My dream, for as long as I can remember, has been to write a book.
It doesn’t even have to be a bestselling book, or a critically acclaimed book. Just the act of having a publisher deem it worth publishing would be enough, and my entire one-item bucket list would be complete.
That goal seems straightforward, right? ‘So write it!’ my friends tell me, all encouragement and sincerity and more love than I likely deserve. They’re wonderful, and to them it really seems that simple: just write it! Write the book, and the rest will follow. And it probably would be that simple, did I not have the nasty habit of comparing myself.
Mark Twain wisely wrote that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and as I get older and experience more of people and of the world, I have found nothing to be truer. We live in a society comprised of comparison; social media makes comparison so easy, thanks to photos and hashtags and editing tools. We know better than to compare our lowest moments to the Instagrammed highlight reels of others, and yet we do it anyway. It’s so easy to mindlessly thumb through your feed, glaring at the sparkling photos of your friends when you feel fat, or lonely, or downright unlovable. It’s easy, and it’s dangerous, since you never come out of that feeling better than when you went it.
I do this, too, with my life and my writing.
It feels impossible to carve out my own niche in this cyberworld of make-your-own-platform. For the longest time I didn’t even bother writing a blog, since I felt like what was the point? Everyone had a blog. Whatever I intended to do on my blog had likely been done before and doubtlessly been done better, and bigger, and with a firmer grasp of Photoshop. There was no point; I’d simply be throwing words into a void, and opening myself up to mockery and criticism when I inevitably failed.
I carried that broken way of thinking around for years, until I voiced my concerns to a professor who… laughed at me. It wasn’t the response I’d been expecting, and I might have been more offended had her next words not been so invaluable: “But you’re not doing it for them; you’re doing it for you.”
Writing it out now, it seems so obvious, so slap-you-in-the-face obvious. And yet I really needed to hear it, to be told by someone else who had been where I was that my way of thinking was flawed. Because she was right; the moment I stopped attempting to write for others and instead wrote what I wanted, how I wanted it, my confidence started to climb. I had people sharing my posts, others seeking me out to tell me they ‘identified,’ and more still simply hitting that ‘like’ star. That’s not to say I became an overnight success, because I didn’t and I still haven’t, but now when interested parties ask to see my ‘portfolio and blog,’ I have something to show them, something I’m proud of.
I’m still having some trouble applying this way of thinking to my novel, since it seems such a mammoth project that I can’t help but glaring at my computer at intervals and thinking ‘what’s the point? I’ll never make it anyway.’ But therein lies the problem: if I don’t have a finished book, I won’t even get the opportunity to fail. If I’m going to fail, I’d much rather it be after I gave it my best shot, and not a result of my own fallicied insecurities.
Because what if you don’t fail? What if you were meant to succeed all along, and the world is just waiting for you to arrive?
Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t compare; make your own joy, make what you love. No matter what your bucket-list project is – a book, a film, a career, a gallery – go for it. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing and how you might fit into it. Do what you love, and make your own place. Fit yourself in. Just do it, and do it well, and give it everything you have. You can’t finish the race if you don’t even put yourself in the running, so stop taking yourself out of the running. Even if you don’t finish first, you might – no, you will – surprise yourself.
You got this.