“I should not be concerned that I am not known. Rather I should concern myself with being worthy of being known.” — Confucius
I was reading about Confucius yesterday from a book that outlines the teachings and lives of 50 important philosophers. The statement above literally jumped off the page.
When I was a young writer trying to get published I offhandedly said one day, “I wish I were famous. Then people would publish whatever I wrote.”
My wife only heard the part about wanting to be famous and saw it as egotistical. I really wasn’t seeking fame. I was just a frustrated writer who knew that famous writers are paid in advance for words they haven’t written yet, or sometimes even for ideas they haven’t even conceived.
This statement by Confucius struck me in part because I’d heard something like this when I was young. One of the books I’d read, You Can Tell The World by Sherwood Wirt, stated that in order to be a writer of influence we must “become familiar with the influential literature of our age.”
Another writer stated that in order to be a great writer we must learn how to recognize great writing.
These ideas lit a fire inside me and I spent the next several years reading the literary greats — Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Kafka, Fitzgerald, London, Conrad… everything I could get my hands on. I was painting apartments by day and listened to classic literature from cassettes I obtained at the library.
In a very real sense, because all this took time, I grew up a little more.
All this to say, what Confucius stated is true.
There’s a flip side to this coin to be aware of. Even you you should become a great writer, worthy of recognition, a wise man once wrote, “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong… Time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
When the time comes, be ready. If you miss the bus, don’t stop being the best you can be.