Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Being Good

We've all heard the phrase, "Jack of all trades, master of none." That's me FOR SURE. I have always felt like this, actually. I dabble in things here and there, I do do do enthusiastically until I get inspired by something else, and then I go on to try my hand at the next thing. I set these goals, and I accomplish them. I always accomplish them. But I never become good at the thing. I never commit to the thing. I move on to a new thing when it comes time to get past "okay" and move into "good."

A few years ago I was inspired to run a marathon. I've never been an athlete, and I actually really hate running. But it was one of those bucket list things that I decided I wanted to cross off, so some friends and I started out on a six-month training schedule to run the LA Marathon. 

View All Photos | Run, Jessica, run! | [jessica]I realized pretty quickly that I was not cut out to be a runner. Like, not at all. I hated pretty much every single second of training for that race, and when I crossed the finish line of the LA Marathon, after 26.2 grueling miles and six months of intense training and hard work, instead of being over the moon at my accomplishment, I believe my exact words were, "Well, that sucked. I'm never doing that again."

And I haven't. I don't think I've run more than a mile since that day. 

Some of my friends have continued to run, working on increasing their time or their distance, setting new personal records as they participate in other races. Becoming more toned and more athletic and just better. Not me. I did that thing, and then I moved on to another thing. Yeah, I ran a marathon, but I'm not really a runner. 

So, now my "thing" is writing. I started my current WIP only a few months after I completed the LA Marathon, almost as if "Write a novel" was right there under "Run a marathon" on my generic bucket list. (I'm sure "Go skydiving" is coming up next.)

The big difference here is that, while I was never a runner, never an athlete, I've always been a writer. I may not have always been writing stories or novels, but as a kid I had many pen pals (we're talking like 50-ish) and I would write them these 10-page handwritten letters (front and back!) on a very regular basis, going into the details of my life dramas and hardships. I started blogging back in 2003, and for many years, my blogging was a daily occurrence, something I had to do before I could start my day. I've always been a writer in some shape or form. It's always been something I loved. 

Another thing I've always loved, like writing, is acting. I made my way on stage at five years old, and I felt at home right away. I tried to quit theater for activities I thought were "cooler" (like dancing, even though, like I'm not a runner, I'm also not a dancer. I love dancing a lot more than running, but there is nothing graceful about these lanky arms and legs), but I always ended up back on stage, back in the spotlight.

View All Photos | If only my ability matched my ambition. | [jessica]When I was in college I took some non-major theater classes. And the instructors told me I was good. And the other people in my classes told me I was good. And I thought for awhile about double majoring in Communications and Theater, because I loved it so much, and I thought I might actually be good at it. 

But I didn't. Because I was scared. Because I liked thinking I was good at theater, and I didn't want to be "eh" in a room of awesome people. I didn't know if my brand of good would stand up to the competition. So I decided not to even try to find out, and I pretty much gave up on acting and theater. I have done a couple of things since, and I've still heard that I'm good. But it's not the same. 

Yeah, I love to act. But I'm not really an actor.

And now I'm working on this novel. And it's hard. And every time I think I'm getting close to the finish line, it seems to get even more out of my reach. And, let me tell you, it is taking a lot of my time.

I just can't help I going to do do writing what I have done to these other things in my life? Even the things I have loved, like acting? Am I going to let my fear and self-doubt stop me? Am I just going to say, "I wrote a novel," cross it off the list, and then move on to the next thing, because I'm afraid of the competition? Or afraid to find out that maybe I don't like it as much as I thought I would? Or afraid to find out that maybe I'm not as good as I think I am?Or am I going to make THIS the thing I make myself good at? Am I finally going to commit myself to becoming GOOD at something that I love? And getting out there and TRYING? And, maybe if I find out that I am just "eh," maybe working my ass off to rise above that?

I really hope so. Because I'm at the point in my life where I'm ready to stop just being average at a bunch of things. I want to be awesome at something, and I really want writing to be that thing. 

I don't want to say, yeah, I wrote a novel, but I'm not really a writer. 

I want to BE a writer. 

And I want to be good at it.


  1. I feel much the same way. I have been a writer since a child - I wrote my will (yes, as is where my clothes would be donated and what books my parents could keep! LOL) and then angsty teen poetry and short stories. I finally decided to sign up for Nano to force myself to do the writing thing again.

    And by the way - you are kick ass awesome for running the marathon! This is on my bucket list too because I added it on there when I was a runner...3-4 miles a day I would run. Then I had foot surgery and never really looked back.

  2. You should know that at one point (early last year, maybe?) I decided to run a marathon, too. The Disney marathon. I even started a blog about it. (I was going to link it for you but I guess I deleted it? Which is probably a good thing. It was mostly me complaining about how it was too hot/too hard/too painful to run). Anyway, I think I made it up to about 5 or 6 miles, then July came and it was just too hot, and I quit.

    But I'm still writing. I guess it depends on what you love most. And with writing I feel like I'm mostly competing with myself. Yes, there are other writers and I am competing with them to get published. But when it comes time to perform, to actually write, it's just me, not a room full of people watching my audition.

    I loved acting, too. And people said I was good at it. But I never thought I was good enough. Same as you. I guess I just think writing is something I can get better at. And, more importantly, it's something I WANT to get better at.

    So that's how I would judge.

    Also...skydiving??? Really?? I hope that was a joke. I thought you were afraid of heights!

  3. As someone who's been reading your stuff in one way, shape or form for just about 8 years now, I have to say: You're already good at writing. Once you publish your first novel, you'll be a good writer who just wrote their first novel.

    Your writing has that quality that makes a reader feel like you're talking to them "just like this" and that's a great intangible to have.

    You'll be fine...and think about this: Being a jack of all trades is way better than being scrub at everything. Being versatile & well rounded is a great way to be.

  4. I like this post a lot. It reminds me of how I am with my hobbies. I don't think I've found anything yet that I'm good at really, except for my job. Wish you a lot of luck finishing the novel. I'd love to read it when you're done. Don't be afraid of the comps. You totally stand out in so many ways, and I don't think you even realize it. xoxooooo

  5. I enjoyed reading this and could relate in a lot of ways. I still have some of your letters from back when we were pen pals. :) I've always loved acting and dancing, but I was never really that good at either. I was good enough, but not great. As for writing, that kind of happened by accident. Other people tell me I am good, but I just don't know.

    I hope to read your novel someday. :) Thanks for telling me about this new blog.