Sunday, August 22, 2010

And Then You Think, "I'm a Genius"

I felt elated when I finally figured out how to solve the Rubik's Cube for the first time.  There are 43 quintillion (or 43 million, million, million) possible scrambled combinations.  In other words, each variation lined up end to end would be 261 light years long and I could solve any one of them you picked...assuming we didn't die of old age waiting for your selection.

Impressed with myself, I had delusions of grandeur.  Never mind that it initially took me countless hours to finally solve it.  "I'm going to break the world record."  At the time, I wasn't aware that it someone had solved it years earlier in less than 10 seconds.

We're competitive, aren't we?  Give us a challenge and suddenly we believe our personal journey will be revered by humankind.  Like me, you have probably thought, if you wanted to, that you could write the next New York Times Best Seller, win the Pulitzer Prize, and be as famous and successful as Mark Twain, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, or Kurt Vonnegut your first time out.

But, let's be realistic.  To be great, or even good at anything takes time and effort.  I never really set out to solve the Rubik's Cube faster than Man can run the 100 meter dash.  However, as I became more and more comfortable with my cube, the competitive streak kicked in:  2 minutes, 90 seconds, under a minute, less than 40 seconds, and so on, but not necessarily ever on to a World Record.

When I started writing fiction seriously, my first story was not good, and it certainly wasn't publishable.  But it was a story.  And it was a masterpiece to me.  It didn't matter what anyone else thought because I knew it was great.  Mozart didn't revise, why should I have to?  I was going to quit my job because my greatness as an author would be discovered and the world would soon bow down.  Yeah right!

Only a small fraction on the steep bell curve of life perform at the elite level.  Stories can be strong.  Stories can be published, but World Record material is rare.  Sure, I hope to be the next one to be squeezed into that elite company.  I hope you can be there too.  But in the meantime, I will keep solving the cube in the double digits and practicing my writing craft.

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