Why I don’t want to be great: An artist’s reflection

by Sharon Tjaden-Glass


I’ve never thought that “greatness” was wealth.

I’ve always thought that “greatness” meant that you were one of the go-to people for a particular niche. That your name would be indelibly associated with a subject or concept or theory or whatever. And for some innate reason, I’ve always pictured that I would achieve that greatness through writing.

So for years and years, I wrote with the purpose of achieving my own personal greatness.

What amazing idea could I write about that could make me great?

Maybe that. Or that.

Yeah! What a great idea. No one else is doing that, so I could become great by doing that.

At this stage, a lot of my writing could be called the dreaded forced and one-dimensional. It was missing a certain je ne sais quoi. Only, I do know what to call it.


It was missing voice.

My voice.

And although my goal had been to become a great writer, nothing that I had written had been that great.

And then came the concept of this book.

Suddenly, my reason for writing changed drastically.

I was no longer seeking out “greatness” or fame. I was writing it because I had to. There was such a drive in me to get this book out of my head and into the hands of someone else that I didn’t care anymore about how people were going to see me. God, if I cared about how people were going to see me, I would have picked another topic that wouldn’t have required me to write about my torn vagina or defective boobs.

If I didn’t have this need to write this book, it would have never gotten done.

Let’s put this into context.

Writing a book.

From concept to publication.


In two years.

With a baby.

While working full-time 11 months of the year.

That’s drive.

In his new book, How Did I Get Here?: Making Peace with the Road not Taken, Jesse Browner writes about this same drive that artistic minds experience when engaging in the creative process:

“You do it because you need to do it, because you are commanded to do it, and you can only hope and pray that in return it will give you what you need, even if you have no idea what that might be, other than some nebulous principle of fulfillment.”

It could very well be that my book sells fewer than 500 copies and never quite breaks through. But that doesn’t bother me anymore. Because this book has already given back to me what I needed it to give me. It has given me feedback and reviews like this:

“… I’m confident that this book will really help other mothers and mothers-to-be to feel not so alone.”

“No one else I know has (or could?) put into words this crazy, life-altering process… She writes with a deep honesty and humility. It is at turns humorous and deeply emotional, and I found it hard to put down.”

“I laughed, I cried, I related, and I looked forward to each new step of this journey knowing that someone else could relate and had the eloquence to put such profound experiences into words. “

“Becoming Mother is a TRUE account of how many women feel once becoming mothers, but many are unwilling, or afraid, to share with the world.”

What I love most about these reviews are that they reveal that I have been relatable to my readers—and that gives me back all that I need from this creative process.

Being relatable keeps me among the masses, and in my heart, that’s where I’m most comfortable. I don’t want people to envy my life or what I have. It makes me feel spoiled to the point that I want to give away everything that I own.

I don’t want to be a hero. It makes me want to point out to everyone else why they are just as heroic as me. And I only really want to be a role model to my children. (Okay, and maybe my students.)

Maybe I don’t want to be “great” because I fear that it will create a large divide between me and my readers.

Maybe I don’t ever want to think of myself as someone who has completely “arrived” in life. I fear that it might numb me to all the possibilities that still await me.

Although pushing into new territory has never, ever been something that I look forward to, I know that stretching myself beyond my previous capabilities has always, always rewarded me with confidence in my own capability and resilience.

I always want to acknowledge that I have further to go.

I always want to believe that I am a better person when I acknowledge that I am, and always will be, incomplete.

I will always yearn for something more. Something else. Something just far enough out of view that I can’t see it yet.

It feels good to understand at this point in my life that this is not a reflection of how much I love my family or how satisfied I am with my life. This is just the drive of the artist. The drive that I can’t wish away.

For me, writing is my ministry to others. Because this is where I find the most fulfillment. The greatest satisfaction.

And so I must dare to believe that in exchange for giving parts of myself away, new and unexpected things come my way.