Positive Reinforcement, Fear and Doing it All

There are several things that can be said about me. The one that seems to fit the best is an old adage “Jack of all trades, master of none.” (You may change the name to “Jill” if it makes you feel better to be gender-specific.)

When I first heard this, back in my youth, I thought it was rather sad. To me, it spoke of a person who could do a lot of different things, but none of them very well.

My, my, how time has changed perception.

Now I’m rather proud to have the “Jill of all trades” distinction. After all, it means I can do lots of things. At this time of my life, I really don’t care if I can do them to perfection, I just want to do complete the tasks with a modicum of ability.

In my youth, I used to write. A LOT. When I grew up, there was only three TV channels and radio. No MTV, no 24-hour news, no movies on demand. Writing was an outlet for me. It was pretend. It was an outlet to exploring feelings and a way to report on my world, which I thought was pretty bleak and abnormal.

Then, of course, comes adulthood. Maturity means being able to provide for oneself. Writing (and drawing and painting) took a back seat to making a living. After that, comes family. You can’t just leave your family to fend for themselves while you go off and try to create.

During those years, I did it all. Put up siding. Painted houses. Hung wallpaper. Stripped oak moldings and refinished wood. Raised children. Sewed their clothes. Sewed my own window treatments. Learned to knit and crochet. Learned to really cook. Gardened. Dug up lots of dirt using only a shovel. Moved boulders with my own bare hands. Tended orchids. Took photographs for my business. Learned to use the computer. Designed books and catalogs. Learned Peachtree and became a bookkeeper. I found out I was damned good at customer service on the phone. Learned to play the violin. Kept an assortment of pets. Learned to be brave in the face of bugs. Concentrated on my siblings and dad. Made lots of friends online.

It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve returned to my first love, writing. It’s been slow, an excruciating learning experience. I’m thirty or so years behind. I’m shy about it. My family knows what I post online, as in that forum, I use my real name. I blog here every day. For the other, more heart-gripping writing, I’ve been keeping that under lock and key. I’m afraid to take the plunge and let others read what I think of as my “baby.” I’m not ready to let the public in, just yet.

Yesterday, I decided to post something for serious critique. I need to know what that’s all about. It was something that I worked on seriously, but it’s not my “baby.” I can afford brutal comments on it. Immediately afterward, I received a phone call from an online friend. She is a published writer. We had a lovely conversation. She hasn’t critiqued the story yet, but she did offer some positive comments.

I was buoyed by her words. Some of my fear has subsided.
I’m ready to forge on.

6 Responses

  1. Good for you!

    It’s odd how we look at our lives accomplishments at this point and are able to come up with an impressive tally sheet, isn’t it? While I was doing it all, I just felt like I was living my life. I had no idea how wonderful some of these things would be in retrospect.

  2. I envy you your long list of skills … as the most useless and unemployable person on planet Earth, I really admire Jacks and Jills of all trades.

    Suggestion for you about having pieces critiqued — it sometimes helps with the fear if you have a trusted reader who will “hold” the piece for you, by which I mean reading and appreciating it, but not critiquing it. This is sort of the equivalent of your kid’s loving grandmother, who will irrationally defend your kid after the (perhaps fair) tough Teacher Review Day. My feeling is that almost every writer needs what I think of as a “safe haven” reader … it does a lot to take the sting out of criticism,and allows you to view it more productively, when there is at least one other person who loved and understood your work without question.

  3. …and that (in continuation of the above comment) is never too hard to find. So just go for it.

    If there’s any writing that i haven’t shared with all in the past few years, then, it’s a novel called “Places Don’t Exist” and that too because I wish to publish it later and keep it as a surprise.

    I’ll be waiting to read your creative pieces.


  4. I’m not a writer.

    The list of worthwhile things that I have no clue about seems to grow daily.

    The number of completely useless things that I know about is increasing steadily.

    I think that makes me a Jack or Jill of all non-trades.

    I like it like that.

  5. You know me, ABS-accomplishing things with -non- in front of it is my second most favorite thing. There’s a lot to be said for opposite poles.

  6. I agree with David. Critique is important, but it’s also important to have someone who “gets” you.

    I love to draw and paint, which is a little like giving birth, and I become very protective of those “children”. I have my brother, who understands the emotion and intention of my art, when no one else does.

    It’s a safe place to land.

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