If the man who tells you that he writes, paints, sculptures, or sings for his own amusement, gives his work to the public, he lies; he lies if he puts his name to his writing, painting, statue, or song. He wishes, at the least, to leave behind a shadow of his spirit, something that may survive him…The man of letters who shall tell you that he despises fame is a lying rascal.
— Miguel de Unamuno, Tragic Sense of Life
Everyone who writes, I have no doubt, would like to be famous, and not only famous now, while on this earth, but, embarrassing enough to admit given the odds, famous after he has departed the earth. And this, I believe, is true of serious and frivolous writers alike.
— Joseph Epstein, “You Probably Don’t Know Me,” A Line Out for a Walk
Well! I’m not a man of letters, of course; I’m just another vandal tagging the alleyways of the web with my digital graffiti. But as a paid-up member of the Frivolous Writers Local 301, I feel authoritative enough to declare that this is bunk. Unamuno may be talking about the literary equivalent of those ’90s rock stars who, having gone through all the considerable effort of forming a band, gigging regularly, signing to a major label, and heavily promoting their albums, proceeded to gripe incessantly about how stifling and inauthentic it all was. In those cases, yes, it’s hard to take such complaints seriously. If you don’t want fame and fortune, there are plenty of off-ramps to take long before you get to the big time. But why should it be so hard to accept the idea of the devoted amateur who loves his work precisely because it’s not a job with all the trappings and compromises that entails? I could probably adjust to being rich — certainly willing to give it my best effort! — but fame? What on Earth would be the point of that?