During his adventures on Earth, the little prince discovered a garden abloom with 5,000 roses. He was startled, because he realized that the fancy rose he had left behind on his faraway planet, the rose he had looked after with so much devotion, was not a unique flower. So he lay down in the grass and wept.
But later the little prince was comforted, because the fox told him:
‘It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.’
I don’t think the little prince wasted his time looking after that rose, even if she had four thorns and was quite vain. As Bertrand, a friend of mine, puts it:
The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
The same is true for writing a novel, or painting a portrait, or building a house of cards… If you enjoyed working on it, you will never regret the time you devoted to it even if the book doesn’t sell, or the portrait is badly received, or the house of cards collapses… You will be sad, and weep, and maybe think of changing your trade, but you will not regret.
Writing a novel seems to some like a good way to waste time. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain to others around you – even to family – that words on a computer screen or ink on white paper are much more than they seem.
Painters can show their unfinished canvas, and if it is colorful, it might pacify some of their naysayers. But writers don’t have much to show until all their story is written. Telling a person not interested in books ‘I’ve written 5,000 words so far,’ means to them the same as ‘I’ve written 50,000 words so far,’ that is to say not much.
Things are even harder for me because I write in English, which nobody around me understands.
But writing a book – or creating any kind of art – changes you inside. It helps you understand more profoundly your thoughts and emotions, as well as the world around you, and it provides much needed emotional relief, and often it also helps you see your life from a different perspective, which is sometimes necessary before you can make changes.
To me those are the true rewards of writing. The publishing, the fame, the money, the immortality, are all bonuses. They may or may not come, depending on Fortune’s whims.
The wise fox in The Little Prince says:
‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’
Artists, by creating stories, whether on paper, canvas, or piano, learn how to see better with their hearts.