By Bex Peterson, Editor-in-Chief
I might not seem like it, but I’m a very competitive person—especially in creative fields. As much as I’ve tried to tamp down on the instinct, I really have a bad habit of comparing myself to other people. When I stumble across a content creator I admire, I immediately check to see how old they were when they got their “big break” to see if I’ve missed my chance to make a name for myself in the field. I constantly check published writing against my own to see if the quality of my work holds up.
These instincts aren’t necessarily bad. I’m glad that I feel a driving need to better myself and my work, and that I’ve managed to get past that stage of content creation where every critique and editor’s note feels like a knife in the chest. I’m able to see feedback for what it is: A gift, and absolutely necessary for self-improvement.
The problem with this mindset is that it positions your peers as competitors in a game they often won’t know they’re playing, instead of the supportive network of fellow creative types that they could and should be. I’ve gotten much better at not immediately seeing fellow writers as threats, all scrambling for a finite amount of opportunities, but that was certainly my mindset for a while when I was younger, and I don’t like the kind of person it turned me into. I also know that I’ve been seen as that competitor and have had puzzling and hurtful interactions when friends have turned hostile out of some warped perception of who’s “winning” and “losing” in our creative careers.
What I’m trying to say is jealousy and self-doubt is a natural part of working in—heck, any field, not just creative ones. As I said, I’ve become much better at mitigating the more toxic elements of these drives, the jealousy and resentment. But I do experience extreme self-doubt, often, when I feel like I’m not measuring up to the talents of the people around me. A lot of that toxicity has turned inward (and honestly, I’d rather it be internal than external). If I see on Twitter that someone three years younger than me has just secured a three-book deal with a major publisher, I’ll admit, it does a number on my self-esteem. Shouldn’t I be there by now? Maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I’ll never be good enough, maybe I should just quit while I’m behind.
But the thing is, writing—and creating—isn’t a competitive sport. Yes, sometimes you will have to compete against others—even friends—for opportunities. It gets really sticky on those awful days where you get an acceptance letter and your friend gets a rejection letter, and vice versa. But you’re really only shooting yourself in the foot if you choose to make it a winner-takes-all, you-against-the-world game. Creative people love uplifting other creative people, especially if you show that you’re willing to give them a boost in return.
We’re all going at our own pace, and sometimes the old elementary school adages serve us best: Keep your eyes on your own work. You’re doing just fine.
Until next issue,