Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Years ago, when I was in high school, an English teacher introduced me to a famous writer, who was at that time one of my "idols."
"Watch this girl!" my professor warned. "She's going to be somebody."
Even though the words were spoken with an combination of obvious pride, unabashed sarcasm, and the unspoken admonishment against letting the words go to my head, it was the highest compliment I had ever received--primarily because I so completely admired the "giver," who was a renowned poet in her own right. Over the years, I have treasured it close to my heart, secretly vowing to fully earn that praise, to "make my mentor proud".
Over the years, I have heard similar words. I have been complimented, encouraged, praised, and even dubbed "the best writer ever" by what has to be the harshest critic ever. Still, I often find myself wondering why that isn't enough. Time and time again, I have found myself facing an individual who easily boasts that he or she is the greatest writer of all time, bar none. As a developmental editor, I have marveled at the confidence displayed by those who have had no more talent than a five-year-old drawing indecipherable doodles on construction, paper, been astounded by the humility of others who have rivaled the greats, and completely baffled by works which--without any apparent style or form whatsoever--somehow manage to so completely capture the unique tones and timbres of the writer's voice that they draw in the reader as no other could. Still, the longer I write, the more I surround myself with truly exceptional writing, the more convinced I am that no greater glory exists than composing something of true literary value, regardless of its notoriety among men or its acceptance by the so-called experts of the time.
Could any praise, any approbation, any amount of affirmation or success rival the simple knowledge that one has, in a lifetime, completed that one piece he or she was born to write?
And does any artist, any writer ever recognize that defining moment if and when she reaches it?