I have a bottle of ice wine that I bought when I was in Moldova this January that I still haven’t opened. I thought about opening it when I finished my proposal and sent it out to query agents. And I thought about it again when I finally signed with the agent that I’d been courting for a year. But I waited because I haven’t signed a contract with a publisher yet. Or maybe I should wait until the book earns back its advance. Or maybe I should wait until I sign for a second book. Or until I get to do a TED Talk.
Some days I wonder if I’m ever going to be able to open it.
Success is a tough thing to grasp. I’m pretty sure it’s one of those Bugs Bunny cartoon mirage oasises that seem to be just over the next sand dune, but never quite materialize. We crawl along, hoping that a sip from the pool of success will quench our thirst.
I have been staring at success for a long time and I think the thing that keeps us from experiencing success is the same regardless of where we are on the writing path.
This person’s author page on Facebook has more likes than mine does. That person has more blog hits than I do. That author has published more books. That writer has a more eloquent prose than I do. They’ve signed with an agent, they have a two-book deal to my one, they get all of the good writing jobs.
When you look at what the other person has and compare it to what you have, I promise, you will always come up short.
There will always be someone who has more of whatever it is that you want.
Bigger platform, better networking skills, sharper writing. Even if you’re great in one area, it can be incredibly easy to find another place where you struggle and see how someone else is excelling in it.
And that pretty little island oasis stays just out of reach.
So how do we avoid the comparison game?
I don’t know if we can eliminate it completely, and honestly, I’m not sure that we need to. Comparison can be beneficial. It helps us set goals for ourselves. It gives us guidelines for accomplishments. It can push us out of complacency.
But in order to keep it from becoming toxic, we need to make the primary source of our comparison ourselves. You can lament that my blog stats aren’t has high as this person’s, but maybe you have more people reading now than you did when you started. Maybe you don’t write as beautifully as your favorite author, but when you compare essays from 2010 and 2013, there is a noticeable improvement. Maybe you’re still waiting to hear back from an agent, but you have finished your proposal and have put it out there for consideration.
Rather than waiting for success to happen, today look for the successes that have already happened. The email from the internet stranger who was moved by your writing. The rejection that included a personal note of encouragement to keep going. The really great cup of coffee that you brewed that helped you meet the deadline that you thought you might miss.
There will always be reasons to put off drinking the ice wine. Today, let’s find a reason to uncork it.
What is a success that you’ve recently had in your writing? What stops you from recognizing and celebrating your successes?
Alise is a wife, a mother of four, an eater of soup, and a lover of the Oxford comma. Her writing reflects her life and her relationships with all of the “wrong” people that God keeps bringing into her life. She is the editor of Not Alone: Stories of Living with Depression, and is currently working on her first full-length book, A Christian’s Guide to Atheists. You can generally find her behind a keyboard of some kind: playing or teaching the piano, writing at her laptop, or texting movie quotes to her friends. You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook, or Twitter.