Tuesday, April 30, 2013


This past weekend I attended a medical conference at which a number of areas in which I did pioneering work were discussed. I'm proud to have contributed these scientific advancements, yet I realize that time marches on and my work will undoubtedly be improved upon and ultimately forgotten. That's the way things work.

When we walk on a beach, we may leave footprints on the sand, but the next day--sometimes even the next hour--they're gone, swept clean by the tide. During my specialty training, my chief resident was fond of saying that if you think you're indispensable, stick your hand in a bucket of water and notice the hole it leaves when you take it out. That's an image I try to revisit from time to time, especially if I think I'm important. In the grand scheme of things, none of us are. Writers, scientists, humanitarians, politicians, athletes--what we contribute is just a part of the whole.

When I was playing baseball, we used to call this "reading your own press clippings." Have you ever been guilty of that? I must confess, I have. What did you do to counter it? What are your thoughts on the importance (or lack thereof) of an individual's achievements? I'd like to hear.

(photo via freedigitalphotos.net)

1 comment:

Richard Mabry said...

From friend and fellow writer, BJ Hoff (whom, apparently, Blogger doesn't like when she tries to post a comment):

But, Richard, your individual achievements ARE remembered and of value ... in ways you may never know. Their value may not be in press clippings or reviews--no matter how positive or sensational--but they do have value.

I was very young when I first realized I wanted to write, but at the time I knew I wasn't ready. Besides, I also knew at the same time that I wanted to teach music and believed I was equipped to do so. And I did. But I still harbored a sense that eventually I would write, and so I did the one thing that (at the time) I was fairly certain would help me to one day pull out that dream and run with it: I continued to read the work of other writers I admired, writers that "experts" in the publishing world had noted as the best in their respective fields. Yes, later I would take a few courses and soak up all the technical and philosophical information I could from the "how-to" books, but to this day I know that what helped me the most was READING. (And I read just as much today, if not more, as I did then.)

An integral part of my writing has been the awareness that at some point a young writer--maybe even more than one--might read my books and see something in my style or even in the turn of a phrase they like, and think "I want to be able to do that." It makes me want to give that particular story the best I have and make it as good as it can be. It's true that I write the stories of my heart. But I also try to write those stories with a heart for those who are just beginning to find their own strengths.

In a way, I think we writers might be advised to think of ourselves as teachers. What we learn from others, we tend to pass on, even unknowingly, to others. Our reviews, our press kits, even the content of our books, will fade away--just as we ourselves will. But we may well leave some "Timothys" to carry on in our place. They will pass on what was passed on to us. Those up and coming writers will, in a way, be our legacy. And they'll leave their own legacy ... and on and on it goes.

I frankly pay almost no attention to reviews--although if I become aware of a bad one it can hurt me, of course. But I DO try to be always aware that I might be setting an example that will be somehow used and used again by others. Even if that example is only a line or a thought or a useful piece of research--it will possibly survive.

I like believing that, and I think it's much more important for a Christian writer or a writer of moral and inspirational fiction to view his/her work from that perspective than to bow to or even care about what is being said regarding our work today.

Just my thoughts.