Before I start this one, I want to make something clear so it’s here on record. I’m aware there are three types of dashes, and I’m aware that I only use the hyphen in place of the correct en- or em-dash. My keyboard doesn’t have a number pad, so it’s not simple for me to type those characters. This might seem like a strange thing to declare, but at work it can cause quite the debate. On with today’s blog!
Today, a close friend asked me to read her novel manuscript.
A previous version of me would have been jealous, bitter, and annoyed that someone I knew had ‘beaten me to it’. That is fortunately not me now. Instead, upon her telling me, I was genuinely proud of her for reaching this goal. She’s been writing for years, and I’m aware she has a number of projects in the works. And I know how hard it actually is to get the 80,000 or so words of a draft together, whether it’s a masterpiece or a good start. That takes work.
Until fairly recently (in the last few years), I was that person who fancied themselves a writer, despite rarely actually writing anything (and completing things even less). My perfectionism got in the way of me making any progress, and when I would hear of other people in my circles hitting writing goals, getting through another part of their novel, or having a short story published in a magazine, I’d get bitter about it.
It was completely irrational, but I’d feel like by doing something themselves, they’d taken the opporunity from me. This way of thinking caused me to give up on projects because of other people being able to do them better than me. I know now that this was part of the mindset I was in at the time; being obsessed with comparing myself to others. It was incredibly disheartening at the time because for me, writing felt like ‘my thing’. I didn’t like having the knowledge that it was other people’s ‘thing’, too.
One might ask why I wasn’t affected this way by all of the published, professional authors already out there. In answer, I would say that they feel like a different species. Successful authors aren’t the same as my friend writing a book; they’re a special breed. Again, this is complete nonsense – I’m trying to illustrate the thoughts I would have at that time.
I’m happy to say that I no longer feel that way upon hearing this kind of news. I can properly involve myself in my friend’s happiness, and appreciate her hard work without viewing it as a representation of my own failures. I enjoy hearing of other’s successes, especially those close to me, as it shows that these things can be done.
Knowing that others are achieving these goals now has the opposite effect on me. Instead of giving up out of my perceived failure, they drive me to continue my own development. While my friend has technically ‘beaten me’ to a finished manuscript, I’ve gained motivation and drive to now complete my own. I can read her draft and work out what I like and dislike about it, then apply it to my own work. There is still a certain level of competition involved – but it’s based on a positive relationship, and I want to join her at the finish line rather than get a better score.