2017 in Review: Comparison is the Thief of Joy{2}

I did not meet the lofty writing goals I set for myself in 2017. That is typically true of my lofty goals–but I set them because they push me to do more and to do it faster. But in 2017, not only did I not achieve my goals, I crashed and burned at most of my attempts.

My Writing Attempts in 2017

I feel this particularly when I compare how much I accomplished in 2017 versus what I was able to do during each of the previous three years (in terms of word count, number of novel drafts, etc.). But as I’ve reflected on 2017 during the last few weeks, what keeps coming to me is the quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

In the past I’ve taken this to mean: don’t compare your writing results to others. There is always a writer that will write faster or better or sell more or receive more credit. Comparison is a key to misery.

Yes, it’s a bad idea to compare yourself to others, but it can also be a bad idea to compare yourself to yourself. I am not the same person I was in 2014 or 2015 or 2016. Despite my efforts, I could not do the same things as I did previous years. And I don’t need to beat myself up for it.

There’s a lot of emphasis on being better than you were yesterday or last year. People talk about making this year “the best year ever.” To me, that is a daunting prospect, and sometimes it’s simply not possible. Life is not a continual summit up an ever-growing mountain. It’s a long journey across uneven terrain with peaks and valleys, twists and turns, rivers and plateaus.

In 2017 I looked at writing (and several other aspects of my life that I cherish and love) and considered abandoning it entirely. I am a person who firmly believes it is okay to give up on dreams and pursue new ones. And I seriously considering casting writing aside. After a lot of soul searching, I’ve decided that I still have stories I need and want to tell. So I’m still here. And that is an accomplishment.

A few other accomplishments for 2017:

-I wrote and revised a novella about an ugly princess who rides around on a goat brandishing a large, wooden spoon. The story will be part of a fairy tale anthology I’m putting together with some friends; we’re going to publish it in February or March 2018.

-I received 2nd place in the 2017 Mormon Lit Blitz for my flash fiction story, “Celestial Accounting.”

-I received 5 beautiful, personalized rejections for short stories and essays.

-I received 1 acceptance for a short story (for “Confessions of a Mycologist,” which will be published in the March 2018 issue of Mad Scientist Journal).

-I attended a one-day writer’s conference in Detroit.

-I submitted an adult novel to about 20 literary agents and a YA graphic novel to about 10 literary agents.

-I started a monthly writing group, and critiqued novels, a poetry collection, and essays for other writers.

-I let myself move on from a novel that I am unable to write right now.

As I look at this list, each of these things is good and beautiful–including rejection, including moving on from things that aren’t working. Each item on the list is worthwhile, each deserved my attention. In total, I likely spent at least 400 hours (or a little more than an hour a day) on writing or writing-related activities. I do not regret giving writing that time, even though there are so many other things I could have given it to. (Imagine how much cleaner my house could’ve been for unexpected visitors! Or how many pastries I could’ve baked in 400 hours!)

Desserts

I’ve set myself a few lofty writing goals for 2018. And I may or may not reach them.

But I will keep moving forward, one word at a time. And I will do my best to not let comparison rob me of joy.