This post I warn you now, has a great deal of referencing to other people. Normally I try to avoid too much of this but I really wanted to show the sorts of things that influence my thoughts particularly on this topic. The thing is, having published is a wonderful experience but reality is showing we want so much more, and I wanted to share my own ideas on this.
We want the publication to be a springboard to embrace the world of writing with passion. We want this to reflect in our writing so the embrace comes back to us. Note the use of the word want and not the word expect. However the word want is secretly driven by expectations because let’s face it we yearn for that positive reaction. We are human and we long for that special place that sets us apart. So I got to thinking about what makes some people push harder than others to achieve it?
This thought continued to haunt me this week because it is not a simple question; it is a pathway to a thousand more questions. I decided to narrow it down and call it the desire for individual greatness. A reasonable definition would then be the desire to go beyond what is a reasonably well-done job. Bear in mind that this is not a comparison with others. I could discuss people from the time history began right through to modern day and rattle off names, but I am concerned more, in understanding this in terms of you and me, and what it means to us.
I wanted to look at what is within our realm of achievement and what do we need to do, to step into that arena, and yes in that arena there will be other people, a lot of them. No doubt many of these people are there hoping to reach that elusive and elite core holding the great. However to me that is an entirely different discussion. I am thinking in terms of what factor instigates the need to go a step beyond in whatever your calling may happen to be. Interestingly enough the same train of thought was occurring close to home. One of my fellow writers in our anthology Stories of the Dark and Light Kay Want Cheung wrote this on her blog after attending the QWC workshop I mentioned last post:
And now I see that ultimately the only thing that matters to me is that my characters are real people, that they love and laugh and hurt and make mistakes.
To me that embodies stepping into the arena. Recognition of wanting to do more is the first step forward. It is why we gather information constantly, why we wait with bated breath for reactions to our book, and why we itch to gather that further information that will help with the next endeavour. I want the same as Kay – realness no matter the genre or the style. I write romance even though my short story was more of a psychological thriller (well I hope it was), and last night I learned how easy it is to veer off the path you want for your characters. One sleepless night later I have an idea of how to fix it. Can I? I don’t know but it seems to me a long way to the centre of that arena, and that made me think further.
Recently another co-author on our anthology Alyson Walton shared a post from a website she was browsing for inspiration. As long as we don’t get too caught up in reading and forget to write this can be an excellent way to keep things we do fresh and exciting. The link Alyson sent seemed to me quite timely, as is strangely enough, much of what I come across these days. In this case it is Jay Colby and he says the following:
Often times we impede our own greatness by thinking and believing negative thoughts that inevitable makes us settle for mediocrity. In the past I have struggled with these same concerns that I have to settle for mediocrity. Until I realized that I can to be great and if I put my mind, energy and effort I can to be considered great.
We can all do it, enter that arena but we need to remember that the core, the coveted centre, is greedy and engulfs all that we are, all that we have to give. If we are not prepared to give then don’t go there.We don’t have to get to the centre to be individually great. I often follow a blog by Karen Andrews. Karen has perfected what she does by being very versatile and yet keeping everything simple and to the point, and by being totally involved in what she does. It shows. This is her advice to beginning writers:
Don’t be nervous or embarrassed about saying you’re a writer
Own the time
Write for yourself first
Look to other writers for inspiration, but don’t procrastinate
Fine isn’t finished
Rejection will happen
Karen does a lot by podcast including the above post so it’s not just her words that interest me. It is the way she looks at various topics constantly to reach a wider audience and then embraces various media forms to present the information. I am still stressing over tweeting which I seem to be doing without understanding quite how, and well before mastering Facebook pages. Karen proves it can done by owning who she is and what she does, and by believing fine is definitely not finished.
Mediocrity I am sure is a disease we give ourselves by either not getting in there to have a go in the first place, or by doing things half-heartedly or worse by being able to do something and thinking it gives us rights to feel superior. At the recent writer’s festival I attended John Marsden said something I can’t quite forget. We don’t teach our students about ‘status’. Status is a most complex process demanding some pretty tough things from us. It is the ultimate goal but it must be viewed on a practical level for only then will it help determine how far we travel.
I am talking about the power of believing in yourself enough to willingly share your knowledge. It is understanding knowledge is ever-changing and improves quicker by listening to others and not just our own voice. Position is earned by behaviour as well as by what we do. You have to respect the needs of others; you have to value what they bring to your table. It brings out the best in us and it is what takes us out of mediocrity.
This morning I watched an interview with Andre Riev. Every year thousands flock to Maastricht for his spectacle of costumes and dancers, singers and of course the wonderful music. His orchestra is paid a full salary all year and not just on performance. Their value in helping him do what he loves has no price. How else would he keep the people that help him present magic at his side if not by showing them the respect they deserve? They give him their best every time.
Andre Riev stated quite happily he didn’t like to take a break because he trusted in all the energy expanded in performance to come back and if you have watched a performance, it does. Even watching it on screen cannot dull the fantasy of being transported to a place where dreams thrive. Follow his link to just a small portion of magic he and his team create, and you will see I hope what I see – greatness.
My conclusion to this post and week’s reflections is simple – you can’t fail if you remember to focus on your audience and appreciate those who support you along the way.
I think greatness is about honesty. Being honest to yourself and not hiding it from the world. Easier said than done. 😉