At church, an older fellow named Jim has a pat answer to the question of how he’s doing.
“Better than I deserve,” he says with a smile.
When I think about my writing career, the same is true. It got started when I was in college, trying to figure out how I could use words to say something that needed to be said. Something I felt inside that wanted so desperately to get out.
The big start came when my creative writing teacher invited me to her writing group. No, I wasn’t made an official member. But she asked me to attend one of their eye-opening meetings.
Before the meeting, I was pretty sure I was the best writer ever. There were some as good, but none better. Then I read a poem by Rufus. He wore overalls, spoke slowly, wrote beautifully. There were no frills. No pretension. Just one word after another that was just in place.
When it was time for my piece to be reviewed, I wanted to run and hide. I was a lightweight in the ring with a group of heavyweight champions. And my boxing gloves didn’t fit.
Scared as I was, it was a transformative meeting. Not only did I get put in my place, but I also learned how to graciously give and receive feedback. All the others, while many years my senior and light years beyond my writing infancy, were thoughtful and kind as they commented on one another’s work and then mine. Their advice was concrete and useful, holding the power to actually improve my writing.
I didn’t realize how fortunate I was until I looked them up. They’ve all continued writing and doing whatever else life requires of them. As I look at their commitment to writing and supporting other writers, I, too, like Jim can say with sincerity that I’m doing better than I deserve.
So the next time you’re asked how you’re doing, admit you’re doing better than you deserve. Because if you’re alive and you’re relatively self-aware, it’s true. Find success in writing or something else in life? Don’t forget—that success isn’t because you’re a great person. It’s because someone (or more likely, someones) gave you a hand and taught you how to do things well. In other words, you’re doing better than you deserve.