Friday, January 20, 2006


I took this Are you an Over-Achiever or an Under-Achiever? quiz.

I wasn’t surprised to find out that I was an under-achiever, and I wonder if that is true of most poets.

Also I wonder if poets who have considerable achievements in the poetry world e.g. Seamus Heaney, Charles Simic etc, do so partly because they have an over-achieving personality to match, quite apart from their talent. I was reading earlier on about how Carol Ann Duffy, winner of this year’s T.S. Eliot Prize, applies herself with rigour and discipline to her writing – two key characteristics of an over-achiever.

That said, the creators of the quiz make it clear that "understanding your tendency to overachieve or underachieve can enable you to better manage your small business. Both types of people are equally able to attain the goals they set for themselves as long as they learn how to manage their tendencies."

So perhaps I'm wrong.


Sujay Sukumar said...

All those poems in your blog, turned out to be a good read. Made me realize that poets think so differently. It reflects not only in the theme, rhyme and content, but also in the texture of the web of words. Nice blog.


Cookala said...

Heya. Rob. Looks like I'm an over achiever- but then I knew that already. So far, that's and one and one count for your theory about Heaney and Simic. (Just thought you'd like to know)

Heather O'Neill said...

I'm just about to take the quiz.

You know what's funny? Before I clicked on your blog to see if you had updated it, I was sitting at the computer wondering if they had a quiz about laziness and ambition. Seriously.I've been in a quiz-taking mood today, so it was on my mind.

My guess is that it'll tell me I'm an under-acheiver.

Let's see...

Heather O'Neill said...

Yup. Under-achiever. Did you guys feel split--like you could answer both yes and no to some of the questions? I felt that way on about five of them.

I wonder if it's possible that some poets who normally are under-achievers in many things don the cloak of the over-achiever when it comes to the craft of poetry?
Kinda like doing well in a class at school because it interests you so much.


Bluesky_Liz said...

I think the quiz is a little too simplistic to be taken seriously. I'm apparently an Overachiever -- which people tend to say and I don't quite agree since I don't think I have achieved a lot yet (as I think that should be the meaning of that word, but it isn't), just tries to do too much sometimes.

Messalina said...

Like Cookie, I wasn't surprised to find I was an over-achiever. For me, the worst part of being in that camp is the inability to sit still, do nothing and relax, without feeling guilty!

Fortunately, I'm already taking action to work around my tendencies - I have been honing my delegation skills for a few years now and frankly, they're outstanding! ;o)

Rob Mackenzie said...

Interesting. My theory is obviously dead in the water. Poets come in all ways.

I have decided to make a solid effort over the next three months to hang onto the best of my under-achieving tendencies and yet try to achieve more.

I'll let you know whether I manage to keep to my decisions, and whether I notice any difference in my life and in my poetry.

Anonymous said...

"If I don't do it, no one else will, and no one can do it better than I can anyway."

That sums me up. Clearly a totally out of control over-achiever. Your theory? Humm. Are you sure all us over-achievers really ARE poets. Maybe we are all just playing at it to feed our over-achieving ambitions ...

Rob (the other one)

Messalina said...

I think the other (over-achieving / control freak / occasional dress wearing poet type) Rob should wash his mouth out immediately - cheek! ;o)

Anonymous said...

Heh. Ohh my my the Empress in you coming out there M? ~grins in a controlling manner~ or should that be ~giggles girlishly~

Rob Mackenzie said...

Now now, you two. None of that Empress/Slave stuff on my blog!

Entire families used to sit round their computer screen reading my stuff. Not any more.


Overacheiving has never been a problem of mine, but I think that poets are by definition obsessed with language and some channell it in such a way that the arcs of opportunity and preparation intersect more fortuitously than others, in the commercial sense of their work bringing them various degrees of financial comfort.

But the wealth of a poet is irrelevant and is no indicator of their poetic ability of acheivement in its purest sense. Heaney believes that poets exist purely in their own esteem and not because others say they are one; which I have found to be the case for myself.

True acheivement is an entirely personal matter, as a poem is the same whether it appears on a billion pages and makes the poet a millionaire, or if it is on a piece of A4 in pencil and resting a drawer as the one and only copy. The trick is all in the mind. You validate and self confirm through learning the how to write poetry and reading up on the subject to such an extent that your own opinions firm up into a poetic in which your poems anchor.

But enough of my waffle; I must leave and whip up a wiund of diddlee dee for the stag and hen parties looking for a bit of craic and a full on all bard to tickle the illusion real before the day descends to a non stop sup fest of linguistic drivel.....