The world is not equitable. The playing field is not even.
Sure, most of us start with more or less the same genetic code, and people are generally people wherever you go, but there’s no telling who’s going to be naturally gifted at this thing or that thing. Some great writers languish, undiscovered, for their entire lifetimes, while the Stephanie Meyers and the E.L. Jameses of the world spread their cancerous tripe like a brush fire. Some of the best athletes the world will ever know have never set foot on a proper field or court.
All of which makes it pretty darn reasonable to throw in the towel. Getting discovered is a mug’s game. It’s who, not what, you know. Probably, you’re too old anyway to take up anything new. Old dogs and all. Right?
And that’s the problem with our culture. We think that we’ll never get to the top, so we give up on our dreams before we even take the first step. I’m never going to lose the thirty pounds I’d like to, so let me chomp down on this pile of cheeseburgers and watch reruns of House all day. This or that measure won’t solve every single problem with gun violence, so let’s not even bother disrupting the status quo.
We have such a distorted view of success that we’re afraid to reach even for the hem of its garment. We might not be perfect, so let’s not even try to be decent.
But that’s bullshit. Kids know it.
Give my kids a couple of crayons, and they will gladly launch into a whirlwind of artistic expression. They’ll branch out from doodling on paper to scrawling on the walls to decorating the family cats, then bring their work to you with a face-splitting smile saying “look what I did!” They take pride in their work, even though it’s crap, because they have no conception of what good work is. They have no idea — and are therefore not concerned — that there could possibly be somebody else out there doing anything better than what they are doing right here, right now, at this moment.
And that’s where this insecurity stems from, isn’t it? The constant comparison, the inescapable knowledge that while I’m sitting here tying myself in knots to bang out a few more words on my novel, Stephen King is somewhere in a mahogany study probably twenty pages deep into today’s copy. Every word better than mine, and by dint of that betterness, more valuable, and once we start talking about value, well. Steve’s words have value and mine don’t. It is as unlikely as a blizzard dumping two feet of snow in Atlanta that my words will ever be as valuable as Stephen King’s.
So why bother?
When we focus on the prizes that the things we could do bring — publication, wealth, an adoring audience … or a slimmer waistline, or a smaller number on the scale, or a promotion at work, or a new car in the driveway, or a medal or a trophy — we take our eyes off the road at our feet. Now, having a goal in mind is great. You have to dream big and aim high or you really won’t have a shot. But the prizes we’re aiming at — or the prizes we’re told we should aim at — aren’t the only prizes out there.
You can run for the serenity of it rather than to be the fastest. You can play pickup basketball for the distraction and the exercise and never have to worry about getting picked for a team. You can write for the sheer joy of it, or for the rush of playing god with the lives of the tiny beings you’ve created, or because it relaxes you, or simply because you have a story to tell.
I may never get published, or never reach the audience I hope to, or never make a dime off my writing. But I think I’d be okay with that. (I mean, it’d be a bummer, but I like to think I’d be okay with it.) I’m having a damned good time telling stories, even if it’s just to myself. Even if I’m never even a patch on Stephen King.
Then again, every now and then, it even snows in Atlanta…
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.