The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


(Whatever you can do I can do better, I can do anything better than you)

by Steve Gajadhar

We all know the song, an oldie and a goodie. Give it a sing. See how the words roll off the tongue? I’ve often found that the idea behind the lyrics, the frame of mind formed by the words, rolls through my head just as easily. And I know I’m not alone. Fess up!

I caught myself at it the other day while I was looking at a collection of paintings by local artists. For the sake of argument, let’s say they were crap. And they kind of were. But I try to give everything (and everyone) a second chance, so I went the “art and beauty are in the eye of the beholder” route and moved on to the next batch. Also crap, but with potential. Same for the next group and the next. But the last artist was just bad, with no way to justify it, no lame ass out clause from my opinion. The combined poorness of the collection, some of which were priced in excess of $2,000, got me thinking. I could do this, I can paint, draw, etc. With a little work I could do better.

There it is. The evil twin of WYCDICDB, ICDABTY (whew!), contempt for others work. That’s the true motivation behind WYC…you know what I mean. Most of us (if we are honest with ourselves) think that our work is better than our coworkers; our kids are smarter; our dog is cuter; that our “everything” is in some immeasurable way better. It’s human nature, another nasty line of code in the protectionist-regionalist-racist-NIMBY-selfish part of our evolutionary programming, because for the most part mankind is a horrid lot of only children running around and taking our balls back from everyone else. But there’s hope.

I prescribe writing as a way to move beyond this, to get some perspective on the difficulty of things. Let’s borrow Aristotle’s philosopher-king idea and say that all people should be writers. Besides how much better off the world would be (okay, other than the sheer scale of deforestation - but no war, and with all that money left over from defense spending we could try and mitigate world hunger), people would see that it’s really hard to do things that you think are easy. Be it a writing, knitting, sewing, trading stocks, or fixing brains (okay that’s just hard). It takes time and hard work, or talent and luck to get good at something. We all have some of each, but in varying amounts. That’s what I think.

But I could still paint better, I mean, honestly…


Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

You are so right, Steve. Only when I began writing for 'real' did I begin to understand how difficult it can be. Thanks for saying that out loud :)

Wed Nov 15, 03:35:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...


I often times find my appreciation for things calls up a shadow conversation, how I would do it. If I like a movie, I inevitably think of the one I'd direct. If I like a photograph I imagine my version. Music, art, writing, ditto. Cake, gardens, witty remarks, ditto aussi.

I'm glad to hear others have this trouble.

The worst triggering event for me is an acceptance speech. Three words in and my mind slides off to a draft of my own speech...

Wed Nov 15, 05:33:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Some days it seems as if everyone IS a writer, as though they think it's no big deal to do what we do. I used to think I could do a better job at being a aprent until I had kids.

Thu Nov 16, 12:39:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

As long as we realize that everyone else is thinking the same thing...

Thu Nov 16, 09:04:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

Well, of course, I would have written this *differently* but...


Nice one, Steve. No, really. Great post.

Thu Nov 16, 02:04:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

I knew I wasn't alone.

Thu Nov 16, 02:08:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Have you noticed how many typos I'm making lately? Time for the home.

Thu Nov 16, 08:03:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Patricia said...

so true, so very true, we have to stick to it though, and one day, our work will be the stuff someone reads or looks at and says, "I can to that better," and maybe they can, I'm just here for me, to see what I can do. thanks for the post Steve, true true, and do paint, why not?! xo

Sat Nov 18, 03:07:00 pm GMT-5  

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