As a writing exercise, my friend Scott asked me to name one accomplishment I’m proud of. Being a self-deprecating perfectionist, listing achievements that may cause a swollen ego isn’t exactly my strong suit – I can always point to several things I’d change or do differently to make the thing better next time. To add to the difficulty, I tend to see pride in general as a liability rather than an asset, so I’ve significantly handicapped myself right out of the gate.
In order to get through the exercise, then, I have to adjust the phraseology of the original question. Instead of naming something I’m proud of, let’s see if I can’t at least name some pursuit that I enjoy and am reasonably good at.
On that subject, my wife and I were talking about the intersection of passion and work the other day, and she asked me what I’m passionate about; what do I like doing so much that I’d do it for free; what do I do that can solve problems for others, etc.
I drew a complete blank.
She returned my stare. She’s a mom and a trained teacher, so blank looks have no effect on her. She was obviously not going to let me off the hook.
I was thinking, “I’m not creative; I’m not an artist; I don’t make beautiful things that millions will line up to buy; I can’t solve my own problems, let alone anybody else’s” – and so it went.
My wife pointed out that while I may not be creative in an artistic sense (my four year old draws better than I do), my creativity comes out when I write.
I get fired up when I can string words together into coherent thoughts – and then string those thoughts together into a story or article that others might enjoy.
I communicate better through the written word than through extemporaneous speaking – speaking doesn’t come with the luxury of editing before it gets ‘out there’. If I orally blurt out something foolish, I can’t just rewind and try again, but when I write garbage, the delete key can easily haul it away before it stinks up the place.
So to go back to the original question (before I played Calvinball with it and changed the rules), I’m proud of my writing anytime it makes somebody laugh, or gets them to think, or teaches them something they didn’t already know. The point of Scott’s question was to get me to stop self-deprecating and be realistic and objective about my own ability.
As a perfectionist, I like to tell myself that my writing isn’t good enough to publish, but as a realist, I can easily point to countless examples of other writers who somehow managed to get published in spite of really bad writing, editing, formatting, etc. If I know how to do it better, then the only things stopping me from getting published are my own self doubt and lack of determination.
If there’s a market for really bad writing (and without a doubt, there is – just browse the paperback rack at any supermarket), then there is certainly a market for high quality writing – in any genre.
This, then, is why I write. It’s my creative outlet. It gives me the opportunity to entertain, teach or just to start conversations. Pursuing it has put me in contact with a variety of new friends and acquaintances whom I never would have met otherwise; all of whom are teaching and entertaining me on the way.
It also gives me a goal to reach for – getting my work published. Pursuing that goal is much better than sitting idly by and letting it slip away, and the pursuit is challenging and instructive.
Because of all that, the pursuit – regardless of the results – is something I can be proud of.