I’ve long said that comparison is a form of self-harm. We are all on our own journeys and comparing ourselves to others can lead to heartache, especially when we don’t take into account that we have no idea of all the back story that led to where they are now.
When I win a contest and someone says, “You’re so lucky” or “I wish I could win a contest,” I want to remind them that they have no idea the path I took to get to that win or how many rejections it took to get there.
And I’m usually pretty good at avoiding comparison myself. Not always. Sometimes, I read a brilliant piece of fiction like Space Dew or Elevator Pitch for a Dystopian Young Adult Book and I have those brief flashes of “Ugh! I’m never going to tell stories as impactful as that.” But I remind myself that I *have* written impactful stories and that my work is my own, not someone else’s and I usually am okay after a few moments.
But lately, I’ve noticed a trend in myself to compare myself to past Finn. Facebook memories is awful for this, but also my own submissions spreadsheet, or notifications from Submittable. Last year’s Finn submitted 27 stories in January and had already received several acceptances. Last year’s Finn was on a shortlist already by January 10th. Last year’s Finn was chosen as a finalist in the monthly microfiction contest by Globe Soup and went on to win first prize with their story, “Things I Couldn’t Say.”
Last year’s Finn was a powerhouse.
This year’s Finn hasn’t written one coherent story in a month, has barely managed to eke out a couple submissions and is watching the deadlines on their spreadsheet whiz by with a resigned maybe next year.
Last year’s Finn was a week ahead of almost every deadline, and had a cache of awesome stories to bank in case of unexpected contests.
This year’s Finn has a deadline today that is probably not going to happen.
It can be disheartening.
Just as I always remind people not to compare themselves to others, I also have to remember not to compare myself to past me. Things in my life were different last year. This year, I’m in my final year of my capstone. I’ve had some chronic health issues. I’m in a manageable, but impactful phase of my depression.
Life is not the same from day to day, let alone from year to year. And just as sometimes the creative writing has to go underground to sprout, so does everything that comes along with it.
The writing community will still be there when I finally emerge. The friends I’ve made, the publications I like to appear in. They’ll be there. Or, if not, new ones will.
I wonder if the biggest gift we can give ourselves is compassion. Maybe my goal for this year is to be a little more compassionate to Present Finn. After all, we can’t help what Past Finn did. We’re not them anymore.