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On achievements

By William R. Jones

In one of his essays J.B. Priestley wrote: "I never read the life of any important person without discovering that he knew more and could do more than I could ever hope to know or to do in half a dozen lifetimes."

My sense of achievement has been dwarfed by the impressive accomplishments of others. Oftentimes, I feel my personal genome has too many mutations or my genes are not expressive enough. Priestley himself was a prolific writer, having more than a score of novels, a score of essays and short stories, and a score of plays, et cetera. And to make matters worse he produced all in concerted efforts of lusty affairs and three marriages with four daughters and a son.

I believe that time and chance happens to all people and this positions them better to successfully complete things by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance. The problem is that my time is running out and my chances are fewer. But, I exert myself sometimes burning the candle at both ends. And indeed, I practice and practice my pencil-pushing and keyboard craft with draft after draft, revision after revision, and editing and editing. I continue to endure and persevere. As to skill, well, that continues to be a work in progress.

Perhaps, I have not borrowed enough from other men. Perhaps, this is what is meant by the metaphor "standing on the shoulders of giants." Perhaps, I can use pretext "If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders." Perhaps, I must resolve not to lose one moment of time. We don't last long on what we have done, we have to keep on delivering as we go along.

My long-time long-gone friend, Dr. Sen, impressed upon me that our biomedical research and mice were our bread-and-butter. He repeated often the expression "publish or perish." There seemed to be no strict rules and quantity overtook quality. Also, publication lists give rise to questionable ethics. In 2017, I discovered one anatomist had published no less than 180 scientific papers since 1991. That would equate to at least six publications per year. I asked my dean at the time, "How could this be?" He explained that the man simply headed up a department or school and took rightful or not rightful credit to place his name on each researcher's work.

Now, I think J.B. Priestley was an important person in his time, however, I must admit that I have not read or seen one single piece of his work. It sort of makes me feel as though I'm not well-schooled, perhaps illiterate. But, I was not in charge of selections in all my university English literature classes. Justin Richardson, a British poet, wrote "For years a secret shame destroyed my peace ― I'd not read Eliot, Auden or MacNeice. But then I had a thought that brought me hope ― neither had Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope."

Yes, in the reality of this "here and now" world, I'm running out of time. I must stop typing and get busy writing and, perhaps, reading as well! An Oxford professor of English literature said: "I can't write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me."


The author (wrjones@vsu.edu) published the novella Beyond Harvard and presently teaches English as a second language.


By William R. Jones

In one of his essays J.B. Priestley wrote: "I never read the life of any important person without discovering that he knew more and could do more than I could ever hope to know or to do in half a dozen lifetimes."

My sense of achievement has been dwarfed by the impressive accomplishments of others. Oftentimes, I feel my personal genome has too many mutations or my genes are not expressive enough. Priestley himself was a prolific writer, having more than a score of novels, a score of essays and short stories, and a score of plays, et cetera. And to make matters worse he produced all in concerted efforts of lusty affairs and three marriages with four daughters and a son.

I believe that time and chance happens to all people and this positions them better to successfully complete things by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance. The problem is that my time is running out and my chances are fewer. But, I exert myself sometimes burning the candle at both ends. And indeed, I practice and practice my pencil-pushing and keyboard craft with draft after draft, revision after revision, and editing and editing. I continue to endure and persevere. As to skill, well, that continues to be a work in progress.

Perhaps, I have not borrowed enough from other men. Perhaps, this is what is meant by the metaphor "standing on the shoulders of giants." Perhaps, I can use pretext "If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders." Perhaps, I must resolve not to lose one moment of time. We don't last long on what we have done, we have to keep on delivering as we go along.

My long-time long-gone friend, Dr. Sen, impressed upon me that our biomedical research and mice were our bread-and-butter. He repeated often the expression "publish or perish." There seemed to be no strict rules and quantity overtook quality. Also, publication lists give rise to questionable ethics. In 2017, I discovered one anatomist had published no less than 180 scientific papers since 1991. That would equate to at least six publications per year. I asked my dean at the time, "How could this be?" He explained that the man simply headed up a department or school and took rightful or not rightful credit to place his name on each researcher's work.

Now, I think J.B. Priestley was an important person in his time, however, I must admit that I have not read or seen one single piece of his work. It sort of makes me feel as though I'm not well-schooled, perhaps illiterate. But, I was not in charge of selections in all my university English literature classes. Justin Richardson, a British poet, wrote "For years a secret shame destroyed my peace ― I'd not read Eliot, Auden or MacNeice. But then I had a thought that brought me hope ― neither had Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Pope."

Yes, in the reality of this "here and now" world, I'm running out of time. I must stop typing and get busy writing and, perhaps, reading as well! An Oxford professor of English literature said: "I can't write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me."


The author (wrjones@vsu.edu) published the novella Beyond Harvard and presently teaches English as a second language.



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