Since embarking on this professional writing journey, I've met a wide variety of authors: frustrated, vivacious, optimistic, jaded, cynical, enthusiastic...the whole spectrum. Some are successful (and a few are very successful) but most are plodding along like me, still relatively unknown but hoping for that ray of light to pierce the clouds.
Every writer wants to be a smashing success. Rags-to-riches stories like those of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are obviously extremely rare, but there are tens of thousands of authors making a comfortable living giving people something to read. I can guarantee that there is not a single writer out there who has not asked themselves the question: "What would life be like if I hit it big?"
Of course I would love to get struck that lightning bolt. But I also need to ask myself the follow-up question: If I did happen to hit the literary jackpot, would I be ready for what would follow? And honestly, the answer right now is "no."
A full-time author does book signings. Goes on tour. Goes to writer's conferences. Gives seminars at writing conferences. Flies to New York and Los Angeles to schmooze with agents, publishers, screenwriters, and producers. Signs multi-book contracts with deadlines attached.
Right now, I live in China with my wife and two young children. With the proliferation of social media, I can still connect with authors and readers, but it would make it a heck of a lot easier if I was actually in the same country as most of my readers (and potential readers). And even if I was, I couldn't jet off to half a dozen conferences a year, join author panels, go on a book tour, etc. My present situation simply would not allow me to take on the responsibilities that would come with hitting the literary jackpot.
That's not to say that I wouldn't appreciate the money, the fame, the assurance of future publication, the captive attention of legions of fans. Perhaps it will happen one day, perhaps not. But I'm not going to waste time dreaming about "what if." Right now, I'm focusing on writing as much as I can and building my library, which will be my back catalogue if I do happen to write a book that catches fire (this is where most authors make their money, not just with a single book). And I'm hoping that if this does happen, my situation in life will allow me to devote myself to the business side of things without compromising my family or my sanity.
And if I have to choose, I'd rather be an unknown writer with a happy family than a NYT bestseller who regularly misses his kids' birthdays.