Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

What voice do you hear when you read this question? A schoolyard bully or maybe even a teacher? Your mother? When I hear this question in my head the first voice I hear is Clint Eastwood. “Who do you think you are, punk?” Can you hear it? It can be abrasive, accusatory and mean. But it doesn’t have to be. James E. Faust once asked the same question and when I hear the question in his kind voice, it takes on a whole new meaning. “Who do you think you are?” I then hear his follow up question, “Who are you really?”

If I hope to be happy, which I do, there must be consistency between my true self and the person I think I am. In other words, perception must meet reality. For example, if I ‘think’ I am the most gifted writer of my generation I will be disappointed every day when I look at the NovelRank or re-read an awkward sentence from my book. I will be frustrated that the masses can’t see the glorious talent laid out before them in the thrilling pages of Defensive Tactics. I will get upset every time someone gives a blog, Goodreads or Amazon review that recognizes a weakness in my work and gives me less than five stars. There is danger in overestimating my abilities and contributions. Likewise, if I underestimate who I am, my skill, talents and positive character attributes, I will wallow in a world of self-doubt, pity and fear. Underestimating myself is not being humble; it’s only being depressing. I should be accurate in my self-evaluation.

First, who do I think I am? Since I’m new to Writing Fortress I’m going to tell you a little about who I ‘think’ I am.

I am a husband. I am a father to four wonderful children. I identify and define myself most by my faith, family, job, hobbies, friendships, and most recently, as a writer. Cedar Fort released my first novel, Defensive Tactics, in August 2010 and I am eagerly awaiting reply on my second. The writing world is a fun new community I am grateful to be a part of, and I’m thankful for Cedar Fort giving me an opportunity. That’s who I ‘think’ I am and I ‘think’ its accurate.

As writers and more importantly as sons and daughters of God, we must be honest, recognizing who we really are, the good, the bad, and the average. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t have to accept the bad or the average. If I don’t like my reviews or how many copies my book sold I can work, struggle, study and fight to become the writer I want to be. I can rise above the bad or average with practice, patience and perseverance, but I can’t lie to myself. That’s just mental cheating, dishonesty at its worst, and it won’t work.

One last question—who do your characters think they are? Is there a gap between their real selves and their flawed perceptions? It’s a struggle we all face in real life so it only seems fair that sometimes our characters will have to struggle with the same issues in coming to a true and accurate understanding of self.

Through honest evaluation of ourselves as people, and as writers, we allow ourselves the greatest opportunity for personal growth. Who do you think you are?
To find out more about me and Defensive Tactics, please check out my blog.

Steve Westover


Tamara Hart Heiner said...

This is a great post. It makes me want to define myself also.

We stayed with some Westovers in Provo for a few months when they went to China. Relatives?

Michael Knudsen said...

Good thoughts, Steve. We need to keep that solid anchor of the ultimate "who" we are, children of a Father who wants nothing more than our eternal life. Losing sight of that can cause us to start to identify with the not-so-nice reviews and seeming snail's pace of our progress at times. Our adversary wants us to compare ourselves with one another, but our Father sees us all as incomparable.

flsongbyrd said...

The first thing I thought of was something my sister always tells me. "You are just like mother". There is no one I would rather be like than her. She was kind and caring. She loved everyone she came in contact with and was the example of the "pure love of Christ". For me, those are big shoes to fill and if I come even close to being like her I will have done her and Heavenly Father proud. Next I think of one of the Primary songs "I Am A Child of God". I am a daughter of royal birth a daughter of God. There is nothing more I would rather be than these two things. I hope through diligence, faith, patience and prayer, I can become like them both.

JoAnn Arnold said...

Well said and I totally agree. I'm so glad I took the time to read your blog.

Steve said...

Thanks for the comments.

Tamara- Relatives? Possibly, especially if they were from Northern California or Idaho.

susan dayley said...

Who do you think you are, Mr. Big Stuff.--ok, silly lyrics aside. . .
When my first book came out I loved all the reviews friends gave me. Then a stranger gave me a bad rating and I had to face reality vs. misconception. Honesty can hurt. That one rating had more impact though on improving my writing than all the good ones. I contacted the reviewer and they helped me with a couple of chapters of my WIP. The things I learned! Too bad I can't delete their review though.:-) So I guess sometimes we need to be careful about forming an opinion of our abilities based on the feedback we get from others. Every child is already perfect according to their mother.

Rebecca said...

Excellent post, Steve.

Don said...

Hey, Steve - I just realized I neglected to welcome you to the Writing Fortress. Welcome aboard.

Great post, by the way. It's taken me 40 years to figure out my identity, and I have a feeling there's still a lot more to understand.