One day last summer I was on my way to the library when I ran into my neighbors chatting with a visitor in their driveway. Herb and Hazel introduced me to their friend, and said excitedly, “Camille has published novels!”
“Well, isn’t that something,” the man replied. “My daughter writes paranormal romance. She just got a two-book deal. Six figures. What are the names of your books, and how many copies have you sold?”
Not only does this line of inquiry make my skin crawl–as if my sales figures are the whole point of what I do!–but this man was quite obviously trying to make himself feel like “somebody” through his daughter’s accomplishments. I extricated myself from the conversation as quickly as I could, and walked away feeling as if I’d somehow been violated. This man was literally in my face, comparing me to his daughter, eager to prove that she was the more successful writer. If I’d been subjected to this type of talk at the age of 12 or 13, I would have run home and cried.
Everything will make you feel small if you let it. Don’t let it. *Lesson #788 in not comparing yourself to other authors.
— Nova Ren Suma (@novaren) May 23, 2012
When I was a young teenager I came across a piece of advice that changed my life: don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. I can’t remember where I read this–it may have been Go For It!, by Judy Zerafa, that classic pep-talk-in-a-book–but it was so true and so obvious that I might have literally smacked my forehead. Middle school had felt like an endless cycle of classmates’ mean-spirited jabs and wanting to make myself unrecognizable. You probably know how it was–as if getting contact lenses, braces, and jeans from the Gap would stop the catty girls from drawing dogs on the chalkboard and labeling the doodles with my name, or throwing paint chips at me in art class while our teacher’s back was turned. These kids were just as insecure as I was, and making fun of a more sensitive classmate was their way of coping with it.
I got to high school, armed with that inside-outside insight, and stopped caring so much what people thought of me. I still occasionally got made fun of, but I knew those taunts had everything to do with the insecure person hurling them, and little if anything to do with me. I enjoyed academics and art classes and after-school sports. I got excited for college. I didn’t feel inadequate anymore.
And I don’t feel inadequate now. No matter how many times people ask me pointedly “how well” my books are doing, no one can make me feel inadequate ever again.