Comparing Yourself To Others (A Beginners’ Guide)

I get a whole lot of advice that says not to compare myself to others.

In general, the advice also includes some kind of admonition that the only person you should compare yourself to is you. And something that’s meant to be consoling, but which could almost certainly be said for anything from an infant’s first crayon scratches to Shakespeare. You are where you are.

I don’t believe a word of it.

What I do believe is that if you are going to compare yourself to others, it should be in a very specific way. I don’t, for instance think “I want to write like Shakespeare” is a healthy goal. It’s too big, too general… it’s something that eliminates your own style in the process. Wanting to be someone else isn’t achievable. But if you break it into specific elements you admire, some of it might be. “I should use the word thou more.” well, that’s achievable. (I’m not sure it’s advisable, but you can achieve it, if you want.)

I’m not being humble, here: It’s not where I am that tells me the heights that are out there. Or what’ necessary to succeed. Or where I could improve. Or how far I have to go. It’s looking at others.

And then, you sort out the things that are pure, dumb luck–the lightning strikes–from the things that are hard work. The things you’re willing to work for from the things you’re not. What can you have? What do you want badly enough?

I used to go out and shoot a few baskets, now and then. Now, let’s be honest. I was not good. And–I’m five foot zero and a half–so I’m never gonna be good. Not in any global comparison, anyway. If I’m comparing to Michael Jordan, that’s an impossible, lightning strike goal. He’s taller than me, prettier than me, and has better legs than me. But if I compare to Mike Miller down the street–you know, the guy who spends time with his kids, and gets some exercise, and has fun–well, I could do that. I’d be happier doing that.

And I dance. I can rattle off lists of the greats in this that and the other form, and shiver with awe for all of them. But on a personal level, I connect more with Ray Bolger than with Baryshnikov, and long-term… I want the social connections and longevity and fun of Frankie Manning more than then the elegance of Maria Tallchief.

I lucked out a lot more, when it comes to writing. More of the stroke of luck talent than I have for other pursuits. I’m probably capable of walking out on a professional court at some point. Some of that is lightning strike stuff, and some of it is hard work. I am where I am… but this is where I want to go. Not just one professional writer, but the collective, group of them. Professional-level writing all the way. The get up at three in the morning on a weekend and write crowd. The going places crowd.

What catches my eye when I read this book or that book, and am I willing to do the work to get there?

Fan-Girls, Groupies, and Choosing the Right Dreams

Last night, I dreamed I was helping one of my favorite authors rearrange his collection of movie posters.

I’m not sure whether this is a good dream or a bad dream, because on the one hand, I am kind of a fan girl, so I could have a pretty good time playing grateful slave labor. On the other hand, I do have some  qualms about encouraging this new movie/television hobby in someone who is supposed to be writing my new favorite book.

And, honestly, I have some qualms about the groupie-ing mindset that produces a dream like that.

Really? Dream Self offered to help you clean out your attic?

And furthermore, Dream Self didn’t even question it, when she was there in jeans and a t-shirt, ready to work… and you showed up looking like you were about to go on national television?

You’d think black would show at least a little dust, after a long day of attic diving. But…

Oh, yeah. That’s right. Dream Self Groupie.

And in this dream, I was just way too impressed with Favorite Author* to notice that I was basically following him around taking orders and hauling movie posters.

Suddenly, that starts to sound like one of those insecurities dreams. Not the rose, but near the rose type things.

Too bad. It was pretty fun, until I woke up and started thinking.

*No, I won’t name names. He probably isn’t that much of an asshat in real life.