The work is what counts

A recent post by comics writer Mark Waid on his blog discusses an old rule of thumb in comics: The important talents are meeting deadlines, being easy to work with and being good, and if you have two of the three, you’ll do alright.
Waid’s conclusion is that this isn’t true: “In the long run, the quality of your work is all that matters. That is your only resumé. Be professional. Make sure your editor or publisher can always reach you. Do what’s asked of you if your conscience can bear it. But know that, five years from now, as fans or prospective employers are looking over your published pages, no one will care that this story sucks because the publisher moved the deadline up or because the editor made you work an android cow into the story. All they will care about is what they see in front of them, and they will hold you responsible for it, no one else.”
Which reminded me that this is one of the things I’ve always liked about writing: Nobody’s interested in the process, only in the final result.
Did you dash off your story in half an hour while the baby finally drifted off to sleep? Whoever you’re submitting it to doesn’t care; they either like it enough to buy it or they don’t.
Did you spend two years, writing ten perfect words a day, no more? A great story for an interview, but again, the editor doesn’t care (unless you had a deadline and blew it—I definitely count delivering work on time as part of the result, not the process). If it’s good, they don’t care how long and hard the creative process was; if it’s terrible, they don’t care either.
I love that. I have never wanted a career that required jumping through hoops: Attend the team-building meeting, wear the blue blazer everyone else at the office wears (but with the little fashion accessory that makes you stand out), network with your boss, submit the quarterly reports and undergo the six-month evaluation … I wanted a life where the work and the output were what counted, what I would be judged by.
Writing is one of the places where that can happen. To the extent that I’ve earned respect, either as a reporter or a freelancer, it’s because my work is good (and because it comes in on deadline—though I have known people who were good enough to get away with lateness), not because I played by irrelevant rules that don’t matter to the job or sat through endless meetings where they told us that if we fail to plan, we’re planning to fail.
The flip side is, I guess, that I can’t blame not doing better on office politics or not attending the right networking events.
I can live with that.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “The work is what counts

  1. Pingback: The Penn State case, and other links, including some for writers « Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. In my perfect world everyone would be judged on their work and never their appearance 🙂

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