I’m sure you’ve all heard the cliché, “Those who can’t … teach.” In the same spirit of that saying, I’ve also discovered two more, “Those who aren’t doing anything themselves … like to direct everybody else,” and “Those who choose to sit at the head of the table … often deserve the end.”
Please don’t misunderstand. Writers (or anyone else in their field) who take pride in their hard work and accomplishments, and walk in confidence of their abilities, are quite different than those who pat themselves on the back for even their lack-luster efforts. Bragging about your work and being excited about your undertakings, is something everyone should do. How can someone expect others to get enthusiastic about their work if they don’t themselves? But puffing your own esteem, and representing yourself in a false manner (higher and more qualified than you really are), is out-right deception and arrogance.
Let me give an example: Mary Jane Doe has always dreamed of being a famous writer, and has written many stories over her long life, but being too afraid to pursue her passion, and finding such a saturated market of published books and stringent submission guidelines, she never bothered to submit them for review or representation for publication. She never laid them out where they might be rejected or subjected to criticism. Mary Jane spent the majority of her life placing her writing last in her priorities, as a mere hobby (something to do in her spare time – with no expectations of success or failure).
After many years of missing the ‘big break’ (if she never submitted, how did she expect the opportunities to come to her?), she decided to self-publish and skip the whole possibility of rejection or bad review all together. Once her book was printed, she shared it with a few close friends and peers, all full of gushes and accolades. (While friends and family are great for support, their reviews and edits are biased.)
Suddenly, Mary Jane considered herself an expert in the field of writing, and began instructing and critiquing others in their own writing dreams, freely offering her opinion on their manuscripts (something she was too afraid to face herself). Yet, this whole time, Mary Jane thought it was beneath her to go out and promote, sell, or market her book to public readers. She saw no reason to put her excellent work out where it might not receive its due praise. However, she herself was fully convinced it was the best work to hit the presses she’d ever read, so much so, she nominated it for every award she could find. She didn’t see the difference of being nominated and nominating herself.
While I admired Mary Jane and the belief in herself and abilities, I also pitied her. No matter how many books she's written or awards she's received, she cheated herself and will one day find herself humbled in her arrogance. I pray every day I don’t fall to the same arrogance of pride (it’s so easy to do), because I’d rather be great and sit at the end of the table, than be empty and sit at the head. I don’t want people to listen to me to praise my success or greatness, but so they can be inspired to reach their own.
So, as you make your way through the wonderful world of writing and publishing, keep your eyes open – not on what your peers (other writers) are saying with their mouths – because their mouths can and often lie – but keep watch on their actions and measure their results. Don’t follow someone who is constantly talking, but isn’t really doing anything. Don’t listen to self-praise, judge their work for yourself, and then trust your own opinion. I hate when someone gives someone else power over their opinions. Own it! It’s good to follow those who lead by example, because you can clearly see the results they receive, and thereby the results you can hope for yourself. But, if the one speaking doesn’t have any results – why do you follow them? I’ll leave you with one more cliché, “Don’t follow a blind man, or you’ll both end up in a ditch.” (Matt 15:14)
Till next time,