad brain and work. When your work is done, you have to figure out how to shut off your bad brain and relax. You have to recognize and accept, in your bones, that accomplishing everything you’ve ever dreamed of (like Seinfeld) feels a little bit like never having accomplished anything. You will still have to inject meaning into your life every day, somehow, some way.