Thursday, March 26, 2015

Comparison is the Death of Joy

Have you ever spent time with someone who's just incredibly bitter at the world, that once you've separated from them, you kind of feel that same bitterness yourself? It definitely rubs off sometimes. There's a huge difference between someone who is going through terrible circumstances in life and someone who is just a chronic complainer of life in general. Everyone is to blame and they take no accountability for their actions whatsoever. And don't get me wrong, I'm no stranger when it comes to bitching about something or someone -- I just can't imagine doing this for no other reason than to start up a conversation about something...anything. For the most part, many people feel it's a funny thing to be bitter, especially those who twist it into a 'joking around' type of thing. And sometimes it is. But when does it come to the point when you realize that all you do is complain about other people? Or do you even notice it?

I'm friends with quite a few comedians who are in that grueling business of trying to get discovered by someone important. They're all trying to get their own show. But in the process of climbing that comedy ladder, they compare themselves to everyone else who goes up on stage. I guess that's pretty normal in any sort of entertainment business. I remember a few years ago a friend of mine was actually infuriated by the success of a mutual friend. "How the hell does she get a show and I'm still here trying to make a small room of people laugh every other night?" Both of their comedy routines were entirely different, so there was no comparison. In fact, I personally preferred my friend's comedy. She had this quick-wit-short-tempered-in-your-face type of routine, while the other girl was more of an impressionist and relied on audience participation. I will say that quite a few of her "participated audience" was a set up -- and it usually is with comics. Have you ever sat in the front of a comedy show and wondered why you were never picked on? So this girl had a plan, rather than telling a bunch of jokes on stage. People seem to love that.

Mark Twain once said that comparison was the death of joy. And how true is that? Once you compare yourself to someone else, doesn't it take the joy away from what you're doing? Even when I first started writing, I remember this girl who had a similar type of blog to mine. She got discovered by The New York Times and then became one of the best selling authors shortly after that. A big publishing house gave her a book deal and she just skyrocketed from there. I read her blog, I bought her book and thought, "Why not me?" Yep, I was once there too. I couldn't understand how someone could write 'everyday mundane happenings' about their life and then jot it all onto a blog. It was a self-serving, self-indulgent type of blog...and so was her book. She had a life like mine, but she was straight. And while I write about my own life, it's in hopes that it'll help another person reading it. I find the best writers are the ones who write about themselves, and at the same time, they help others through their own experiences. I just sat there reading her stuff thinking, "This isn't helping anyone!" Yet, people still bought her book and other novelties that went along with it for extra sales. Amazing.

“Don't always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers. 'I will not Reason and Compare,' said Blake; 'my business is to Create.' Besides, since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable. ” ―Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

I slowly drifted out of the blogosphere community and started being more independent -- not reliant on the community so much and stepping into my own uniqueness with raw and uncut literature from my heart and soul.  I can't speak for everyone, but I felt something lacking as a "blogger" -- I felt like everybody was trying to compete with one another. Granted I still have my favorite bloggers who I read all the time, but for the most part, it seemed as though "blogging" itself sort of died out. I would hear things from talented bloggers like, "How did 'so & so' get a book deal?" You're talking about -- let's say a philosophical writer comparing themselves to a children's book author. You. cannot. compete. The genre is just not the same! It caters to an entirely different audience. I learned about 'targeted audiences' and writers' tips on what your readers want. And I still have trouble at times. But the one thing I did stop was comparing myself to other writers. Instead, when I see a successful writer (someone in my own genre), I like to just read and learn from them, maybe even get a few tips and go from there. It doesn't have to be a game of "whose writing is better" -- it has everything to do with what you love to do: write. So, stop the madness and be who you are without the bullshit. Otherwise you will never get to truly enjoy what you do.

To truly love what you do means to remove all of your egotistical ways and surrender as...yourself. Show them the uncut version of yourself. If you're brave enough, vent as if you were sitting at your psychologist's office. Watch how many people you help just by relating to someone who is experiencing similar life trials. "Well it's none of anybody's business..." But as writers, most of us tell all. And when we do hold back, that's when it shows -- that's when it starts lacking "ummph". In any type of career or business, whether it be entertainment, writing, art, (yes art is a career) or any sort of business -- even like in my town, there are 5 different pizzerias -- make yours stand out. Put your heart and soul into your "sauce" and make people see, feel and experience homemade uniqueness that has only been derived by you.

The other day, Madelene and I were discussing people stealing other people's music, like the issue and lawsuit against Robin Thicke's song, "Blurred Lines". We also spoke about plagiarism, in degrees that can be seen as saying the same thing but in different words, all the while giving the same meaning. Everything has been said, has been sung, has been written, but in various ways. As a guitarist myself, I find that sometimes I'll be composing a song and the melody sounds exactly like another song I've heard before. This is where we get our influences from. "Who's your biggest influence" is asked to many artists. For me, I read a lot. I have to. I'm a writer. I also listen and watch many guitarists because I want to become a better musician. There is always room for improvement. This is not to say, copy people who do the same type of work, but instead, discover new and unique ways of enhancing your own craft.

Bottom line is, whenever I see or hear someone comparing themselves to other people, no matter what it is -- I just get this feeling of a perpetual bitterness that'll probably never go away, unless they catch it on time. When you are trying to compete, whether you make it known or not, other people can 'see' your struggle. It's like watching a runner trying to pass someone on the track. You can see his or her struggle to just keep up with them, no less pass them. I used to be "that runner", struggling and sweating bullets watching people pass me by. And now, I'm running on the side of a beautiful ocean and enjoying the view. I no longer want to be behind someone feeling bitter about their success. I want to look at someone running ahead of me and congratulate them instead, maybe even pick up a little inspiration while I'm behind. That's the only way we can get ahead is learning from others who have paved the way for us.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!