Saturday, January 06, 2007

More on Professional Jealousy

Professional Jealousy seems to be the topic de jour. Over at Murder She Writes, Allison Brennan adds her thoughts to the subject and links to Dr. Sue's great advice (as always) on MJ Rose's blog.

Every time this subject comes up it drives me crazy. I've always contended that I love my jealous feelings, that they push me beyond my self-imposed limitations and let me know what I want.

But maybe I'm not feeling jealous. I've never looked at someone else's stuff and thought that mine was better, so mine should have the same acclaim, or be published in New York. I never, ever compare down.

Dear dog, I don't want to launch a career with better than what I think is 'bad.'

When I went to conservatory, I remember telling the guy in one of the interviews that I'd rather be the worst musician at the best school, than the best musician at a mediocre school. (I got my wish, LOL -- hopefully I changed that after a year or two!) The point is, if I'd gone somewhere where I was the best, where would that have taken me? I would've improved a little, but very little. My skills as a freshman in conservatory compared to my skills when I left? Big difference. Huge difference. Not as huge as it should've been, but ... I improved.

Remember the four-minute mile? Everyone thought it was impossible to run a mile under four minutes. Everyone tried for years and years and years, and no one could do it. Roger Bannister did it in 1954, and then all of a sudden, many followed suit.

If you can't see someone do something better than you, then you're going to be going for something you've never seen done before--a task that's incredibly difficult. Once you see it's possible, it'll be much easier.

We become what we look at. If we read stuff we think is bad, and we compare ourselves to what we think is bad, then that's going to be as good as we'll get.

Maybe it's because I've lived in the music world all my life, where everything is subjective. I'm comfortable with subjective judging and subjective comparisons, because it's all I've known. With music, you have to be perfect first, and then better. And then, if you're extraordinarily better than perfect, an amazing talent that just leaves people breathless, then you can have a sure win.

I've always thought of that area above perfect as artistry, although plenty of amazing talents have shown great artistry below perfection.

Other than that? It comes down to luck.

I think most art is similar in this regard. Read and compare yourself to the best writers you can find, make your skills as perfect as you can, and then try to be better than perfect. All while allowing yourself to write imperfectly, so you can get through that darned first draft and not stumble over writer's block. ;-)

But I don't compare down, I compare up.

It not only keeps me humble, but it gives me a guiding light, something to strive for, and the knowledge of what I need to work on to improve. Who has time to compare down? I'm too busy looking up, and hoping to be as good as them when I grow up.

In the end, it's like golf. The only person you're really competing with is yourself. Sure, I'm "jealous" of my top ten list to the right, but do I wish them to be worse writers? No! Because if they were, I would be worse, too. That would be sad. If I 'beat' someone today, I pray they'll beat me tomorrow. Then we can drive each other, and our art, to a higher level.

We need each other, we really do.

7 bonus scribbles:

Zoe Winters 1/07/2007 02:00:00 AM  

i only actually get "jealous" of people like that kid that wrote Eragon. Anyone under 25 who has had major publishing success pisses me off because I don't think they worked hard enough for it. They haven't lived long enough yet to have worked hard for it.

Otherwise I don't feel jealousy over it, because my time to be published will come. Talent and persistence. I'm not saying I don't believe in lucky breaks, but Luck to me is when hard work meets opportunity (let's see how many more cliche's I can squeeze in here hehe.)

spyscribbler 1/07/2007 08:08:00 AM  

Cliches are cliches because they have an element of truth! Luck is when hard work meets opportunity. You're so right, Zoe!

writtenwyrdd 1/08/2007 12:10:00 PM  

I'm jealous of Eragon's writer because the book isn't good yet it sold a billion copies and was made into a major movie. LOL.

Zoe Winters 1/09/2007 05:04:00 AM  

heheh. Well I have yet to read the book. ;) I'm too pissed off by the youth of the little jr. megastar that wrote it. ;)

Of course I figure whether or not a book is "good" is a matter of taste. Clearly something in the book spoke to a wide audience. I truly believe no amount of promotion can make a famous author from a bad book. Not an empirically bad book. Some people think it's bad. Hell, you can find someone who hates anything, but a lot of people thought it was really damn good.

I can't read it in part because I don't know whether I want it to be good or bad. Each situation holds it's own peculiar things to piss me off. If it's good, it's this KID who wrote this amazing thing. And if it's bad (IMO) then I have to do that whole: "My god, he's a kid, he wrote crap, AND he's famous for it...argggghhh"

spyscribbler 1/09/2007 09:57:00 AM  

LOLOL... I haven't read the book, so I don't know how bad/good it is. But if he's done this well at his age, just imagine how good he's going to be in his forties and fifties and sixties.

My first novella was, er ... shit, and I was much older than him. Unless he stops pushing himself, he's going to be pretty good by the time he's my age. :-)

Zoe Winters 1/10/2007 01:35:00 AM  

and what is your age? come on...i like this trivia.