This month Paul has asked us to share with you our greatest triumph as a writer. Although I’ve not talked about this to any of my fellow authors, my guess is that most of us will have enormous trouble with this month’s post.
Last month we shared, with you, our greatest difficulties. That was hard, too, but for very different reasons.
I’m going to make some statements about writers, but in my (limited) experience they will also apply to many other artists who create art that has both a technical aspect and a creative-emotional component (e.g., painters, sculptors, actors, composers, and many more).
Writers know our weaknesses. We seek out our weaknesses so that we can either avoid them or overcome them. We join critique groups and ask others to point out our weak spots.
But it’s very difficult to share that list of weak spots with others. It’s painful to say I haven’t come as far as I’d hoped, and here’s a list of reasons why.
But we know, that for ourselves, we have to make that list. If I can’t write powerful scene-setting description, I shouldn’t expect to hammer out a Michener-esque story for next week’s deadline.
Coming up with a CV of our writing triumphs has an entirely different set of difficulties. Just like our weaknesses it’s important for writers to understand their strengths. But listing our triumphs seems an awful lot like strutting. OK, maybe that’s a little off-base. But it’s always seemed that the writers who are most ready to sing about their triumphs are the writers who used to be good writers. Perhaps, it’s better to say that by writing down a list of what we’ve done, we’ve stopped focusing on what needs to be done… we’re resting on our laurels.
But we do have successes. And just as with our weaknesses it’s important for us to know them. When I’m up late for the fourth straight night, constantly rewriting and redeleting that troublesome final scene, and doubting myself and my ability, remembering that email from Jodi when she read my first draft of Schrodinger’s Cat can seem like a life-vest when I’m floating far out at sea.
And in a modern world where we need to publicize our own writing on blogs and social media, the need to crow about your latest work is critical. So, yes, I have had triumphs.
I’ve had short stories published. I’ve sold stories. I’ve won a contest. I’ve had someone come across my work online and pay me to republish it on their site. I’ve found an editor I work well with. I’ve made good friends who will tell me when my writing sucks. And I’ve even had a wonderful moment where a friend bought Nothing But Flowers without realizing that it included one of my stories, then cornered me at a party, bubbling over, when she discovered my story.
And each of those moments felt great. But none of them are my greatest accomplishment. To list my greatest triumph is to admit that my best writing, and my best success is behind me.
So… what is my greatest triumph as a writer? I don’t know… I haven’t gotten there yet.