You’re Not Special and #ROW80

Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough Jr. delivered the faculty address to the graduating students of this Boston-area school. In it, he asserted that “You are not special. You are not exceptional” and noted that “Even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.”

As a writer, I feel that way at times too. Thousands of people are writing books, seeking publication, trying to be have their stories read. What makes me think I’m special? Why should I be a writer?

If you’re interested (and have the time–this clip is 12+ minutes), here’s Mr. McCullough’s excellent speech:

Note: From 2:11 to 9:30 will get the substance of the speech.

This English teacher makes the insightful observation that life isn’t about a set of achievements, although we certainly do what to achieve something. Since you aren’t likely to stand out as the best, or even as unique, life is best lived in doing something that you believe makes a difference. His conclusion: “As you commence then, and before you scatter to the four winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in…”

So I’m not special. You’re not special. But I do believe myself to be a writer and one who will succeed. Because I love it. I believe in it. I can’t think of any job right now I’d rather be doing.

On to the ROW80 goals and the progress. Here’s my weekly report:

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. Edited three chapters, sent to beta readers, and making changes.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 19-20). MUST GET THESE OUT!
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel which is in second draft form and has been gathering dust for a few months. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book. My choice this round is Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Stuck on page 99 of 370.
  • Read through issue of The Writer’s Digest. Not yet.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. This course has been postponed a bit, so I’m going to remove this goal.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. I have read 8 books so far. Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas is next.
  • Exercise three times a week–length of time to be determined. Done–one Zumba, two walks.
  • NEW GOAL: Since it looks like I achieved so little this week, I thought I’d add that I wrote four lessons for a church camp curriculum. I have a deadline of getting all five lessons done by June 23 to be sent to the 8-10 teachers who will lead Bible classes.

Now time to attagirl and attaboy my fabulous fellow ROWers! Find them HERE.

20 thoughts on “You’re Not Special and #ROW80

  1. Wow, you have some ambitious goals – congrats on your progress!

    Loved the “You’re not special” sentiment. So true! And something I’ve often wondered, too. But you know what? No one else can write the story you’re writing, in exactly the way you’re writing it. And the rest of what you said is ever more true: it’s worthwhile because you love it and you believe in it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Jennette! It is definitely true that no one else can write your story in exactly the way you write it! I guess the “you’re not special” is a reminder to me that plenty of people have the talent to do this thing called writing, but only some of us will continue to do it and succeed in it because we love it and believe in its importance. And that perhaps sets us apart more than anything. have a great week!

  2. Great video! Thanks for sharing!
    You’re doing with your goals, as usual!
    I’m reading a craft book about paranormal and supernatural writing. I laugh out loud sometimes … great stuff there. It’s called Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper.
    Have a great week!

  3. Cool message, thanks for sharing the video. “As you commence then, and before you scatter to the four winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in…” — love this.

    You’re doing well with your goals…kudos. Hope you have a fabulous week.

  4. It was a vow I made to myself when I left school 50 years ago never to stay in a job that made me miserable – I was lucky that I could make those choices and as I had very little ambition in the business world I have been happy – not special in the overall global way but we are each special in a macro way – unique maybe is the word. have a good week:)

    1. I had a friend once who was making oodles of money in a job she hated, and she finally realized it wasn’t worth it when she started vomiting every Sunday night before she had to be at work the next day. What a way to learn that lesson! While I love writing now, I have been fortunate to enjoy most of my jobs throughout the years. Glad you’ve found the same experience! Thanks, Alberta.

  5. Great video, Julie, with a wonderful message that we can all use. Thanks for sharing it!

    I’ve been meaning to pick up Vogler’s book. Will you let us know what you think of it once you’re through?

    Hope you have a wonderful week!

    1. I will absolutely post on Vogler’s book when I finish. When you still be reading my blog in 2015? LOL. I picked it up because Gene Lempp and others spoke so highly of it. Thanks for the encouragement, Lena!

  6. I was fortunate to see David McCullough (not J.R.) speak a few years ago. What a great mind. Love that speech! I know what you mean about having achieved more than what the tabulation appears to be. I’m teaching a series on studying religious texts, and those lessons require a fair amount of time. I should show it on my goals….! This is the second class I’ve taught – the first was a twelve week series on Sh’ma. I’ll break in the fall and attend another woman’s series on the Kings of the Chronicles. I’m excited as she will focus on the science of how genetics affect our tendencies toward ‘evil’, using the Chronicles to map out generations of ‘like behaviour vs. breaking away’. ?? Sounds interesting, right? My curiosity is more than piqued. Ha.

    1. How awesome! I’m fascinated by your class series. The Sh’ma is a beautiful passage that I go back to over and over. The camp lessons I’ve been working on (for elementary students) this time are on Creation.

  7. I sure love your ROW80 updates. I always come away with groovy deep thoughts. 🙂

    We’ve been using “You’re not special” amongst our set after hearing Susan Elizabeth Phillips speak at a conference. She and Jayne Ann Krentz are pals and the story goes that Susan was angsting about a bad review and Jayne Ann looked at her and said, “You’re not special. We ALL get those crappy reviews. Get that thing out of your house!” LOL…

    1. Thanks, Jenny! And I love that “you’re not special” example. Sometimes we need to get over ourselves on both ends — feeling amazing and getting knocked down.

  8. Interesting words, they’re making me think, which is a very good thing. Thank you, Julie! 🙂 You are doing so well this round. Keep going and get those queries out! Have a fantastic week.

    1. Thanks! In one sense, I don’t think we are all that special. But then again, by recognizing that and breaking out, we kind of become special.

      You are doing great at prodding me on those queries! Thank you.

      1. Oh, prodding is one of my best attributes, just ask the hubs. Just kidding, I think. Don’t make me tweet follow-up on you though 😉 cause I’ll do it, lol

  9. Thanks for sharing the video! I love it and it’s definitely a message that so many people need to hear (and wish they would embrace) these days. Last summer I decided to change the day job (lawyer) and do something I love (write and teach). Doing a job I hated was such a drain, emotionally, physcially and otherwise. People ask me, why would I give up the law for writing/teaching, and I always tell them the answer is simple: Life is too short to not do what I love! Good luck this week on your goals!

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