Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Heat of Competition

Now that the Epic Journey to the Marathon is over (whew), I can take a step back and concentrate on things I love more than torturing myself, like chocolate, puppies, writing, and torturing my husband.
Puppies are better than running a marathon
Chocolate cake is also better than running a marathon
So, I'm writing more regularly again and helping my husband train for a half marathon.  However, a curious thing is happening.  My husband is running almost as fast as I am.  Sometimes faster.  And I find this totally unacceptable.

I do not normally classify myself as a competitive person.  But deep down, I think I am.  I suspect a lot of people in the medical profession drift toward the Type A personality and tend to be at least a little competitive.  I recall in vet school being conscious of classmates' test scores and surgical skills to a sometimes acute degree.  But I also know, on some other level of my brain that apparently does not communicate with the competitive level, that this is a totally unhealthy way of evaluating and comparing oneself.  The same goes with writing.

I read a lot about people who find themselves jealous of other writers' success.  Since I don't know anyone personally who is a best-selling author or literary smash, I can't say I've had any of those feelings personally, but I can certainly understand them.  While you are toiling away bleeding your poor fingers to nubs on the keyboard trying to punch out the next best American novel (or YA series or encyclopedia of horses or historical sci-fi soap opera) someone just (overnight it seems) won the Pulitzer and Opera's Book Club in the same week!  No fair!!!!

Ah, but it seems to me that like life, all in writing is not fair.  Or is it: all's fair in love and war?  I don't know - find some quote about life being unfair and that'll do.

There's a lot out there on the internet about the topic of writer's jealousy so I take it this is a fairly common feeling.  Noelle Sterne wrote a very good blog on How to Conquer Jealousy that offers sage advice and good tips.  Author Robin Black also shares her personal experiences with the green-eyed monster.  But there's also a different side of the coin here.  If you're too jealous too much of the time, doesn't that just make you a jerk?  The awesome literary online mag The Rumpus explores this concept point-blank in the Dear Sugar column.  Good reading.

But wait.  There's a difference between being a competitive writer and being a jealous writer.  I think, to a certain degree (please note the italics!!!!) that being a little competitive can help.  I mean, who here needs a push sometimes to make that leap into writing that short story?  Or finishing that novel?  Or querying that magazine?  Or submitting that poem?  Sometimes it can be a little competitiveness that sparks a fire to get you off your rear and DO SOMETHING.
Eh, I bet that blonde kid eats his boogers. Jerk.

HOWEVER.  Don't be a jerk.  Be like a superhero: put your feelings of competitiveness to good use, not evil.  In other words, when my husband comes back from a 5 mile run that was just a little faster than my time and he looks at me and says: "I'm coming to get you," well... this is competition, baby.  Bring it on.

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