A few years ago, I attended a writers conference where keynote speaker Regina Sirois compared mountain climbing to our writing careers. The points I took away from her talk included three crucial aspects writers must remember:
we should never sit down and die because the journey to the top is difficult
we should never be too busy getting to the top that we forget to help others along the way
we should never be so jealous of others’ achievements that we are disappointed in our own.
I’d like to embellish on the third point, if I may. Comparison can be a deadly sin in our writing efforts, especially if we use the task to depress ourselves. Maybe our friends in the business are brilliant storytellers. Perhaps those same people use words to conjure up vivid imagery or draw on the readers’ emotions like no other writer. We might look at ourselves as lacking those same abilities, or at least less than we expect, in the rise to find our place as an author.
Avoid such comparisons. A more useful path might include evaluating our own earlier efforts with that of our current achievements. This latter type of comparison delineates the progress we have made. Isn’t that the only assessment that counts? Isn’t our goal as a writer to become better at our craft than we were before?
Perhaps our colleagues started at a higher talent level. Or found better opportunities at the beginning of their career. With a bit of determination and hard work, it’s only a matter of time before reaching those same goals. Right?
Or maybe our colleagues were in the right places at the correct times. Ours is to figure out what specific direction and schedule we should follow within our particular circumstances to arrive at the places and times better fit for our purposes.
In our trek up to Everest, we might just discover the necessity to climb a different summit, one that will take us farther and higher than we ever dreamed possible, a summit with an entirely different scope than we imagined for ourselves. Permit yourself. Isn’t that how genius is born?
Our goals are unique. We show graciousness and class when we are happy with our colleagues' contributions. But it is imperative we also find joy in the zeniths we have conquered. What is right for another author may be disastrous within our unique realms. Just imagine our thrill when we discover the view at the top of our mountains is only a respite on our way to something far better.
We have a world of pinnacles to climb—some higher, some lower than others. Be happy with whatever those pinnacles may be. Go and conquer.