The Outcome Doesn’t Define You: A Reminder for The Creatives

We are jesters, class clowns, nerds, writers, painters, designers, bakers, entrepreneurs, artists. We are contributors of meaningful work. 

You might be thinking about what constitutes ‘meaningful work,’ and to tell you the truth, I have no grand definition for it. I think it’s anything that’s both a pain in the bedonkies and pure joy to create. 

As someone who grew up with books, I think one of the greatest contributions of the human race is the tiny universe inside each ink-stained portable magic we call a book. In the process of writing one, authors often encounter The Marathon of the Middle. It’s when they’ve written enough to know they can’t turn back, but not enough to finish the race.

This is the roadblock that sends most people packing. They get off the track and leave things at that—a suspended string where the words ‘Amateur’ and ‘Professional’ dance. It’s where writers discover if their work has legs and can walk on its own. 

I think this little tumble that decides whether the WIP stays a WIP applies to anyone who has ever dedicated themselves to something they believe is worth the lengths that stretch before them; something they think is worth pursuing—a business, project, goal. 

In this article, we won’t talk about the unfinished work. There’s no good in that. Instead, let’s talk about the work that does get finished, the work that sees the light of day. The work that’s like a loaded gun to the temple of its creator. Because what artist can separate themself from their art? 

In short, the work that’s visible enough to be criticized. 

Criticism. 

“Is this it?” 

“I’m sure you can do better.” 

There’s nothing quite like holding your hands open and saying, “Here, this is for you.” And being hit with “It’s not good enough.” 

The God of Hammers  

Curiosity didn’t always kill the cat. Sometimes it just maimed it. When I was six, I picked up a hammer in the toolbox and started knocking a nail into a piece of wood. I was aiming for the nail, but I hit my thumb instead. Funny story, although that’s not the hammer I’m referring to. 

Do you remember when Hela, the oh-so-powerful and oh-so-angry shattered our favorite Mjolnir in Thor: Ragnarok? 

You and I, we’re like Thor, not in the sense that we’re six-foot-three Asgardians with gorgeous flowing locks and the hottest brother in the galaxies. Sometimes, we just forget and need a little reminding.

Thor’s strength was never in his hammer. It was only an extension of his strength. And your finished work is not your talent or skill, only an extension of it. 

Sometimes, the things that embody our most celebrated accomplishments are the very same things that reflect our weaknesses. 

When we attach ourselves to the outcome, we let the outcome define us. 

And we do it enough times that the image gets blurry. 

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Ugly Art.

The fact that you read my blogs, or if I’m lucky, maybe you even listen to my podcasts, doesn’t mean that you know me. 

But you listen anyway. Because a part of me—the part that’s talking to you and reaching you—that part resonates. And it’s enough for me to know that someone on the other end understands and is being understood. 

But it won’t be the same experience for everyone. Some will leave and forget what they read. Some will exclaim, “What piece of shite has she published now?”

And that’s okay. We don’t set out to be loved by everyone, and we shouldn’t try. Just find your people and you’ll be fine.

It’s enough.

It’s beautiful what meaningful work can do, but we are not our greatest achievements, neither are we our most fatal failures. We are simply who we are. 

We are contributors of meaningful work.