Forgetting We’re Only As Great As Our Last Masterpiece

Not As Explosive As Bomb Disposal But Still Pretty Serious

One of the many jobs I’ve held in my life was as an armed security guard. This job included certification training and yes ordinance identification training. To this day, I remember the words of our instructor, a towering hulk of a man.

“My name is William. They call me Wee Willy. Everybody calls me an ordnance disposal expert. I’m here to tell you I’m not. In fact, there’s no such thing as an ordnance disposal “expert”. There are only people like me who’ve never forgotten we’re only as good as our last job.”

I don’t know why I was thinking about the man’s words this morning. That training class was literally forty years ago, but somehow this little trinket of bygone days spurred me to write this piece, so there is that.

Just like Wee Willy and his bomb disposal, I’m no writing expert by any means, but I haven’t forgotten his words, and I haven’t forgotten that I’m only as good (or bad) as the last story, poem, parody or rant, I write.

It’s interesting to note that a writer’s world is constantly filled with an evergrowing collection of “last masterpieces”.

And that is as it should be. In this business, our readers are always hungry for more, and it’s our mission to give it to them.

We should never forget this isn’t the business for “one and done” writing.

No matter how great the work is, once it’s run its course, whether that be days, months, or years, our readers are going to want to see more from us.

Or, more from their favorite writer if one of our stories accidentally gets in the way of their mad crush to get to that writer’s latest masterpiece.

Think of it this way. A professional sports team has fans who come to watch them play, and those avid fans have certain expectations. They expect their teams to keep on winning.

Pretty simple formula, right?

The fans expect each game to be a better win than the last. Maybe a nerve-wracking, skin of the teeth, heartstopping win, but for sure a win.

Each time this team comes on the court or field, the expectation of the fans is that the game they played and won last week is over. In the record books and now a historical anecdote.

It is so, well, last week. (Sorry, had to go there.)

Yes, they’re keeping score, but this is a new day and new game and for the fans, it needs to be a new win.

But what if the team has lost sight of all those games they won in the past? Unfortunately, those masterpieces which helped them get where they are now won’t keep them there if they don’t start creating more.

If this team hasn’t been winning as they should, the fans are more likely sitting in the stands thinking, “what have you done for me lately?”

So begins the slide.

And if the team continues to lose, do the fans stop watching their favorite sports team?

A lot do.

Until someone in the head office fires the coach. And just maybe, just maybe, the team starts winning. They start pulling off some masterpieces again.

And the fans come rolling back.

A writer is just like that. We should never forget we’re actually only as good as the last “masterpiece” we wrote.

Especially here.

I remember (none of you probably do) one of the very first pieces I posted here. I thought it was swell two years ago when I wrote it.

Actually, it stunk pretty bad.

And it has made a whopping total of…

Wait for it…

No. Really. I’m still waiting for it.

It has made ZERO bucks over a two year period.

So, where would I be, and what would I be doing if I continue to forget I’m only as good as my last work and this underperforming piece is the only thing I ever write?

Uh, an armed security guard, maybe?

As I said earlier in this piece, this isn’t the place for a “one and done” writer. No matter how good you are — or mediocre you are in my case — you just won’t get very far if you forget the fact you’re only as good as your last masterpiece.

To gain traction, we must continue to write; knuckle down and stimulate that old gray matter in these noggins of ours and conjure up the magic daily.

But if we suddenly choose to put down our magic wand and stand there doing nothing but admiring our last work, it’s a safe bet our readers are likely to move on to the next showroom where the other masterpieces are hanging.

Yes, it’s not easy. It never ever will be easy. In fact, churning out something fresh and exciting each day is a really tough job.

Indeed much more complicated than resting on our laurels and eating those prepackaged breakfast cup thingies in the morning.

What?

I’m a grown as*ed man who happens to like my breakfast in a cup. So?

So, back to blowing things up.

Wee Willy made his point perfectly clear.

In the world of ordnance disposal, forgetting how you disarmed the last bomb you were called in to dispose of — your last masterpiece — can most certainly bring about some dire consequences.

Life-altering consequences.

In the world of writing, it’s not that serious, but then I suppose it depends on how much you’re into permanent fasting or, at the very least, a life of Raman noodles and Ritz crackers.

Hey, I’m getting used to having my breakfast cups each day.

Each day it’s up to us to lay down another body of work, diffuse another piece of ordnance without it blowing up in our face. Each day we need to get our prose in front of our readers and never forget, never ever forget.

We’re only as good as that last masterpiece of ours.

Thank You So Much For Reading

Let’s keep in touch: paul@pgbarnett.com

© P.G. Barnett, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

A published author enjoying married Texas bliss. Dog person living with cats. A writer of Henry James' stories. Featured In MuckRack. Top Writer In Fiction.

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