Where Ladybugs Roar

Confessions and Passions of a Compulsive Writer

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Being Incomparable

I don't know if other writers suffer from this, but whether I'm doing well in my writing life or poorly, I need to compare myself to other writers--their success, their failure, their path to publication.  I hate this about me.  I wish I could stop.  I hate especially when I find myself lacking, but I hate it even more when I find others behind me and take some pleasure in that.  I'm not sure where this vindictive side to me resides--this bit of me that enjoys seeing others fail--because I don't feed it or indulge it, and I kick it out whenever it slinks into view.  It's like the rat in the house of my mind.  It's there--I know it's there--it leaves droppings.

The crazy thing is that you can't compare.  It's not as if any of our paths parallel to the point you can see where someone made the right decision and you made the wrong one or vice versa.  There is no way to say, "I could have been there if only I'd...."  Life doesn't work that way.  I know this.  I believe it.

Yet... the rat.

I was talking with a friend about coveting a week or so ago, and they brought up the point that coveting is more than actual envy.  Coveting begins with not being content with what you have.  I mean, this in no way means you should lack ambition or the drive to improve yourself, but if that drive overwhelms your ability to be happy at the point you're at--then you'll never be happy.  There it is.  You'll never be happy.  If you're waiting for something to happen before you can be happy, there will always be something to wait for.

I don't know what the answer is by the way.  I feel like I was discontented most of 2011 for one reason or another--mostly related to my writing.  I feel like the rat has made a nest in my mind and invited in some buddies.  Today, sloth and gluttony are out to play and leave droppings.  (I'm supposed to be working on that revision, but I've been eating chocolate instead.) (Mmm. Chocolate.)

So far, I've found some success in just getting back to writing or revising.  If I'm working my tail off, I tend to keep too busy to envy or covet the success of others.  I don't have time to compare as much.  I get lost in the worlds I created and there is satisfaction in that... in being in another world and creating.  I didn't write as much in 2011, and I think that contributed to my discontent. It seems ridiculous to have to remind myself that "writers write" but if you've spent much of a year buried deep in revision... the correlation of "writers revise and revise and revise" is also true.  Revision doesn't seem to keep envy as far away, and I think I spent 3/4 of last year's "writing" time actually revising.

I also fake it until I can feel it.  I really do appreciate and enjoy the success of others--even if I envy them initially.  I love that friends are finding success--even if I feel a bit left out.  The emotion is there--even if the spirit follows a little behind my initial "woo" and confetti.  I love that others are successful... even if the rat is lurking in the corner wishing I was there with them.  Like I said, I don't feed the thing--I think it lives on the cupcake crumbs I drop.

Lately, I've also tried to avoid diving into online conflict.  That's more my personality than something new, though.  I've never been comfortable with conflict or arguments.  I'm the middle child in my family, and they tend to be peacemakers by nature... and that's how I've been most of my life.  I hate arguing.  I hate seeing it.  It does seem to breed discontent. I've seen people content with their lives until other peoples are discontent and suddenly they hate their lives.

Finally, I'll have to admit that social media isn't a true window into other people's worlds.  If you find yourself thinking that their lives are all too good to be true--they are.  With the exception of crazies like me or chatterboxes, many people use social media to build either a cheering section or a sob corner.  (I, of course, use it to tweet pictures of Mountain Dew's effect in my day-to-day life.)  You tend to see the extremes of most people in social media.  Some people will only tweet once or twice a day--so, of course, they're going to say something significant and usually something flattering to themselves or to engage others--depending on what they need emotionally. Or they'll tweet pictures of food... which is cool by me.  I love pictures of food.  The point is that no matter how much someone tweets, you're not in their shoes.  You're nowhere near their shoes.  You're like their nice dressy scarf... maybe. You go pretty places and get dragged out for funerals, but you're not seeing their life.

So, that's where I am... what I'm doing.  I'm trying not to compare myself to others, and I hope no one is comparing themselves to me and coming up lacking.  When my kids were having a lot of success in overcoming their delays, I was talking to someone who had a child a bit younger than B.  I remember one day she said, with a bit of hysteria in her voice, "What are you doing differently?  I'm doing everything you're doing!  I'm doing more than you're doing!  Why is it working for you and not for me?"  She even told me she envied me--that she was jealous of me and my children's success. Of course, comparing children with Autism is a lot like comparing writing careers when it comes right down to it.  You have different children.  Your paths are different.  Also, what I learned from this was that it didn't feel good.  Whether you're the person being envied or the envier--there is a sour sense that goes with it.  In fact... it made me discontent.

I'm also taking vitamins.  I know that's rather out from left field, but this is the winter of our discontent because I'm not getting enough Vitamin D from the sun, and it's making me cranky.  If you start out cranky, it takes a bit to pull up from there.

*gives you a significant look* Don't forget to take your vitamins.  I worry about your health.  Really.  Yours.

So, how do you deal with not comparing yourself?  Or is that just my problem and I'm a freak?  (Wait... just answer the first part.)


  1. I think that EVERYONE can't help comparing and feeling either superior or inferior. It's one of those nasty impulses in most everyone. But I think the answer is exactly what you're doing... focus on your own work and remind yourself that most people are putting out an idealized picture of themselves online. They say "fake it till you make it," and a lot of people are doing just that.

  2. I agree with Katie everyone compares themselves with others. I've dealt with it by making sure comparisons are kept at a minimum. I had to do things that no one else I knew had done. I had to take a language no one spoke. "Lets see Spanish, French, and German are out...Japanese! That's it!" I had to take a "Sport" that no one else had done. "No Swimming, No Track...Dance, brilliant!" Even my writing has practically stopped since you started. (This is not meant to offend you, I just have no desire to write much any more. Except maybe some Honor fan fiction. When will Honor 8 get here! ;-)
    When I do have something to compare, my rat comes out too. Everyone has one.
    Love you.

  3. Katie, I think it's especially common among writers, but maybe I'm wrong in that. Part of it is that you want to be constantly improving and reading other people's work is a way to do that... so comparison comes more naturally than in some other careers.

    Jaime, I'm similar to you in that... Heidi likes to do the same thing and likes the competition. In fact, I think she makes things into a competition where there is none at times. The word "fanfic" has been forever tainted by some Buffy fanfic I read years ago... some fans see people together that SHOULD NOT be together. *boils eyes* I don't know when I'll work on Honor 8. It'll have to be after rereading all of the series and getting rid of some continuity crap I noticed, but I'll need to immerse myself to get back in their heads and in that world.