Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Writing Is Not A Competition

Job searching begins in confidence, with the feeling that you’ve acquired fabulous, useful skills, and any employer would be lucky to secure your services.

Too often, that fearless feeling spirals down into depression, and the sense that everyone else has more qualifications than you. Where did those people find the time to be published by The New York Times? Instead of feeling buoyant, you find yourself feeling decidedly uncreative and trapped.

As a writer, the job hunt has changed. I no longer see the hunt as a means to a living, although that is certainly important. Instead, I've been viewing it as a drive to gain recognition for my writing.

To me, that drive is poisonous.

Recognition means that I need to be the best. Yet there are other writers who didn’t spend two years teaching preschool to pay off student loans (years that I’ll never regret). There are writers who moved to New York City or Los Angeles after college and received internships and fellowships, whose list of achievements only includes well-known publications.

I read their profiles and I feel like no one will accept my feeble scribbling.

Yesterday, frustrated with my lack of explosive, mind-blowing, Pulitzer-winning progress, I shut off my computer and I began to write.

As I experienced the healing that comes with putting ink on paper (not words on a screen), I stumbled across a realization. It may seem rather obvious, but in that moment, it was game-changing.

My career is not a competition. It’s a journey.

For someone with a personality different than mine, competition may motivate. Yet I found that my drive for recognition and desire to be the best was hurling me far from the kind of life I wanted to live.

I don’t want to live a life that’s defined by my career. I want to live a life defined by foggy mornings outside with a cup of tea, and sunny afternoons with pen and paper. I want to live a life defined by love for my husband, Hobbes, family, and friends. I want to live a life of simplicity and freedom, a life where I’m not defined by my followers on social media, but by who I am when I turn off the screen. I want to live a life defined by the person I become. Writing is not a means to an end. It is the force that propels me to become a better person.

A competition means constant comparison to others. A journey still relates me to others, yet gives me the freedom to enjoy where I am in my writing while still striving towards becoming more articulate. With the release of comparison, I’m free to enjoy the writing of others, no matter how many short stories of theirs The New Yorker published. I’m free to appreciate their achievements and yet be proud of and hopeful for my own.

Best of all, writing as a journey makes the end goal not an impressive bibliography, but instead, personal development. I'm in this not to be published (although I'll continue to work towards that goal), but to grow as a person.  

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