The problem with comparison
All this writing I'm doing lately isn't just by chance. I'm actively pursuing a muse because it hit me square in the face a few weeks ago, and won't detach itself until the alien seed is firmly inside me waiting to pupate and burst forth into the world.
At some point during the last few weeks, I thought I might have an idea for my next full-length book. Yes, although I do not talk about them often, I do write books, which you can find here.
Now this book idea exists somewhere in all this current writing because although I know there's a nugget of value to be dug up, I haven't quite tapped the vein yet. I need to dig more, write more until the gem fully reveals itself.
Yes, I am full of all kinds of metaphors today, good or bad; just go with it.
So I'm following this muse wherever it will take me because I know it's taking me to a good place. Even if it takes weeks before the idea fully comes into view, I would have at least spent those weeks writing my butt off, which is always a good idea.
A slight derailment
Last night, for whatever reason, I decided to head over to Austin Kleon's site to see what he had been up to lately. I don't like going there too often, because as much as I appreciate everything he puts into the world, I fear taking too much license with whatever he happens to be sharing at the moment.
Austin is an artist and a writer as well, and for whatever reason, he and I are often talking about similar things, even if his voice has a lot more reach than mine. So I don't like spending too much time in his content, because I worry I'll subconsciously try to carry it over into my own work.
I already stole his idea for a weekly newsletter that shares links to creative things I find interesting, I do so with my own flavor and style. Nobody is going to confuse my newsletter with his.
But I found myself on his site and reading through his most recent post, a quick status update, but even in its brevity, that post contained the power to kill in the first two words
Those might not seem like words that kill, but they were accented with a URL link. Even though I had a pretty good idea what was on the other side of that link against my better judgment, I clicked through.
Keep Going is the title of Kleon's next book, with the subtitle "10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad," to be released in April 2019.
I've read a couple other books by Kleon, so I can surmise what this new book will contain. It will be deeper dives into the ten things mixed with some handwritten quotes and a basic, line-drawn illustration by Kleon himself. I also know his writing voice well enough to know the potential tenor of the story.
Will that book feel like anything that I would write? Probably not, because Austin and I have different styles, but did that stop me from immediately heading into the comparison zone, and getting wistful for my rapidly departing muse? Nope, not one bit.
For the next half-hour, I brooded about my regret for visiting Kleon's site, because nothing good ever comes of it, and this was a prime example of why I don't. Here I am actively working toward a new book idea and navigating the creative journey in today's environment, and Austin goes and writes what will probably be the exact book I'm trying to write.
At least that's the story I tell myself so I can feel some sort of self-imposed schadenfreude. I reached out to a friend to tell them about the ironic discovery, and they acknowledged my disappointment but didn't let me off the hook, because they know what I would probably say to them if the roles were reversed.
Get off your pity party and get to work
My friend was more kind than to call it a pity party, but she didn't have to say it for me to realize what kind of a jerk I was being to myself at that moment. Yes, it's not great that Austin Kleon is ready to publish a book around the basic concepts of what I was hoping to publish, but so what.
It's not like our separate publications are going to similar aside from core concept. If I take the ideology of my newsletter versus his newsletter, and apply that ideology to this book idea, then I let myself off the hook.
Which is what I did, and just that quick, I felt better than ever about the book project. Push away the false excuses and do the job.
I'm sure you can probably relate to my situation a little. We're all creatures of comparison because it's helpful at times to have something by which to measure our work, but the comparison can also be deadly. Comparing myself to Kleon almost killed this project before it got started.
When I look at Kleon from a distance, I see is a guy doing what I admire and believe I can achieve for myself, but at times, he feels a million miles away. The truth is though, he struggles just like I do. His creative path is fraught with obstacles of comparison just like mine. I don't know who he measures himself against, but I can assure you, he does.
Measuring ourselves against someone else's achievements can be healthy as long as we maintain perspective. No matter how hard I might try, I will never be able to follow Kleon's path. At some point, my situation and circumstances are going to lead me down a different path, and there's nothing I can do about that.
I might as well enjoy my journey, and check in with Austin every once in a while, not for comparison, but for appreciation. I already imagine that this story will somehow find its way into the book, and I think he’d be ok with that.