Monday, June 6, 2011

Something to measure by

I worked 3 of the 4 weekends in May. I don't mind though. It was Sports and that's one of the most fun days in the school year.

The first weekend was Sports at Chuugakkou (Junior High School). One of the final events is an all year relay. They make every kid in the year (including Special Ed. but not including the nurse room kids) run in this gigantic relay. The smallest year at my Chuu is 76 kids, so the relays last a while.

We were halfway through the second year's relay (13-14 yr olds) and a teacher walked over and asked me "Who's leading?" The runners were at exact opposite sides of the track. I told her which team was up.

Moments later a kid ran by and the 3rd years who were next to me, in preparation for their own relay, exclaimed, "Hayai!" He's fast. Well he was pumping, that's for sure.

I learned two lessons in that race.

1. Sometimes it's hard to tell which way is good.

One team was half a lap ahead of the other- a really good thing- but at a glance either could have been winning. In our subjective lives and the work we do, which way is up? It should be obvious but it's not.

2. You can't really qualify without comparing.

That kid that ran past when everyone said "Hayai," who's to say he was actually fast? There was noone anywhere near him. His arms and legs were going, but what's to say he was covering any ground. I could pump my arms like pistons and Usain Bolt would still lap me 3 times over 100m.

Fast only exists because of a relative normal and a relative slow. We can't know hoe good things are in a vaccum. You need to compare your work to something. Read lots in your genre. See what's strong in someone else's work, that might not be so strong in your own. Re-read old MSs that make you cringe. See how far you've come.

How do you know when you're ahead? What do you measure by?

It's Monday. That's what's on my mind.

1 comment:

Marsha Sigman said...

Definitely by what I read. I just read a YA novel that someone at the office had and it was horrible. By a big time author dabbling in a new genre. Not a good idea.

But reading the bad is almost more informative than reading the truly great.

Why did this post remind me of boxing on the Wii? Something about pumping your arms frantically and your kid still beating the crap out of you must have been