Express, Don’t Impress

Everyone has critics, and people they want to impress. If you’re human, it’s unavoidable, unless you just don’t care about what other people think. I care. When people are overly critical of me, it makes me take a second look at myself. If someone pays me a compliment, I’m grateful for it. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I go out of my way to get one of those compliments. We all do it, so I don’t think it’s necessarily bad unless it becomes a habit.

Probably the area that I’ve been most complimented for is the martial arts. People used to tell me how they couldn’t touch me on the mat, or how smooth my technique was. Get too much of that shit, though, and you start craving it, start trying to impress people.

“Hey, look at this thing I can do.”

Ironically, that’s when the compliments ended.

Add in social media, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Twitter…doing things just for those thumbs up, likes, and plusses exacerbates the problem.

Writing and game design was the same. When I started, with my Star Wars Fate Hack and my favorite short story, Bushido, I didn’t write to impress others, I wrote to express myself to others.

That’s so damned important.

from Kelly Hu‘s Insta

When I practiced the martial arts to impress others, it changed how and what I did in the dojo. When I wrote for others, it changed what and how I wrote. I became concerned with what others expected or desired to see. It wasn’t me.

It all starts with one person you respect. One martial artist friend was overly critical of the way I trained, so I adjusted to appease him. One player at my gaming table was hard to please, so I designed games that he would like. One writer was haughty about what was and wasn’t good writing, and I wanted to be the kind of writer he thought was “good”.

I became their intellectual slaves. My art was at their pleasure, not mine.

Expressing myself through the martial arts impressed the hell out of people, unintentionally. And I’m talking complete self-expression, with all my opinions, (polite) prejudices, and areas of specialization that I cared about.

When I wrote Bushido and Jadepunk, it was the same. Total, unrepentant self-expression.

Not everyone likes the same things I like. Hell, not everyone likes me. We’re sort of made that way. But there are a lot of people, enough people, who like me and what I create when I’m being myself.

I’m going to do more of that.

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