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THE 500 MARK
By: Wayne Brown
You might not have noticed, but this is my 500th Hub to be posted here on HubPages.com. I thought about it a bit and it seems to be a significant enough plateau to call attention to and share a bit about it with my readers. I certainly am not the first to achieve this level nor will I be the last I would certainly hope. I wrestled with a concept for this hub…possibly a political essay or maybe a poem about things with 500 in them; maybe it should be just a good fictional story that brings a lump in the throat and tears to the eye while demonstrating flair for adventure. I considered all of that but trashed the idea thinking that this is probably a good place to stop and reflect a bit with the reader. We all need to regroup a bit at times and evaluate what we have accomplished in order to better see where it is we need to go in the future. I think that is the best approach for number 500 and me.
I have been writing here on the Hub now for just over 21 months. The first twelve months I was here, I published a new hub on average every day for that entire period. I did not enter the 30 hubs in 30 days at any time on that journey…the thought never occurred to me. In fact, it was not even a goal for me, it just sort of happened. I had a lot to say I suppose and it was coming out at the seams early on in the process. It’s rather funny as I had almost given up and thrown in the towel by Hub #10. I still remember that getting started was difficult in terms of attracting readers and gaining the feeling that what you are doing is worthwhile. Luckily, I had some fans and friends who talked me through that point and got me to stay with it. One thing I knew for sure then was that I had to write on a level that would attract readers or I was done as a writer in my own mind.
Hub Pages has been my only real external experience with writing. Prior to publishing material here, I had only shared a few things which I had written with my sister and that came late in the game. From a work standpoint, I had written a lot of reports mainly on technical subjects and from a technical perspective. I never had any problems submitting those…I never gave it a second thought although I did take pride in the fact that I had put the reports together and my words was the glue that related everything in them. Writing as an art-form, as a story-telling perspective, was very different for me. Publishing that first piece was like taking a shower in Central Park with everyone in New York watching. It seemed like everything was out there and all the flaws were visible for the eye to see. I’ll never forget the fear I had in pushing the publish button for the first time.
I did make myself a promise which I have held on to from the very start. I would not publish anything that I did not consider ‘quality’ just to add to my numbers or to attempt to attract readers. I did not see it working that way. When you are one person on a website of over 200,000 people, just getting someone to see you is a fair accomplishment. Suffice to say, it is almost an accident. I was and still am convinced that the initial experience which the reader has with the first piece they read by you will set the tone for their attitude toward your other writings. If quality does not come to mind for them, likely you will not be on their list of places to return to for reading. So, I committed myself to writing with as much quality for the reader as I could muster. I hope that comes through in my writings for anyone who reads here.
Some might ask, “What is it you mean by ‘quality, how is that measured?” I suppose it takes on different perspectives for different people. For me, it means that when I write on a subject that I will try to grab the interest of the reader from the first words they see. I will attempt to lock them attention to the page and set their juices to wondering where this might go. I want them there with me through all courses of this “meal” if you will. I have read pieces which caught my interest initially but then fizzled in the middle and left me feeling like a marathon runner who was not about to give up the race. I struggled to get to the end so that I could say that I finished it. I did not want my readers to have that experience. I wanted them to feel as good at the end as they did the start…maybe better. I wanted them to be “wowed!” by what I had written regardless of the subject for I remember the feeling when something “wows” me and I love it.
Quality has a lot of traits. It is interesting, exciting, detailed, focused, adventurous, and sometimes it is inspirational and sad. It really depends on where the writer wants to take the reader on the journey. There are few subjects today about that something has not already been written in one form or another so it is not realistic for a writer to look for material that is uncharted territory. On the other hand, there are many subjects which take on a refreshing new look when approached from a different perspective. It is the same as putting a new coat of paint on a familiar old house…it’s new and old all at the same time. As readers, we like the familiarity but we long for the surprise and joy of the unexpected just like we love the lilting hook embedded in the chorus of a great song. Quality is all of that and more and nothing will leave a writer cold with the reader quicker than the absence of it. I have tested that for 500 hubs now and I still believe it just as strongly.
As a reader on the Hub, I have experienced some writers who made me cry and a few who made me want to cry for the lack of quality in what I was reading. There is a certain familiar sweetness that comes through when you start reading something that is special. You know it early on and that sweetness stays with you to the very last word leaving you longing for just a bit more and sorry that it ended so soon. It is writing that fills a hunger and creates one all in the same breathe. It is masterful and powerful in the way it touches the reader and sets his/her mind to working. It is unique; most definitely one of a kind in the way that it impacts the reader. It is a singular moment of joy and inspiration in word form. For me, those times are far too rare as a reader and like dope to the addict I long for more and more of that experience. When I do find a writer like that here at the Hub, I cling to their work and go back again and again to experience their unique ability to entertain me and take me momentarily into another world.
Along the path to getting to this point, I have had the unique opportunity of helping a few people along with their writing. I did not work any miracles for them but in some cases I feel that I did help them peel away the skin and see what they could be if they let themselves go and used their imagination. We all have a little voice inside us that speaks to us in many, many ways. Sometimes it is imaginative and willing to tell a great tale. At other times, it is melancholy and drips with sadness which brings on the tears. Regardless, it is a voice that we must get in tune with as a writer if we are to achieve the levels that we are capable of reaching. We must hear the voice and get in harmony with it. Some writers refer to that as their muse though they speak of it as inspiration rather than a voice. Individually, that may be the case, but for me, it is that little voice talking to me while my fingers stroke the keys. I have had the joy of seeing some that I have worked with find it and then deliver material which they felt was not within them as a writer. What a joy to be part of that moment and see the realization in that person; the sheer satisfaction with what they have achieved. I celebrate with them.
