The Unbreakable Strength of Humility

What would you like to do?

There are a million bazillion writers out there, it’s true. It’s an intimidating thought, but it doesn’t have to be. The reason for this fear is a sense that we won’t be able to distinguish ourselves. Fact is, there’s something you have to say, in a particular way, that no one else can. Your writing (like all your other life choices) are influenced by your experiences and perception. That’s entirely yours. One way to mitigate this fear is to think of your end game. What would you like to do?

In your wildest most whimsical fantasies, what would you like to do? What kind of stories do you want to tell, and what kind of reader would you like to reach?

This is a marketing question also, but that aspect is for another day over another beverage.

This is the time to consider what you’re immersing yourself in. What are you reading? What kind of feedback are you getting? Are you enjoying yourself? Most importantly, are you challenging yourself, learning and growing?

Echo-chambers, whether they’re full of encouragement or full of disdain, don’t really serve you. The truth and reality of your skill is as valuable as the “you are here” sticker on a map. It sucks at first, but the value is immeasurable. Look at yourself and your abilities. Look how far you’ve come. Now look where you want to go. The only way to get there is to keep an eye on the goal. To use the parlance of the earthy, holistic practitioners I’ve been hanging out with lately: The quality of what you consume affects the quality of crap you produce.

You consume your environment. Not just the location; but the weather, the people and the energy there.

The right environment and access to the tools you need are smack-dab at the intersection of luck and boldness. Sending out query letters isn’t the only brave thing you have to do. You have to seek out new stories, and other writers. Listen to short-story podcasts in your genre. Sign up for Duotrope and see what else is out there. Blog. Get on Google+. Look for those you want to emulate. You’ll find a lot of material that’s much better than yours.

That’s what you want. Seek it out with sincerity.

Read. Study. Ask. When you encounter something you like, find out how it was made. Ask to see more. Acknowledging the gulf between your talent and theirs is only the beginning. It doesn’t end there. Lift your eyes. It’s much easier to build a bridge across that span if you can see the other side – and even easier if you have a buddy over there to catch the first rope.


It is much more valuable to look for the strength in others. You can gain nothing by criticizing their imperfections.”

― Daisaku Ikeda


In the land where excellence is commended, not envied, where weakness is aided, not mocked, there is no question as to how its inhabitants are all superhuman.”

― Criss Jami


9 thoughts on “The Unbreakable Strength of Humility

  1. Richard McCargar

    Great post, and thank you for following my blog, though I can’t imagine why. I post licks/solos and songs as a way of tracking my progress relearning to play guitar following a couple of near life-ending strokes, and hope that they may help beginners. But undoubtedly, there is much “there,” there.

    That said, your topic is of great interest to me, as I’ve done many things in my life that others said could not be done. Starting from a little farming community in the mid-west, I’ve designed IC’s that are in spacecraft headed for the edge of the solar system; built my own international corporations with 3500 employees; started, lost, rebuilt other companies.

    Every step of the way, there are those who said “go for it,” and many others who said it couldn’t be done.

    I never bothered with the opinions, and lived my life. As such, I’m happy with my successes AND my failures.

    As a teen, I had a keen interest in successful people, and the essence of this quote take from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt, was one of my guiding principles:

    Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”
    delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

    ” It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Best of luck to you on your blog.

    1. Setsu Post author

      Such a thoughtful response, and you wonder why I follow you!

      My dad sparked my interest in Buddhist and Zen Buddhist philosophy and he gave me a book called “Zen Guitar” by Philip Sudo that I read and re-read frequently. For my dad, playing guitar, the pursuit of mastery, and plain old fun are all wrapped up in the same experience. I love reading about progress and improvement. There’s so many people here on WordPress that are deliriously excited about what they’re doing. I really appreciate you sharing these stories with me. – Setsu

  2. Loretta Fisher

    We should have Tanya make us some “You consume your environment” buttons. I’ve never thought of it in those exact words, but that pretty much sums up everything I believe about human interactions with their universe.


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