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Writer Wisdom - Discovering, and Accepting, Your Best...


“Do your best.”

I heard that sentence from everyone when I was a child, “Just do your best, Barbie.”

Problem: nobody told me what my best was.

Sure, in grade school, you’d get an A, and think, “Okay, that must be near my best,” only I’d still see errors on that paper or project, and think, well, I fooled that teacher. She thought I did my best.

I’d ask my parents, “What’s my best?” and they’d look at me with these blank stares, and maybe my mom would hug me, and say, “Well, when you work hard at something, you’ll automatically do your best. Or my dad would ponder, puff on his pipe, and bark out, “Get to work.” That was his way of telling me to stop being a pearl clutcher/naval gazer, and just get the darn job done already. Farm boys raised in the 20s and 30s hardly had the luxury of pondering life’s quagmires…

And so, blindly, I went on to university and then to my career, working like a slave at reaching this elusive “best” of which society demands of me but won’t let me in on whether I’ve attained it. And somewhere I lost sight of caring for myself. I got run down, caught a very bad virus, and ended up getting chronically sick, and losing my career… all because I never knew when enough was enough.

Flash forward umpteen decades, and finally, as they say, age met wisdom, and I finally discovered the equation of achieving, and accepting, one’s best:

A Specific Moment in Time + Focus + Determination + Finishing all the To-Dos of said Project – Not Doing One Item More – Not Spending One Minute More = Your Best

Yep. My life would have been a lot easier if somebody had just shown me this equation.

Unspoken in that calculus is the need to Shed All Guilt. Guilt is a big factor is why we can’t seem to finish, achieve what we want, for fear we will show the world a Less Than attempt. Guilt is a relative of Shame, and both have no place in discovering, and accepting, one’s best.


Side Story

I recently joined a writers group that specializes in producing genre works for the online readership world, aka pulp fiction e-books for the mass market.

Yes, I know, this is a world away from the literary works I slaved over in the past. But I realized I needed to balance out the epic works and the pulp fiction genre if I were to generate a steady writer’s income. It’s called smelling the reality java.

These writers will churn out a book a month. Seriously. Draft level, but still. They will hire editors, e-book formatters, a cover artist, and wham-bam, they become a genre plot recipe driven pulp fiction factory, where it seems mass market income takes precedence over research/heavy epic literary works.

It’s the whole self-publish versus traditional publish world, and I get both. Both have their place.


But this comes back full circle to doing “My best.”

I lost the equation. I reverted to my desperation mode, and thought I could do better than. And what did I do? I got sick. Again. Pushing where I shouldn’t. I forgot I was me, trying to be someone else… someone faster, better, more successful, and do it all in months.

Yes, I’ve returned to reality. I smelled yet again the java bean juice. I’m still in the midst of crafting a mystery series, but as well as taking insight from that group, I’m producing with me in mind — my ability, my strengths, my weakness, my best that can be achieved in this moment in time, and not slave out a moment more.

A lot of these online mass market genre e-books are okay, but they’re nothing to write home about. They’re the equivalent of Pringles potato chips. You can’t just devour one, and the moment the tin is empty, you’ve forgotten the taste.

Being me… I have to do a bit more than that. I have to assuage my gut when it whispers, you cheated there, you forgot to do this here, you screwed up there.

I will never be a book per month hack.

I will get faster, but not at the expense of a memorable read.

It will take me longer to amass a large back catalog, but with each book done, I will know that it was produced at my best — intellectually, mentally, physically. I will have given it my all, but not lose sleep at night fantasying about giving those books more than my all, which is reality, never exists for a human, ever. We just think it does.

Moral of My Doing Best Story: Universities should force graduates to take a Do Your Best class before they are given their degree. Maybe then as young and dumb brats, full of silly vim and vinegar, we’d screw up less in our 20s to better enjoy our 50s.

Just a thought.

P.S. The answer to My Best equation = 86%

That answer I’ll explain another day…