Valuing What You Do

Once again, I’m in Telluride. En route to here, Monday, I stopped in Ouray, where a writer friend of mine, who lives elsewhere in Colorado, was visiting their Hot Springs Pool, with the family. The pool is just ten miles off my route to Telluride, so we made plans to meet, there.

I’ve known this friend—let’s call him, Roger—for a handful of years. He’s been writing for roughly the same amount of time that I have, but he’s had much better success than I. Frankly, it’s due to his being more dedicated, and a bit more talented. I even knew who he was for nearly a full decade before we ever physically crossed paths. Even though we’ve since become good friends, I still look up to Roger. Still kinda put him on a pedestal.

A short while ago, Roger was part of a gallery show, in the Roaring Fork Valley. He and a Northern Colorado painter had done some collaborative work together, which was now being presented. That evening, each of their pieces were sold, some of them for close to a thousand dollars. Both things surprised Roger, especially how much they were selling for. (These all were “simple” pieces: a handful of written lines from Roger, a similar number of brush-strokes from the painter.)

I’m in the process of taking on editing work, and I’ve been quibbling with myself, lately, about how much to charge. I’ve been doing small bits of editing work, gratis, for friends and colleagues for awhile. It feels odd and a little unsettling, thinking about charging folks, now. Within the last year or so, Roger has also begun charging for the same work he used to do as a favor for people. And it sounds like he struggled much more than I currently am in allowing himself to be paid. In fact, I’m not quite sure he’s gotten comfortable with it, yet.

I’m still sorta shaking my head over this. Roger has had more than a handful of books published, and has gotten to travel to all sorts of nifty places due to his writing. It’s not at all uncommon to hear people utter his name in reverential tones. (I’m not alone in placing him on a pedestal.) All these and more, and yet he still questions the value of what he does. It didn’t/doesn’t make sense that someone of his caliber and renown would have these sorts of issues—at least not on the surface.

And so it goes. I’ve blogged about this, before. Somehow, some of us have difficulty discerning the value of what we do. You can hold thousands spell-bound with your words, have organizers clamoring to have you speak and/or present at their up-coming events, pack a bookstore when you come to sign your latest book—and, still, question the worth of what you do. Success doesn’t necessarily take away feelings of inadequacy, of not mattering. In fact, it can aggravate those same self-perceptions by making you feel even more like a fake.

And, perhaps, just maybe, I might be calling the kettle black, here. After all, I’ve had scads of folks who know about such things compliment my own writing, over and over again. In fact, Roger is one of my biggest cheerleaders. You’d think having my writing being admired by a writer whom I admire would be enough to dispel any niggling perceptions I have about my writing; however…

How about you? Do you feel you own talents are lacking—even though you’ve been told otherwise? If so, what’s up with that?

(I don’t know, either.)

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And, speaking of valuing your talents, this picture was taken during my second night, here. For the close of their author event, that evening, Between the Covers had scheduled a jam session. Only a single musician showed up with his instrument. Nonetheless, even though it was only him, here he is, jamming away.

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2 Comments

Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer

2 responses to “Valuing What You Do

  1. Love this, Ed. I do think your writing is much better than you believe it to be. I can relate to the “valuing what you do” part, but when it gets down to it…you have a talent that many others do not have. And what you write is something not found elsewhere, something people WANT to read. I struggle with charging friends and family for art commissions as well, but it does take time to create. I guess in a sense we’re putting a numerical value on our talents…a little at first, but increasing the better we get and the more we’re able to “sell”. Best of luck!

  2. Rae,
    Roughly a year and a half ago, in an email to me, Roger mentioned my having, “such clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance).”
    As you and he have mentioned, I perhaps have some catching up to do.
    Thank you, for adding your own considerable voice to the mix.

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