Staking reputation

Toward the end of my year abroad in Russia, I started the rough draft of my first novel.

A book I read inspired me to start writing 250 words a day, and I found this goal so achievable that I kept at it. Next thing I knew, I’d developed a streak. By the end of the summer, I started feeling excited enough to tell other people what I was doing.

It felt really pretentious at first. I mean, just say this out loud for me: “I’m writing a novel.”

Well? Are you? Because if you aren’t, I bet you just felt like a total douchebag.

Well, I don’t like being a douchebag. It goes against the image I have of myself as a pretty decently alright person. But since I’d started telling people about my novel, my only recourse was to actually go write my novel.

So I struck a bargain with my reputation: in order to live up to my public image, I had to write every single day. As long as I actively worked on my novel, I could talk about my writing as an honest person. If I didn’t, I couldn’t.

Fifteen months and 112,925 words after I began, I finished the first draft.

As it turns out, I really hate having any sort of disconnect between my stated and revealed preferences. This makes for an incredible motivator, though, because I want to be the kind of person who follows through. I don’t want anyone to think of me as someone full of hot air, who talks bigger than she delivers. So even though talking big is scary—because it opens you up to the possibility of public failure—it’s worth it if you get stuff done. You make yourself accountable to your own ambition.

A few weeks back, I read possibly the most cynical article ever written about the motivations behind people’s Facebook statuses. Apparently, according to the author, we’re not supposed to share good things about our lives (unless we can entertain our readers in the process). Apparently, achieving something you’re proud of is irritating to other people.

So let me just say: there’s a lot of shit going down in the world, and a lot of it ends up on the Good ‘ol F.B. But the one thing that makes all that worthwhile is getting on to find that some actual friend or other has something good going on in their life. Something they’re working toward. Something they’re willing to talk about—at the risk of everyone thinking they’re a pretentious asshat.

So if that’s you out there, quietly trying to do something awesome but too afraid to share what it is, I encourage you to make it public. Let others know you’re trying. It might help you succeed—it might even help them succeed.

I’ll start: I’m writing a novel.

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