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The Compare And Despair Conundrum

Many things have a fine line.

Madness and genius; love and hate; bravery and stupidity; Oreo cookies and that delicious filling separating them...

You can add creative inspiration and jealousy to that heady list.

When it comes to finding inspiration, believe it or not, social media can actually be used as a positive tool (for once).

Whether you're a writer, in a band, are a filmmaker, or whatever it may be...inspiration and insider lessons can be found from the wise words of those who, y'know, did *the thing* before you.

On the one hand, social media allows you to connect with your personal heroes. The writers and artists who influenced and shaped your tastes and style are all on the other side of a simple tap of that Follow button.

So far, so obvious, I know. But wait, there's more!

On the other hand, primarily following those who share your passions or that you hold in lofty esteem can have a nasty backlash.

A thin line separates the two—one that, if accidentally crossed, can cause a person to see a flash of green.

Not the Hulk in an open trench coat, thankfully, but instead, perhaps, a creeping feeling of envy at those who have found success in the very thing you want to do.

So, at what point does finding creative inspiration sour and spoil into jealousy? And, importantly, what can you do about it if it does?

From the Outside Looking In

Like most writers, I follow several authors, writers, artists, and musicians on Twitter and Instagram (where you can follow me @stevetendo. /cheapplug).

This curated feed brings with it a fantastic amount of insightful, free information, depending on how much they're willing to share about the mysterious, mafia-esque worlds of traditional literary agents/publishing and self-publishing.

Their attempts to demystify an inherently insular industry is a beautiful, selfless thing for them to do.

It's helping to help.

But when you follow enough notable people within an industry, your feed can become consumed with insider knowledge and discussion between those who obviously know one another and have pre-existing relationships. It generates a weird sense of being consistently outside a conversation—one that is distinctly invitation-only without ever being labelled as such.

To quote the celebrated bards Staind: "I'm on the outside, I'm looking in."

For a lot of people, it's a hard thing to comprehend when you so desperately want to have a place at the table.

Compare AND Despair

When others are celebrated for their accomplishments by those who helped them become a reality—agents, publishers, labels, distributers—it's easy to fall into a compare and despair trap at a seemingly sudden and astronomical ascension.

It's no longer about celebrating hard-earned accomplishments, right? These posts are a reflection of your failings or perceived lack of progress!

But it's not, and...psst...guess what, it never was.

So, what don't you see?

The work put in, man!

For authors going the traditional route, it would be long days and nights in front of a screen hammering away at their keyboard, tweaking their manuscript, writing and rewriting their query letter and synopsis, going crazy over every detail to maximise their chances at piquing an agents interest.

Alternatively, committed indie authors taking a more punk rock path are working just as hard to polish off manuscripts to share with the world, burning the midnight oil to get things as perfect as possible.

A band? Playing small shows with hardly any audience in the hope of making one fan who will then bring a friend to another show.

A filmmaker? Getting somebody to care about their script enough to want to make it.

Most see the end product, and the end product of (almost) anything is (almost) always a shining, polished example of great work. It sure as hell isn't the work in progress, held together by blood, sweat, spit, and duct tape, mess it was as it was being created, tweaked, perfected.

Ol' Green Eyes

Creative jealousy is easy.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

It takes practice and, importantly, self-awareness to choose to be happy for our fellow creative souls. Besides, who knows, the characters they've created may just have an impact on you in ways you never expected. They may just be working on your next favourite story.

Granted, self-loathing spirals triggered by compare and despair issues can quickly get out of hand, and I'm not going to ignore that.

If you find yourself in that situation, the best thing I can recommend is to take a break from social media. Step away, give yourself some breathing space, and try to reflect on your feelings.

Also, remember this stark advice: you are in control of your social media feeds.

If posts from people you follow, be they friends/family/people you look up to, stir overtly negative feelings in you, it's probably time to reassess whether you want to be following them at all.

Plus, muting, blocking, or unfollowing sprees can be all kinds of therapeutic.

So, if creative jealousy inevitably rears its ugly head, regardless of your passion and outlet, don't hate. Instead, use it to elevate. Elevate yourself, your work ethic, your mindset. Harness it and turn it into a positive.

Rather than obsessing and allowing negativity to drag you to a place where you don't want to even try because "it'll never happen to me" as "those kinds of things only happen to other people", work harder to earn your place at the table.

Word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page.

As long as you've got the emotional bandwidth to do so, keep on writing, keep on making music, keep on filming and painting or whatever you love to do.

Keep on creating.

And if not, that's cool, too. Give yourself permission to take some time away from your project, to try and work through any creative jealousy, to re-energise and refill your creative well your way.

After all, as Master Yoda says: "Do or do not, there is no try."

And although that dude may be green, it's not with envy.

Steve R



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