History Will Judge, But We Do Anyway

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My friend Serdar had a very insightful post on how we compare our  creative work to others.  He realize’s it’s a bit of a fools game:

My work can only really be measured against my other work. It can be compared to other work, and I guess you can draw lessons about what it might lack or where it might excel, but those lessons only really help to shape the directions you choose to take for your own present or future work.

We can compare works all we want.  Indeed, we should as it’s educational, but ultimately all we can do is learn by contrast.  If we’re not careful, we’ll stress ourselves out racing against other authors – and those aren’t the people who have to compete against to get better.

The person you’re ultimately racing against – or pacing yourself against – is you.  You are not other writers, and you can never directly know them or their limits or abilities.  What you can do is know yourself so you can improve and grow.

Writing is challenging and complex enough as it is without making yourself miserable with comparisons that will yield little insight.

That doesn’t mean you won’t worry about your work’s success, or its meaning, or how people take it.  That brings something else to mind – history is going to judge you, and is going to no matter what.  You can’t be 100% sure you’ll succeed, or be popular, or even be understood.  You merely do your best.

Now what if you’re really sure you want your work to be noticed?  You want to attract the eye of history?  Fine, good, but . . .

. . . it doesn’t exactly matter if your writing is good in that case.  Let’s be honest, writing “quality” has a subjective element to it.  A story may be poorly written – but also timely and what people need.  A story may be brilliant – and ignored because its ahead of or behind it’s time.

So if you want to be noticed, make history, then write well, using yourself as the yardstick . . .

. . . but develop the self-promotional and marketing skills needed to get the attention you want.

Just remember they’re not the same.  In fact, maybe you should be judging your marketing skills the same way as your writing by just getting better with you as the yardstick . . .

Steven Savage