Goodreads asked Jonathan Maas:

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

Jonathan Maas The best thing about being a writer? It's something I call 'the soft second place.' Let me explain.

First, the harsh news. There's only about five of us who can break out every year and become John Greens, James Altuchers, Gillian Flynns and Andy Weirs. I have not yet joined those hallowed ranks, but I do not begrudge those authors one bit, because they are each deserving of every ounce of attention they get. Oh, and their work is awesome too.

Entities like Goodreads and Amazon are flattening the world so the small guys can stand a little taller, but still - the harsh reality is that the world only has time for a few universally-adored superstars every year. Doesn't matter if you're as good as Gillian Flynn, the world might not have the bandwidth for your book. That's life.

And yet ...

The second place prize isn't that bad. What is this 'soft second place?' It's that a handful of readers might take enjoyment from your work. One of my favorite authors, Frank McCourt, said that he wanted to write 'Angela's Ashes' in the hopes of seeing one person he didn't know pick it up in a bookstore. Next thing the retired high school teacher knows he's a 65-year old phenom and is meeting the Pope. But still, I feel if he had just gotten that 'soft second place' of seeing one person really like 'Angela's Ashes,' it still would have been worth it.

Any time I want, I can make a Goodreads Giveaway and send a few people copies of one of my books. A few will read it, and a few may like it (I hope). But whatever the case, it becomes worth it when a single person gains value from it. Even a bad review makes me feel great, as long as the person got *something* out of it. That's what I'm in it for: the reader, and if just a few people get what I am offering, it's all worth it.

The rest of the world doesn't much care for second place. Starting a business? It's success or failure. Want to be a professor? Well, you'd better get tenure, or you're out on your butt. Want to be an athlete? Well, whatever sport you choose, it's all or nothing, ESPN Top Ten or 'the person who couldn't quite make it in the big leagues.'

Being a writer is different though. It's tough to become a superstar, it's even tough to make a living off of it. But you don't have to do either of those things to be successful. You just have to put your heart out there, provide value for a few readers, and then wake up the next day and do it again.

And when that reader from the other side of the world writes in to tell you that they liked your work, it's worth it. That 'soft second place' is worth it every time.

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