My Email from John Grisham

This morning I told my wife I got an email from John Grisham. She just looked at me, waiting for the punch line. I said I don’t know why John began the message with “Dear Reader,” but I was willing to look past that. John was obviously reaching out to me, a fellow writer and author.

Seriously, though, at some point I did sign on to Mr. Grisham’s email list, so his holiday greetings and reflection on his writing career did land in my email inbox a few hours ago. Whatever you think of his work, whether or not you’re a fan, I think John offers some nuggets for all who write for fun, work, publication and more.

I offer a few thoughts below, but first the note.

* * *

December 19, 2013

Dear Reader,

This is the time of year for taking stock and giving thanks. As I’ve said many times, I feel extremely lucky to be able to write books that entertain so many people. Thank you for buying them. I am delighted you enjoy them.

Twenty-five years ago, I suddenly found myself staring at the opportunity to walk away from a less than prosperous law practice (which I did without even turning off the lights) in order to sit alone for hours each day writing stories. I feel privileged, even blessed to have spent these years doing what I dearly love. And it is still tremendous fun. The words and ideas are flowing faster than I can write.

Through twenty-eight books for adults and four for kids, I have enjoyed every day at the typewriter (or keyboard or whatever writers call these things these days). The creating, plotting, editing, promoting, and, yes, the selling, are as exciting today as they were twenty-five years ago.

As I approach the slightly mature age of 59, I catch myself looking back, but also looking ahead. What will I be doing at 60, 65, 70, or 80? If I’m healthy, I plan to be writing legal thrillers, sports books, kids books, comic novels, short stories, maybe even screenplays. If I have learned one thing so far, it is that I cannot predict where the next story will come from.

But there are a lot of stories to be written. As long as you are there to read and enjoy them, I promise to keep writing.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy holiday season.


* * *

Obviously, John Grisham is wildly successful in a commercial sense. He doesn’t have to write another word to make a living. He has ample money to do, I expect, pretty much whatever he pleases. I imagine his wealth and fame have led to many new experiences and provided access to lots of high-profile people.

But, according to his above message, one thing John Grisham still wants and lives to do is to sit down at his keyboard and write. It sounds like John plans to write many more books because, in his words, “the creating, plotting, editing, promoting, and, yes, the selling, are as exciting today as they were twenty-five years ago.”

I saw John Grisham last March in Charlottesville at the Virginia Festival of the Book. He was on stage with Frank Deford, Jane Leavy and David Zirin. The moderated conversation focused on sports stories but veered into other topics.

I recall a few of John’s comments, or at least a few that stuck out for me. He never expected the chart-topping, head-spinning success. Never. Like many of the rest of us, he just wanted to write and hopefully make a living.

I remember this fairly distinctly. John said that when the crazy success came, he thought to himself, “Don’t screw this up,” or “I better not screw this up.” John didn’t want the money and fame to cause him to lose his way like has happened to so many others in various fields of endeavor. He was determined to keep his head down, to keep writing, to keep doing his work.

I think that’s a great mantra for all of us who write. If we follow that example, we’ll also be successful, even if we don’t make it onto the bestseller lists.