Veronique Darwin

Conscientiousness

In Thoughts on Writing on December 8, 2012 at 7:47 pm

The word itself takes a commitment. I decided to spell out conscientiousness for the title of the post and then I did it and I got it done. I’ve always been conscientious. That’s what got me good marks at school. But today I read an article that says that often people who don’t have very high intelligence have to make up for it with conscientiousness. I felt deflated reading that: of course.

I work at things every waking moment. It’s why I’ve learned to multitask. It’s why I’m a horrible friend. I feel uneasy if I’m not getting something done. I’m conscious of the thing and then I act on it – at least that’s how I understand the word.

No. I was close. It’s actually a spelling error: conscience, not conscious. Conscientiousness implies morality.

I don’t know if that’s true. Is it moral that I want to write this novel so badly but I’m conscientiously doing my schoolwork, all of it, instead? Is it right that I am becoming a teacher when I want to be a writer?

I think I often confuse conscientiousness with obsession. I don’t need to be working so hard all the time. Maybe sometimes the thing that is right is the thing that takes less effort. Maybe I shouldn’t keep score on Jeopardy at the same time as writing my paper. Maybe it’s morally right to just watch Jeopardy and enjoy it. Maybe that’s what Jeopardy was made for.

A conscientious objector is someone who, for moral reasons, refuses to serve in the military. That’s someone who looked at their conscience and decided that everything that’s noble and true in their eyes is better than everything that’s noble and true in others’. Conscientiousness isn’t doing the hard thing, it’s becoming conscious of your conscience and following through.

So I made this post because I felt I really should and also because I’m constantly trying to make up for my intelligence by using bigger words than I need to.

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