Writers (and artists generally) spend lots of time admiring the neighbors’ grass.
It’s not that we’re lazy by nature. (OK, we are, but that’s not the reason the problem occurs.) It’s just that the writer’s life consists of extended periods of work, followed by brief, bright moments when our former work-in-progress becomes the beautiful new release on the bookstore shelf.
And then, a few days later, someone else has a book release, and our adorable new puppy becomes the gangly shelter dog that people pass right by without looking.
Or so it often seems.
If we’re not careful, writers (and, truthfully, everyone else) risk dangerous, and often depressing, comparisons. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking our insides don’t match up to other people’s outsides.
But green grass doesn’t always indicate a better lawn.
Sometimes, the neighbors’ grass is green because their septic tank is leaking.
The life we live consists of two parts:
The outside part that others see
And the inside part, which only we experience.
Life, society, and self-preservation teach us not to let the leaky septic parts of our existence show. Nobody goes on Facebook to announce the publisher dropped their contract. Nobody wants to admit book sales are down. Nobody puts a banner in the yard proclaiming “I GOT A DIVORCE,” “MY PUPPY HAS TICKS,” or “MY KID CAME HOME FROM KINDERGARTEN WITH HEAD LICE AND AN ITCHY, CONTAGIOUS RASH.”
Yet these things happen–and they happen to all of us (writers and non-writers alike) at every turn. Life is messy. It hurts. It’s filled with itchy children, barfing cats, and a publishing industry filled with equal numbers of sparkle-dusted fairies and the slime toads that infest a writer’s nightmares. (Special thanks to Kerry Schafer for that final image–I still owe her one for WAKEWORLD.)
But life is also wonderful–and we need to remember that when things get rough.
Every writer’s life swings back and forth between joy and sorrow, light and darkness, success and the Pit of Despair. In the highs, we rejoice. In the lows, we tend to look over the fences and wonder why the neighboring writer’s yard looks so much lovelier than our own.
Why did SHE get nominated for an award, when my books get nothing?
Why is HIS release so much better-ranked on Amazon than mine?
When will readers give MY book a chance–or am I just deluding myself that these hours of blood and sweat and tears will ever move anyone else as they move me?
These are your insides showing.
We cannot help but view the world from the inside out. We experience life through our inside eyes, with constant background input from a nasty little voice that tells us we’re not good enough, or skilled enough, or worth enough to see our dreams come true. That ugly voice would love you to quit, because your insides don’t measure up to the perfect outsides everyone else is showing. For the record, that voice is a liar.
I want to remind you of something important–something that ugly voice inside your head will never admit, even though it knows:
THAT OTHER, SUCCESSFUL PERSON? SHE HAS MESSY INSIDES TOO.
Not one of us has perfect insides. Everyone’s life has troubles, and hardships, and nobody’s life is easy.
Maybe that nomination her up because her grandmother had cancer.
Maybe his high-ranked release came after a novel that flopped (and made his publisher drop his contract).
Who knows whether your next release will be the one that gets the readers talking? And if it isn’t, every book you write gives you another chance.
Comparing your insides to someone else’s outside news will always leave you sorry. Thinking you have to “measure up” is a recipe for failure. Instead, take a chance on loving yourself, enjoying your words, and working to make yourself the very best “you” that you can be today.
Because life is too short to ignore the blessings you have while you have them. Trust me, you have more of them than you realize.
And if all that fails, remember: someone, somewhere thinks your grass is greener than his or her own. Remember: the neighbors don’t need to know the septic tank is broken.