James LePore is the inaugural correspondent for the Made It Moments feature. He is the author of the literary thriller A World I Never Made, which deals with international terrorism, romance, and the care and repair of one imperfect father/daughter bond.
Here’s what Jim wrote:
This is not as easy a topic as it seems. I give “made it” its common meaning, which is essentially to have succeeded, after a struggle of some substantial duration, to the top level of one’s chosen profession or field of endeavor. That being the case, I cannot write on the subject as I have not made it as a writer. However, I have observed the effects of making it on numerous artists and they do give pause for thought. We can all name any number of writers, singer/songwriters, painters, etc. whose early work is authentic and really good, who then descend (often swiftly) into churning out formulaic “art” that sells terrifically because it has their name on it. They are selling a brand that the consuming public either doesn’t know or doesn’t care has become boring and pedestrian.
I can also name a few who, after initial success, continue to strive for excellence. Sometimes they don’t hit the mark, but there is something in their work that speaks of effort and risk and humility, in other words taking the road less traveled.
Do I blame the artists who take the well traveled road for getting rich, for cashing in on their version of the American dream? No. Getting rich is probably a lot of fun. Do I want this to happen to me? The answer is, I want the option. At that point I’ll know I’ve made it. What I’ll do, I don’t know, but stay tuned.