Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Tyranny of Above and Beyond

by Annabeth Leong

I can think of so many ways I grew up with the idea that unless I'm going above and beyond I'm not doing enough.

For my entire school career, anything short of an A was a failure. The A thereby possessed no particular meaning or cause for celebration. That, indeed, set a pattern for me. There was no achievement to be happy about, only ways to fall short.

When I became a writer, I read so much about polishing stories to within an inch of their lives. It felt as if I shouldn't dare to bother an editor with my efforts unless I knew I'd already gone far above and beyond. I see the good intention in this advice, but I can also tell you that it utterly paralyzed me and prevented me from getting my work out there.

I remember a lover I had early on who would get angry at me for "selfishness" if I relaxed and soaked pleasure in. In his view, I was supposed to keep my lips, tongue, and hands moving at all times, providing pleasure to him no matter what else was going on.

And later, when I started publishing erotica professionally, there was no amount of promotional effort that felt like enough. If I wasn't on every social network known to man, networking constantly, posting on blogs all over the world, then I deserved any poor sales I might have had.

I don't think I need to describe how destructive this type of thinking can get when it becomes deeply ingrained. While it's certainly a good thing to make an effort, I can't live when I'm overwhelmed by paralysis, guilt, and anxiety. When there aren't any ways to succeed, only ways to fall short, it starts to make sense to avoid trying at all.

Obviously, I haven't been going above and beyond as a writer on this blog lately. I'm appreciative that you've all stuck with me as I flail.

But this is why I'm posting today, on the weekend after missing my scheduled day.

When I can't get that A, my desire is to hide in shame. But I've learned over time that there's a lot of power, not in going above and beyond all the time, but in doing the best I can and letting people see that this is flawed but also beautiful.

So here I am. I don't have the resources at the moment to go above and beyond, but here I am, doing this because you and this writing matter to me. I'll see you in two weeks, still doing the best I can. Fingers crossed that it'll be my scheduled day next time.


  1. This is a perfect post-script to the topic, Annabeth.

    I hope that you'll grow out of your perfectionism as you get older, as I have. One of the consolations of age!

  2. Annabeth, all of your stories that I've published have been far above and beyond, which is why I'm always glad to see your submissions.

  3. "When there aren't any ways to succeed, only ways to fall short, it starts to make sense to avoid trying at all."

    *melts* I was an A+ student too. In high school. I think I graduated with like a 97.2% average? Then my first test in university came back somewhere around 40% and that was enough to spark major depression. I failed out of my program in my first year. After that, I kind of stopped caring. God only knows how I finished university. I tried... but I didn't really care.

  4. This post probably strikes a chord with most writers, and most of us probably suspect that other writers have no trouble going above & beyond. Thank you, Annabeth.


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