I’ve considered myself A Writer in some form or another for a long time. I really started writing fanfiction in the late 90s, and I’ve gone through highs and lows of productivity ever since. On occasion, I’ve considered Becoming a Professional Writer, but it hasn’t worked out. I have a lot of friends who write, and they are all talented and ambitious and are working hard at the thing. And I used to get jealous of my friends’ progression in their creative/professional lives.
Okay, I still do, but I used to let it shame me.
(Okay, I still do that, too.)
But now I’m trying to let it inspire me instead.
I have 2 excellent friends starting Patreons this month—Alli Martin & Lara Eckener, please go check them out!—and when I first heard about their plans I felt stunted and stagnant creatively. These are friends I’ve known and been creative with for 10+ years, and to see them having progressed to yet another* place that doesn’t feel like I can reach hurts.
Usually, I pull in on myself and use these feelings to prove I’m not a writer, not creative, not able to succeed, etc. I am unpleasant to be around, and I’m not able to support and encourage my friends in their excellent accomplishments.
I’ve been really trying to work on that.
So this time, instead of just feeling like they’re leaving me behind and I’m not worthy of them, I’m stepping up to confront myself. I’m looking at the bad feelings and questioning why I feel bad. Why do I feel “left behind”?
Do I feel like it’s a realization that I am genuinely not as talented or driven as them and that, perhaps, I don’t want to be? That can hurt because it could mean that there’s a gap between us that will ultimately weaken the friendships if not handled correctly.
Or do I feel like it’s that I’m jealous because I want this success, too, and I feel like I could achieve it if I put the time and energy into it, made it a priority. That can hurt because it means that I’m stopping myself, that I’m the one in control…and that if I do try, I might fail where others don’t.
Maybe I feel like they’re out to see me fail, so they don’t give me the right kind of time and support to succeed. That hurts, but it’s also entirely Brain Weasels fed by depression and honestly, fuck those jerks.
Considering the options, I think it’s mostly the second one. They got to these places through hard work. We’re all around the same age and I think we have similar levels of talent. They have reached higher success because they’ve tried harder. And that means they’re not leaving me behind as much as I’ve been vaguely content to trudge along behind them (maybe hoping they’d ask me to jump on their backs), rather than try to keep up. But the fact is, there are no shortcuts, so if I want to get on pace with my friends, I’ve got to make up the distance through, ugh, effort.
Of course, the Brain Weasels are still lurking. Having been easily defeated on level one, they’re back now with heavier weapons: selective truth.
“Katie,” they sneer at me, “you don’t have anything to offer! You’ve never finished a short story or novel to publish! You don’t create content people would want to pay monthly for! Why even bother wasting your time?”
Say it with me again: fuck those jerks.
I’ve never finished a longer project, but only because I haven’t put in the time or effort. I think that people don’t want to pay for content, but if I don’t put any content out there, how can I possibly know? The fact is, my friends were once exactly in this spot, but they decided they wanted to finish projects, try to become published, and get paid for content. They decided which path they wanted, and they worked at it. And they have succeeded! They may not have reached all their goals yet, but they ticked some boxes. They got a start.
So I have to decide, instead of wallowing in feeling bad, which path I want. If I don’t want these same accomplishments, then I need to stop comparing myself to my friends. Period. And if I want to follow at least some part of the path they’re on, I need to pick up my pace and start working on it. Also, I need to be okay with them being ahead of me, because I chose to get the late start. Also this isn’t a race, and we aren’t competing against each other, sheesh.
I think I want to start aiming towards the Patreon-aimed goal. The Brain Weasels have a small point in that I don’t have enough confidence that anyone would want to pay me right now, and I also know I have a bad tendency not to stick to projects or self-defined deadlines for creative endeavors. So, start small. I’m going to try to post more things to give people a taste of what I can do, and do it on a consistent schedule to make sure I’d be able to deliver to those who do want to pay money to me.
I don’t want to go and state my full plan here (and not just because I don’t entirely know what it is yet), but I’m hoping you’ll see my successes, and that we can all celebrate each other’s without feeling like anyone is leaving anyone else behind.
*They have both been published (Alli here, Lara here!), and I am extremely proud of them!