My dad played the fiddle. He played it by ear totally and completely not ever having a music lesson in his life. He has an inner lover of music throughout his life and he was constantly drawn to it always stopping to listen to a really good tune with a great sound. That desire never left him although in his young adult years he laid the fiddle down to deal with the demands of life. After he retired, he picked it up again and started to play. He knocked off the rust and the talent moved closer to the surface. He did not have a goal but he had the drive to stay at it just for the pleasure of experiencing it. In his last years, that skill would entertain many, many people in nursing homes around the counties who loved music but had no real way to experience it given the hardships of their life. My dad brought the music to them and shared it again and again. It was a joyful experience for all parties involved. It was at that time that I knew that God had a purpose in my dad’s love of music and his ability to play the fiddle. God had a purpose, it just took him a while to employ it.
I inherited my dad’s love of music but not his ear for it, at least not in terms of the ease with which he could play an instrument. I loved the music and was determined to learn to play. I failed miserably at the fiddle…nothing instinctive there for me and way too much going on physically. I finally settled on the guitar and found that I could at least get by in creating something that was somewhat musical with it. I could entertain myself but I really shutdown some good parties over time. I was convinced that if I stuck with it long enough I would have that gift that my father had with the fiddle. I have not given up on that yet but the jury is still out. I have the desire but not the talent. That creates a lot of frustration for me in terms of desiring to excel musically but not having that certain something which seems to be the magic ingredient.
I make these points for a reason. Writing has been much more rewarding for me than music. In some ways, I have not had to work as hard at it to achieve recognition as with music. As a result, I have come to realize that maybe God didn’t intend for me to be good at the guitar. Maybe he needs me to be a writer. Why? I have no idea at this point just like my dad had no idea as to what he would do with that fiddle that he could play. One thing I have learned from it all…I know I must be patient and wait to find out. I understand that very clearly at this point and it has actually helped me to find peace with my music and joy in my writing so I am a winner in both regards.
I have seen writers come and go here in my 21 months. Some were quite good yet impatient to move on to the next plateau. Many were novices as I was when I showed up. Some show up with such a burning desire to write and little else. The desire seems to be driving them like a maddening inner-voice urging them on. They beg for advice. They look for magic formulas. They devour every piece of instruction which offers any words on how to write and do it well. They ached with the frustration of wanting to be a writer yet not being able to find that niche which satisfies the need. Their desire to produce a product is visible in all of their expression. Unfortunately it is not enough.
That might sound cruel but it is true. “Wanting to” is not enough over the long haul. I may want to be a great guitar player and express myself as such. Early on, anything that I do will enhance my skillset toward satisfying that goal. Eventually though, I will plateau for the lack of coordination and sheer talent in my ability to play. This too can be a factor for the person desiring to be a writer but unable to recognize that they possess a far greater degree of desire than they do talent. That is not to say that the person should quit, it is to say that they must come to terms with their level of skill and talent in order to find some level of fulfillment in the process. If that realization cannot come to past, the only outcome for the person will be frustration driven by desire.
I have not always been happy with the various changes which come about here in the HubPages format. At one point, I almost threw in the towel because it seemed that a basically good and efficient approach had been tossed aside in the name of change. I still feel that way about those changes and I truly believe that progress took a setback with them. I gave serious thought to shutting down things and moving to some other site at that time. Luckily, I had some good friends here on the Hub who reasoned with me on the decision. They made me aware of my responsibility to the reader and the selfishness I would exhibit is dropping out. I realized that what they said had truth. My presence here on HubPages had been rewarded by a given level of readership. Those individuals had contributed to the success which I had experienced. It really was not fair to throw all that away and walk just because I was upset over the site formatting. I stayed and I am glad that I did although I am still not happy with the format.
Will I be here to write about reaching the 1000 hub plateau? I really do not know. That is as difficult, if not more difficult, to imagine than the writing of the 500th hub. I hope that I am and I hope that it will still be as motivating and rewarding then as it has been up to this point. I am not going to set my sights on it as a goal but I will certainly continue to write in that direction hub by hub. In fact, number 501 is rolling around in my head right now as I write this one. I hope that I can continue to find the creativity and imagination to write another 500 hubs and keep the same level of quality there that I committed to from the start. I will certainly give it my best effort.
Retirement from the workplace is in my sights by mid-2012. I hope that at that time I will have more time to devote to writing and possibly consider the challenge of taking on a book. I have some ideas but I have not gone there yet because there are just too many directions that my writing wants to follow at the moment. A book requires focus and the desire to stay the course to completion. I want to be mentally ready to go there before I begin the process of tackling that goal. At the same time, if I write a book, I want it to be something worth reading which the reader will be impacted by long after closing the back cover.
I have gained some loyal fans here in my 21 months. I have gained some recognition as well and for that I am very thankful. I have been lucky enough to rank in the top 25 Hub writers over 50 times now which brings me some assurance that what I write is worth reading to someone. I have also made some good friends both here in the USA and in other countries through our ties with HubPages. Their encouraging words and their advice have helped me to keep my sails up and always in the wind. Their support is invaluable to my overall experience here on HubPages.
Here’s to 500 more hubs and a lot more great experiences. Bless you all and thank you for your support. I have included a video of some fine acoustic guitar-playing by Andy Rafferty below. The piece demonstrates what can happen when you mix desire, skill, and talent together at the same time. WB
©Copyright WBrown2011. All Rights Reserved. 11/16/2011