Yesterday Maureen Johnson posted most excellently on the topic of judging yourself by numbers. She paraphrased a graduation speech by Bill Murray:
“Look, people thought I was going to be a huge failure, but then I got kind of lucky and made it. And I had and have lots of amazing friends, and we’ve seen each other’s careers go up and down. Take my advice: don’t go comparing yourself to other people. You will go insane. It’s pointless. Your fortunes may rise and fall, depending on all kinds of things you have no control over. Keep your friends. Never compare all the outward markers of success. Do what you love, because that’s all you really get and that’s all that matters and that’s all that will ever really work. And don’t be an as$h&^e.”
It’s doesn’t matter what game you’re in, judging yourself solely by external measures will do your head in. You are not a good writer because you get good reviews or because you’re a bestseller or a prize winner.
You can continue to work hard and write your best and yet stop getting good reviews1 and prizes and spots on bestseller lists. If you depend on those measures to determine your worth you are in for a world of pain.
As Mr Murray and Maureen say you have no control over that external stuff.2 Forget about it. You are not a better person cause you sell more than your friends. You are not a worse person because you’re never short listed for prizes. Concentrate on doing the absolute best you can in whatever field you’re in. Because if your eyes are only on the prize, all the joy and pleasure in writing (or whatever) will disappear.
If you do get lucky and your work is recognised, make sure you thank the people who gave you the time and space and support in order to do your absolute best: your family, your friends, your colleagues etc. etc.
Thus endeth the sermon.