Taking Credit

There are people who accomplish good or great things, and there are those who take credit for those accomplishments. As most intelligent individuals know, often the person who gets credit isn’t the one who actually did the work. Also, sometimes more than a few individuals take credit for something that was never accomplished or completed.

Over the course of my life I’ve certainly seen a lot of such instances. One of the best things – or the worse – about being a writer is that when a book is published you get the credit – or criticism. In my case, either, depending upon your point of view, is warranted, because I personally write every word that’s published, except for the few words corrected by my editor. I have been known to borrow/steal ideas from my wife, but the words are my own.

Not all books, however, are necessarily written by name on the spine of the book. While the original “Ellery Queen” mysteries were written by Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, more than twenty of the later Ellery Queen novels were ghost-written by others, including SF author Jack Vance.

Likewise, particularly in politics and often in business and academia, credit or blame is often taken by or placed on the wrong people. President Herbert Hoover didn’t cause the Great Depression, nor did Franklin Roosevelt end it [although he did make great efforts and did his best to mitigate its effects until the economic recovery caused by WWII kicked in]. Bill Clinton got credit for the economic recovery actually primed by the first President Bush.

Then there are the people who labor long and hard and slowly build something from virtually nothing, such as Fred Adams, who created the now well-known Utah Shakespeare Festival [which was good enough to win a Tony several years ago as the best regional theatre in the U.S.]. His wife Barbara did half the work, but only those who knew Fred and Barbara know that because Fred was not only a great builder, but a great showman. There’s also a well-known fantasy author whose wife contributed to every book, but whose name only appeared on the last few.

In more than a few cases, those who build an organization, a cause, a business just aren’t self-promoters, and often, because of that, others take credit… or the individual never gets credit.

More often than not, why someone gets credit, deserved or undeserved, is because they’re a good self-promoter, and there’s nothing wrong with that in itself – unless the self-promoter steals the credit from someone else. What is equally wrong is when the rest of us let the self-promoters who are stealing credit from those who deserve it reward the deceptive self-promoter.

5 thoughts on “Taking Credit”

  1. Aaron Eitan Meyer says:

    Perfectly put, speaking as someone with an acknowledged problem of not self-promoting properly.

    I’ve always been amazed – and often irritated – at how people and even events years apart somehow escape the attention they deserve. Most recently, I was researching Ralph Bunche, who accomplished tremendous things in the Middle East, and deserved the Nobel Peace Prize – but who still found himself sidelined in favor of big name political figures all too often.

  2. Sam says:

    I believe I know the well-known fantasy author and his wife you are referring to.
    Is there any particular reason you elected not to name them?

    I only know them through their work. So I’m not aware of any reason not to name them.

    It’s probably been 10 or more years since I’ve read any of their works but for some time they were amongst my favourites.

    1. I didn’t name them because the point wasn’t who they were but that it happened, and I felt that many familiar to F&SF would know, and for those not familiar, the names would be meaningless.

  3. Wayne Kernochan says:

    I assume you’re referring to the Eddings. iirc, David pointed this out in the dedication to the first joint-author book, so it’s no secret 🙂

    Your comments about taking taking credit remind me of a description of the stages of the typical development project that was popular among fellow programmers in the 1980s:

    1. Initial enthusiasm;

    2. Total disaster;

    3. Punishment of the innocent;

    4. Promotion of the incompetent;

    5. Start a new project.

    I believe that the point was that for most development projects, credit was very wrongly assigned. Be thankful you were not a programmer in those days … assuming they’re over …

    1. Tim says:

      @Wayne. I was a programmer in the 80s and well remember that list. I also observed that as a project started to go pear-shaped, the project manager tended to find another more exciting project to run.

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