Monday, November 20, 2006

Just do it

Diana Peterfreund, in discussing the NaNo backlash, brought up one of my favorite issues: the modern idea that we need to be perfect in everything we attempt.

I believe a big part of this idea comes from globalization and media. When most people lived in rural towns and villages, and there was no TV or internet, there was room for local experts. If you wanted to hear a singer, you could turn to Mrs. Withers, who sang in the choir. Or you could gather around the table or the piano at home and sing yourself. If you wanted dancing, you went to a dance yourself, and you also watched the Schmidts, who went to the dance every week and could really cut a rug. The local newspaper editor was your in-town writing expert. Everybody could have a talent for something, and be the "expert" in their town.

With the advent of media, first radio, then TV, then internet, you don't rely on local sources any more. Why listen to Mrs. Withers when you can watch Pavarotti on TV? When you can see "real" experts, who are so much above the local level? People stopped comparing themselves and their accomplishments on a local level and started comparing themselves to the highly trained, specialized people they saw across the world. And they started feeling inadequate, and they stopped trying to compete. Thus people start to consume entertainment (and even sports) instead of participating in it.

I agree with Diana's advice: do what you want to do, for fun. Don't try to compare yourself to everyone in the world. If you're learning to write, don't compare yourself, at the beginning, to Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or whoever your hero is. If you're learning to paint, don't compare yourself to Picasso. Don't not try because you're afraid you won't be the best.

I have a saying taped to my computer here at work, because I need the constant reminder:

If you compare yourself to others you may become vain or bitter, for always there are greater and lesser persons than yourself.

In that message is a warning against both errors: getting too big of an ego comparing yourself to others who may be behind you on the learning curve, and feeling bad about yourself for not measuring up to others--often on a global scale--who may be ahead of you. TRY. Stretch yourself to do new things, and do the best you can. Keep learning, keep improving. But try not to compare, and always, always, have fun.

Medieval Word of the Day: lichamly: Bodily; of the nature of the body; of or pertaining to the body, carnal.


Cindy said...

Dear Susan:
>>Thus people start to consume entertainment (and even sports) instead of participating in it.<<

That's a very good point, and a good reminder for me particularly right now. It ties into a thought I'm going to post about later - the unanswerable question "Is this really the best book I can write?" (meaning in terms of plot and structure, dialogue and characters - choices, not talent or lack of.) The fact that I've been asking myself this shows that my focus has shifted to a comparison mindset, away from a place of self-expression and joy. Good point!!

Susan Adrian said...


Oh, I'm glad it helped with your process! I do have to remind myself periodically to have fun and not worry so much. {s}