On a recent interview they asked what is your personal definition of Excellence and provide an example to support that statement.
Okay so maybe I’m paraphrasing, but that was the just of the question (I know it’s not exact because they don’t let the questions leave the room, because they are a state secret, or a provincial secret?).
My first thought was to my writing, but instead I blithered on about something more day job appropriate. I was on the spot, and I hadn’t thought about that type of question, and the last time I had opened up and gave incredible insight into my soul, and how I felt about something personally, I was obliterated by it, when they offered feedback as per why I didn’t get the job. They took personal philosophy that has gotten me through really hard times, and said it was not what they were looking for, and I wasn’t taking them seriously enough. All I could do was stare at them and wonder how they missed the point, and how they could not see the beauty in the point. But that was them, and not me, so the fault I think lies in their perception not mine. Still, it hurt.
But since I did not get this recent position, I have taken some time to think about the question of Excellence. It kept ticking about my head, demanding that I be truthful about it, that I explore that first instinct.
So here goes.
Excellence is when you read a book by an author, and you think WOW, that is what I want to write. They are now on the list of all-time favorites. Let’s go back and read their earlier stuff. And you read it, and you think this is not the same quality, but as you go through an earlier series with them you see them improve from book to book. Their skill and style growing. And then you hunt down their twitter feed and their tumblr or blog and you get a taste of their writing philosophy, to push themselves to do better from each book. They can’t change what’s already published, but they can listen to the corners of the internet and figure out how to use that feedback to be better, do more.
Excellence is that blogger you follow who writes knitting humour but is so much more than that. Her blog becomes the thing that makes you laugh, and the personal insight that you wish someone had said sooner, because you too have been dancing around that same conclusion. The blogger, who believes that one stitch at a time, turns into a row, turns into multiple rows, turns into a finished object. Who knows the value of one small act piled on top of each other to reach a greater whole.
Excellence is deciding in a time of darkness that you need your own night light, and you figure out what that is and you hold onto that. You learn how to play the long term game, when you are short term unhappy.
Excellence is finding your people, and your writing community, and learning how they will help push you beyond chapter three, and root for you, and tell you that your writing is worth it, but here is how to make it better. It is driving in a car on a road trip and brainstorming plot points. It is cheers on twitter when you reach word count goals. It is the support you need, from your people, who know the struggle.
Excellence is reading author after author, of blogs to find out how they broke in, and if that is the path for you. It is learning that there are multiple paths to writing, and you may still discover a new one. It is knowing that one person’s advice on how to write a novel, may not be applicable to all. It is learning how to pick through what works for you and what doesn’t.
Excellence is reading great works, and crappy works, and mediocre works, and finding what you love in writing, but also learning how to develop your own voice in the face of so many already out there.
Excellence is years and years of commitment to a thing (writing), a passion, in hopes that you are going to create something worthy. It is 18 drafts that you know aren’t worthy, and that 19th that you are pushing through. It is looking back in awe at those 18 drafts and seeing how you have grown as a writer. How you have learnt how to write a beginning, and a middle, and loosely an end, on many different attempts. It’s knowing that those 18 drafts are not failures, but grounds for learning.
Excellence to me is my writing. It is all of the lessons I have learnt in pursuit of it, and all of the lessons I will still learn in pursuit of it.
I might not give them this answer ever, but this is my answer for those I trust with bits of my soul, because you fellow writers, I’m sure will get it. I trust you to see the beauty in this answer and not look for flaws to exploit. I trust you to know the struggle, and the desire and the passion. I trust you to understand the context.
In short, I trust you.