“The Road Not Taken”

by on January 15th, 2011
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If self-improvement is the measure for success, then criticism is the ultimate yardstick for writers. Constantly at the mercy of all those around him, a writer has to graciously take in and accept the fact how everyone always has that something else to add, something else to change or something else to say. To this very day, I still remember what one of my first Creative Writing professors, the wonderful Max Gibson said about being critiqued, “It’s like having your baby out there for the whole world to see and wait for them to tell you what’s wrong with him or her!”

How true indeed!

What makes it worse is that unless the critic is a fellow writer who can be constructively objective about your writing and what you’re trying to achieve specifically, your work generally (and unfortunately) boils down to the ever-elusive, ever-ambiguous and ever-annoying matter of preference. If I were to get a dime for every change I have made to my work based on another’s preferred vocabulary even though they bear no added significance or difference to the intended message, I would’ve accumulated enough to retire long, long ago.

The journey is often long and lonely. Like martyrs, we are guided only by our faith and devotion, occasionally fortified and rewarded by minor accomplishments. We aspire to be the writers we adore and pray that we don’t expire before all the possibilities are explored. We plug along the best we can where hopefully, there will be some easier days too.

But you see, endurance is what writing is all about too. As frustrating and unbearable at times, writers continue of this road of endless evaluation because we love to write so much that we push ourselves forward. Perhaps that is when we turn the criticism into self-improvement?

It’s taken half my life for me to proudly declare that I am a writer. Not a full-time student who writes for fun or a waitress who enjoys writing or a Head of Program who is good at writing. I was too worried about not being good enough, too fearful of failing, too concerned with accolades.

What will I say if I announced myself a writer and people ask, “Oh really? What have you published?”

Or if I was and I mentioned my work only to be told, “Oh I’ve never heard of that before…”

Worse still if I was published, enjoyed some success but had yet to match that achievement.

And in all the could-have, might-have, should-have, I had forgotten to just try. And a decade flies past with not a darn thing done.

Well, no more. I am a writer who writes for a living.

I may not be famous and others may not care, but:
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Thank you, Mr. Frost.


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