Competition in Writing

“Competition is another spiritual drug. When we focus on competition we poison our own well, impede our own progress. When we are ogling the accomplishments of others, we take our eye away from our own through line. We ask ourselves the wrong questions, and those wrong questions give us the wrong answers.”

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, Pg. 172

Julia Cameron is talking here about how sometimes we focus on the success of others instead of looking at our own process. We look at our friends and think, “Wow, they’re really doing well. Look at how they finished that book in three months.” Only problem with that is, that poison corrupts your mind and doesn’t allow you to focus on your own work. Even as you set your pen down to paper you will be comparing your output to someone else’s. It stifles your creativity.

Cameron said that the only cure for this is to jump into your own work and try your best to focus on it rather than on someone else’s success knowing that if they can do it, there is hope for your project, too.

This happened to me recently. Both my husband and I are working on projects. They are large and involved constructions that require a lot of care and painstaking attention to detail. It seemed like, as I was working to help him with his project, I started to feel resentful, thinking that I would not have time for my own work. But I did it anyway. I am so glad that I did. And by helping him with his work, I felt energized by a sense of purpose and it inspired me to create when the time came for my own project.

But that’s my husband. It also happened with a stranger. A certain person whom I just met is working on their first novel. I know them to be a sweet and nice person. They tell me today that the novel is coming along quite nicely and mentioned a large word Count. So I say to myself, “Self, what have you been doing with your novel?”

Immediately, I begin to beat myself up because I haven’t been putting a lot of time into my novel. I should have simply said to myself, “Self, devote 20 minutes tonight to your novel.”

That way I’m following Cameron’s advice and sticking to my own process. I don’t want to compete with this person who seems to be honest and nice. I just want to get my novel finished.

But it’s so easy to start getting hooked on the competition drug. Everything that we do since we are young in school revolves around competing with the others on our team for the good spots, in the class for the good recommendations and at work for the bonuses. It’s the way that our society tells us that we are good people.

What if we rode our own waves? What if we embraced a different paradigm? Instead of competing with our neighbor in acquisition of talent, wealth or status we could only seek to complete our own projects and help others when they ask. What would happen then?

I think that we would have a new world where there would be more laughter and less pain. I think that it would be a brighter world. I know that I am not alone in this because there is a lot of Utopian literature out there right now. More on that on Monday.

So here’s a process handout for the week. It’s a free download, it’s a checklist for proofing a document and I hope you enjoy it.

Thank you for reading my blog.
Blessings Helen.

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