I’ve been watching an ongoing discussion on one of the forums recently and it has me wondering just what an ass some people must’ve thought I was over the years. (Hell, there may be people who read this blog who still think that.)
See, I’ve been very fortunate in my life. Like insanely fortunate. Generally, until this writing thing, I easily achieved my goals. Okay, so triple majoring in undergrad while working full-time was one of the most hellish, difficult periods of my life. But I did it. I decided on a goal, set my mind to it, worked my ass off, and voila, I achieved what I set out to do.
When I started working, I also did very well. I got early promotions and shot up the corporate ladder. It was not hard to work my way to a very nice income.
Which meant that I had no compassion or understanding for what others were going through. Oh, sure. I thought I did. I pretended to put myself in their shoes. I tried to imagine what it was like to struggle to achieve the things you want to achieve, but, honestly? I was full of shit.
It’s like someone who breathes without even thinking about it (which would be most of us) trying to understand someone who has to consciously force themselves to breathe every single time or risk dying. Can you truly, truly put yourself in a person like that’s shoes? You think you can, but no.
Well, bringing this back to writing, that thread involved people talking about how many copies they had sold and if they’d reached a certain level of sales. All fine and good. Encouraging even to see what’s possible.
What wasn’t fine and good was where a few of those folks decided to take it.
Because it wasn’t enough for them to say, “Hey, this is how much I’ve sold.” Instead, those people had to add, “And if you haven’t sold that much, well then you’re clearly not working hard enough at this, not taking it seriously, not skilled enough in your writing, not…” whatever the hell they thought made them superior to everyone who wasn’t doing as well as them.
It was a little ah-ha moment for me. Because I finally saw in those people myself all these years. Hell, look at my last post where I set forth four (?) very easy steps to succeeding in the corporate world. (Although I will say that I know they aren’t easy to follow, especially not for forty years straight. Even as I was writing them a small part of me was laughing at how not “easy” those steps are.)
I said it was that easy, but how many people would find those steps easy or even possible? How many people could get into and survive at the type of school that allows for that series of events to even start?
So in a sense it’s good that this writing thing hasn’t been the immediate success I would’ve liked it to be. Because it’s slapped me upside the head and expanded my experience in ways that I like to think are positive. (Not for my bank account, of course, but for me as a person. And isn’t that what really matters? *tongue-in-cheek*)
I’m still arrogant as all get out despite ample evidence to the contrary. Actually, let me stop and share this Ursula K LeGuin quote with you while I’m thinking of it:
But the truth is, I always had confidence in myself as a writer – I had arrogance, even. Yet I had endless times of self-doubt. I think what carried me through was simply commitment to the job. I wanted to do it.
So, yeah. I’m that. Arrogant in my ability as a writer while suffering through serious periods of self-doubt. But hopefully the next time someone tries to tell me that I’m not understanding that their experience of the world is vastly different from my own and that maybe my own experience is actually the exception rather than the rule, I’ll actually stop and listen.
Granularity is a wonderful thing.
For example, I have a simple strategy for success:
(1) Start breathing
(2) Learn to function without adult support
Step (3) is left blank because it will vary depending on individual circumstance, but I’ve done 75% of the work for people; so anyone who isn’t successful has only themselves to blame.