Friday, January 27, 2012

Don't Stir the Rabbit.

I got this letter last week from a college student somewhere in America. It was a great letter. It was about writing and books and life and people. And it said:

What do you do with people who think that they're better than you?

Welcome to my life.
Welcome to everyone's life, I think.

I just did my page proof reading of ASK THE PASSENGERS (Oct 2012) and I found this line in there that says something like this: "Everone is always looking for a way to be better than everyone else. In second grade, you're better than the first graders and in eighth grade, you're better than the seventh graders. It never ends."

I totally paraphrased my own book because I'm too lazy to go looking for the actual quote right now.
But you get the gist.

What do you do with people who think that they're better than you?

I have underlined the key word in that question.
This is all a matter of perception.
Isn't everything?

Being a writer is a funny thing.
For 15 years I wrote books without getting published, which is the average Joe's idea of 'success' in writing and so I met a lot of people who thought I was nuts, delusional, and wasting my time. I was freako Amy. People would talk to me about their real jobs and how much they made per year and I would have nothing to offer to the conversation but a few unpublished manuscripts, hours of volunteer literacy work and a farm full of next year's food.

The funny part: once I did get published, and once I sold another book, which proved I might continue to publish, suddenly I had to deal with a complete reversal of what others thought of me. This is the phenomenon I call The Perception Trap.

We are all at the mercy of other people's perceptions. Now that I'm published, for example, some people may think that I am no longer freako Amy who was what I was a few years ago. Now, depending who you talk to, I am 100 other Amys who don't really exist.

But really I'm still just me.
And all those other Amys live inside other people's heads.

People who think that they're better than you will never go away. They usually have time on their hands to think about this stuff. Try to make sure you don't. Get busy doing cool stuff that they don't have time to do because they're so busy sewing imaginary you and me dolls with their brains. (And most likely talking about those dolls with anyone who will listen.)
Get busy living.

Due to the Perception Trap, I've met some people who think that I believe I poop Hagen Das ice cream because I write books for a living.
This couldn't be further from the truth. (So far, I've written books for no reason more than I've written them for a living. The ratio for us math geeks is: 9:5)
I've always been kinda goofy and humble and I plan on staying that way. Egotism bums me out. Egotism is not saying "I rock!" to myself from time to time. That's self-esteem or positivity. It's not at all  related to "You suck!" or "I rock more than that other person rocks!"

No one is better than anyone else.
The trick is to make sure your brain isn't competing with perceptions vs. realities.
The trick is to stop competing all together.

They are plenty of people who think they're better than me. I get the added bonus of reading material to that fact--from hate mail to personally insulting blog posts masquerading as reviews of my books (none of these do I really read except the hate mail because someone has to.) There are fellow writers who wouldn't even say hi to me if we were waiting at the same taxi stand and we were the only two there.

Before I was a writer, there were people like this. When I was a photographer, there were fellow photographers like this. When I was a college student there were fellow college students like this. When I was in high school, there were fellow high school students like this. It never really ends because humans are weird.

Let them do what they want.

You just worry about you. Get done what you want to get done. Ignore who you need to ignore.

My personal feeling is: big heads are inconvenient. I feel sad for those people who have them. I don't feel better than them, though. I keep being freako Amy and the people who matter know me for who I am and not some messed up idea of me they made up in their head so they could dislike me.

Why would you try to reason with someone like that?

Dude. That's like trying to reason with Glenn Close while you're stirring your own pet rabbit in a pot.


The Kranky Crow said...

From one freako to another, I'd definitely "say hi to [you] if [we] were waiting at the same taxi stand and we were the only two there." Continue to be awesome you and write more super-wonder for us. I'm going to share this post with my daughter and hope it makes her smile while it secretly soaks in.

Lyn Fairchild Hawks said...

Thanks for this post. As a fellow YA writer who's slogging in the trenches (agented, but no publisher), I dance in a realm of "crazy dreams," too. I also 100% believe what you said about the flip side of egotism is deep-set insecurity. Dr. King's drum major speech sends this message that wanting to be better, the best, is a drum major instinct that leads to racism and other violations of love.

And thank you for VERA DIETZ! Awesome book. Your others are on my list to read.


Matthew MacNish said...

You do rock, though. Sorry, but you do.

The thing is, there are those who raise themselves up by tearing down those around them (Nader), and there are those who raise themselves up by lifting up those around them (Ginnny).

When you meet the second kind, hold on to them with everything you've got, because they're rarer than leprechaun piss.

WV: Kingant - I could not have made that up if I'd wanted to.

Lisa Schroeder said...

You are so awesome. "Big heads are inconvenient." HA!