Countering the Critics

With more than 100 million books in print in the United States the last dozen years, best-selling author John Grisham personifies publishing prowess. Yet the critics still hound him doggedly, as if commercial success somehow disqualifies someone from being considered legitimately good at their craft.

To his credit, Grisham generally tries not to pay the critics much attention. “I’ve sold too many books to ever be taken seriously by critics,” he told the Associated Press. “What I think about is making the best book I’ve ever written. That’s my goal every time.”

I think that is an attitude worth emulating and it reminds me of a quote attributed to Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts…the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.” While I’m on the subject of Grisham, I must admit that I like his sense of priorities also. Included below is an insightful excerpt from his interview with the Associated Press.

“His workday usually begins at 6 a.m., when he walks out to a small cottage behind his home and writes about 10 pages by noon. The cottage has no telephone, no fax machine and nothing to distract him but two slips of paper hanging on his wall—his children’s sports schedules. ‘I guess you can see what’s important,’ said Grisham. ‘We never miss a game.’”

As Grisham’s comment indicates, family is forever while fame is fleeting, so we need to treat them accordingly. This reminds me of a thought-provoking Scripture: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” [What is dearest to him, in other words.] It’s food for thought.