Taming the green-eyed monster
The other night I watched Rizzolli and Isles. In this particular episode, Angela, Rizzoli’s mother, starts a blog. A few days into her writing she comments, “Oh look, I have twelve followers.” Rizzoli looks at the laptop and says, “no, Ma, you have twelve thousand followers.”
During this scene I felt a slight twist in my heart, a small twitch behind my eye, and that’s when I knew. I had it.
It happens to every beginning blogger. You start to poke around WordPress and check out the blogs of other people in your forums, and you inevitably come across some very well written and well designed sites. You start to compare your baby blog to the ones that have been maintained for years. You start to think, I wish I could be that funny. Or, wow, I wish one of my posts could garner hundreds of comments. And you start to pull back, ever so slightly, from the project that only days or minutes ago had you so excited.
We all do this in our creative pursuits. As a beginning writer, I cannot tell you how often I have compared my fledgling attempts to the prose of published authors. I poke at my flailing plot during revisions and wonder how Stephen King or Nora Roberts can do it over and over again.
I am sure other creatives do this, too – painters, actors, sculptors, architects, photographers – anyone who is involved in creating something from a speck of an idea feels this way. We look around at the other artists who have made it and wonder what they have that we don’t.
How many would-be artists walk away from their creative dreams because they have tried to compare their initial attempt, their very first poem, their first drawing in a new medium to the final products of established artists who have been living their creative dream for years? We should never let comparisons like that deter us. There will always be someone who is better, but that doesn’t make our work any less.
What I have to remind myself time and time again is that I am comparing my work to books and stories that have been revised and polished and published by people who have been working at their craft for years. They have put in their time, paid their dues and have managed to create their art. And just because their art is fabulous does not mean there is no room for my art to be fabulous.
As a general rule, first drafts are crap. Even second and third drafts tend to be crap. Comparing them to a novel that has been polished and primed for the public is unfair to the early drafts of my work. Of course, a best seller is going to be better than my first attempt ever to write a poem or a short story. I have not yet gained the experience or the expertise that will come from years of toiling over each word and phrase.
My beginning blog, my first unpublished novel have a lot going for them. And I must stop holding them up in the shadow of well-established blogs or writers and finding them lacking. I need to put in my time and my energy and come out the other side. I need to push through the temporary paralysis that takes root when I let myself compare my early projects to those that have already proven themselves.
Perhaps there are support groups for people who suffer from this type of ailment. But really I think the only cure for it is to continue to put ourselves out there, just outside our comfort zone, where we get nervous and a little nauseous and continue to show up, do the work, and hit that “publish” button.
And some day, with luck and perseverance, I, too will be published. 🙂