|This picture is bad for my blood pressure.|
So I’m stuck in traffic getting nowhere fast. This happens on occasion, even though I don’t live in a big metropolis. Along comes this guy running on the sidewalk next to the road where I’m stuck, getting nowhere fast. This guy has his shirt off and is running along at a good clip. His silver hair is shining in the sun and so is his incredibly toned and muscular chest. If I had to estimate, I’d put him in his late fifties. He was at a spot in the city where it was clear he must have been running for a while. It’s not like he just started a few minutes ago, so I’m guessing he’s already run multiple miles.
Where is this story going, you ask? What does it have to do with writing, or books, or much of anything? Well, here’s what it got me thinking. I’ve been exercising and running and working out for twenty years now. I started around age seventeen and have been mostly consistent about it. This guy (who knows how long he’s been at, maybe started last week) is twenty years my senior and has gotten the kind of results I’m about twenty (impossible) pounds away from even beginning to achieve. I wonder sometimes if my chances of achieving my fitness goals are slipping away with time, but then I see this guy who hasn’t let age or anything else get in his way of doing what he wants to do and has gotten great results.
So does this mean I should never make excuses, always press forward toward my goals, fight back discouragement with this stranger’s unwitting example of excellence?
No, it means, even in twenty years, there’s always going to be some jerk doing it better than I am. Is that inspirational? Maybe not to you, but for me, it was a little. It reminds me that I can’t measure my success by the yardstick of other peoples’ accomplishments. I can succeed even if I’m not succeeding in the same way others are.
If you’re writing and feeling like every other writer in the world is running past you on the sidewalk with their tanned, muscular chest heaving with pride, just remember - that’s never going to change. Even at the pinnacle of your own personal success, someone else is going to be doing better.
The key is to just turn away from the sidewalk and keep your eyes on your own road.