Well, I’ve got a post due today, and honestly I have way too many things on my mind at the moment. I’m not an easy person to get along with sometimes… especially if I’m in charge. I tend to have a… …drill sergeant leadership model. Kind of – “Get down and give me twenty, ya damn maggot!… …Oh, is that too hard for you little miss prissy? Are you weak and tired already?… Then give me another thirty! And smile while you do!” You can ask my students about this. Honestly, even the students that love me and become my facebook friends usually have some story about when I made them cry. At the moment, you could ask my fiancee as well. She’s kind of an amazing person for putting up with me at times. I have the bad habit of setting a pace that I can keep (or even sometimes setting a pace that I can’t keep), and then just expecting everyone else to keep up… and while I can forgive pretty much anything, I don’t have much tolerance for excuses. You can ask the student I had who lost eight family members to various diseases and accidents over the course of an eight week long class… …although, that is an admittedly odd coincidence.
What does this have to do with writing? Everything, actually. You should set high goals for yourself! I will advise this more when it comes to quality than quantity, but even then you should set high goals. Don’t get me wrong, your goals should be ‘realistic.’ I’m not suggesting that you set the goal ‘I’m going to write ten thousand words a day that even Edgar Allan Poe can’t improve on!’ That’s… well, honestly for the vast majority of us that’s just an idiotic goal. However, something like ‘I’m going to write 500 decent words a day, even if I have to work, take care of kids, etc, etc, etc’ is realistic for the vast majority of us. If you’re feeling ambitious you might even set a goal of a thousand or two thousand words a day (this really depends on what kind of writer you are). However, take two lessons from my own mistakes (lessons that I am constantly trying to work on): 1) don’t expect everyone else to be the same. Yes, if you’re writing a novel with someone, then the two of you need to get on the same page. However, in general, encourage excellence, but also let people be people. 2) Let yourself fail. You’re going to fail. It’s just true, you will. I’m not suggesting that you make a habit of it. If you’re failing constantly then you probably either need to set a different goal or try harder. There will be times when both of these are true. However, sometimes you will fail. That’s just life. Be okay with that. I try to remind my students of this constantly. If you are actually doing your best (and the ‘actually’ is incredibly important here) then you should be proud.
If the best you’ve got in you is an F, then be proud of that F and switch careers. Don’t expect to be good at everything, but don’t make excuses for being terrible at something either. Always, ALWAYS! put forth the best effort that you’ve got in you (and remember that sometimes you’re best right now isn’t necessarily you’re best overall – I had a student once whose daughter actually was dying. My student refused to drop the class because, at the time, it was the only coping mechanism that he/she had to deal with his/her situation. However, needless to say, he/she was at best distracted throughout the class – this student’s best efforts during the tragedy of his/her daughter’s death did not reflect his/her best during normal circumstances). At the same time, when the best effort that you have puts forth squat, be willing to own that. Very few of us are good at everything, that doesn’t make the things we’re bad at any less worth doing. In fact, sometimes the things we’re bad at are very much worth doing even though we’re bad at them. However, it does mean that you don’t put forth your best effort, produce squat, and then call it gold because it was the best you could do.
All of this to say: write! Write the best that you can: good, bad, or just plain confusing! However, when you write, don’t expect everyone else to love you’re writing. I learned this lesson the hard way (mostly because I did expect everyone to love my writing, and a lot of people didn’t). Sometimes, you can get better (I certainly have). That’s part of why we’re here. However, sometimes you can’t, even when you try. That’s okay… there are lots of good writers out there who can’t make a living at it. Keep writing, don’t expect people to love what you write. Don’t expect people to want to read it. However, write it anyway – its worth doing. One of the primary benefits of writing is simply that it helps us process things. Putting your ideas down on paper, good or bad, forces you to think them through, at least more than you have already. That’s a good thing.