Is It Better To Have A One-Hit Wonder Or A Fruitful Career?


Obviously, I want to start this post with an admission that either of these two options would be just fine with me. I’m obviously talking from a hypothetical stand point in this post and so please take it in this vein.
Let me frame the question a different way. Would it be better to have a writing career which has its ups and downs but churns out a couple of corkers along the way, which are always harked back to when you are desperately wanting readers to hear about your latest work; or, a one-off piece of genius which is revered by everyone and then you leave it at that.

The Career
The obvious advantage of the career option is that you continue to produce work forever and, assuming you love it, you can go on filling your life with warm contentment. There’s a lot to be said for having enough previous success that it feeds all future endeavours. I imagine it provides a sense of security at least, which is all too hard to come by in a creative capacity.
The downside is that you may feel constantly frustrated that you can’t hit the same heady heights of your previous successes. You’ll over analyse what’s gone wrong and what you’re doing differently. Why did everyone seem to like that and now they say I’ve lost it?
There’s plenty of people like this. You see the interviews where 80% of the content is about something that came out thirty years ago. The aging actor/writer/artist/musician always looks quite happy to talk about the success that bought them a huge pile in the country, but is there a troubled demon inside who knows that it will never be repeated again.
The One-Hit Wonder
Wouldn’t it be better then to be the kind of guy who produces an absolute gem and then disappears. Possibly they know that they’ll never be able to repeat it, perhaps they couldn’t care less and are just relieved to have some money coming in, or the success makes them so famous that they can turn their hand to more contributing exploits.
You obviously have those one-hit wonders who are still bitter and twisted inside because they could never replicate the success and are then dropped like a stone by producers/publishers etc. Sadly, these may fall into the tortured artist category and a life of depression and misery awaits.
My Opinion
I think both camps matter hugely on what type of a person you are. Let’s take me for example. (It’s probably easier than guessing about someone else) I’m in love with writing. I love escaping into a world which I’ve made up. The ultimate in control. I love the things you write with, both physically and digitally. I’m trying my best to get better at the actual technique and craft of telling a story, but imagining the story itself is something which flows through my blood. So, I’ll be writing things from now until the end of time, that’s a fact and it would be great to have a success along the way. I don’t think I’d be that arsed if one book was huge compared to the others, I suppose that’s just the way it is. You just keep going in a Woody Allen way. He just does what he does and some are liked by people and some aren’t, but either way he just keeps going. I’d like to be like that.
I’m always saddened by the one-hit wonder because I just can’t understand the person who chooses to only produce a one-off and then decides to walk away. It does happen, the famous example is JD Sallinger who wrote Catcher In The Rye and then hung up his pen. Did he think it couldn’t be bettered or was it such a chore that he thought of better things to do instead? Most of the time though I would’ve thought that the one-hit wonder is involuntary. Someone has been propelled into the stratosphere and then left fully exposed to be shot at by every critic under the sun. They end up living the rest of their days in some jibbering state of shell shock, unsure of exactly what happened, but still being recognised in the Post Office as the chap who once did that.
No, for me, it would be absolutely marvellous to be the career man. I’m aiming for a long and fulfilling life of making up stories. Every time people read them I’ll be grateful and if they like them it’s a bonus.
Until next time…

3 responses to “Is It Better To Have A One-Hit Wonder Or A Fruitful Career?

  1. I’d definitely go for the career track. Sure, it might be sad if my later works don’t compare to my first smashing success, but I’m one of those who just can’t stop writing. I’d have to keep trying. And just maybe, one day, I’d hit the jackpot again.

  2. I’d like to buy one career please. Can I get them from Amazon?

    I’m with you and Sharon…but…I know myself well enough to know that a part of me would like the freedom to do what I want, when I want (doesn’t everyone?), and to a small extent would always be hoping that I get lucky (either with a one-off blockbuster or sustained success) and can afford to take some time to just hit the trails on my bike for months at a time or buy that house in the Canadian Rockies we’ve always dreamed of.

    But need to write. And being perfectly honest that need is because I want people to read what I write. Doesn’t matter whether ten people like it or a million, but I’ll continue to write. It wasn’t a need I even knew I had until a couple of years ago, but now I need to keep doing it, even if I dream of taking some selfish time off every now and then.

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