“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Teddy Roosevelt
I mentioned to someone recently that my goal for the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series is to eventually be as well known as the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny.
And got a not-so-subtle eye roll in response.
Thief in the night
Before I knew it, the comparison and the self-doubt train was rolling. I mentally cataloged all the reasons why Emilia Cruz was never going to rub bookshelf shoulders with Armand Gamache.
Yep, I sat there like I’d been hit by a sock full of wet sand and turned on the stupid comparison machine. My joy was gone, stolen by an involuntary expression of someone who’d never read any of my books.
Stopping the locomotive
But why shouldn’t that be a worthy goal?
After all, the books enjoy the same mystery loving audience. Readers who imagine themselves at Olivier’s Bistro sipping hot choolate will also enjoy a starry night in the Pasodoble Bar with a mojito.
Usually, I’m excited that I’m on the right track with the Detective Emilia Cruz series. I love the Gamache books and see that series, as well as the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo and the Arkady Renko series by Martin Cruz Smith, as my role models.
Role models are great.
But comparison is a waste of time.
The case of Agnes and Martha
James Clear recently wrote about a famous case of self doubt. Agnes de Mille, the dancer and choreographer, told mentor Martha Graham: “I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.” Martha’s response was: “It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.”
Mr. Clear’s article has a really valuable message: “It is not your place to compare it to others . . . Instead, your responsibility is to create. Your job is to share what you have to offer from where you are right now.”
Where the joy is
For me, the joy has always been in the creative process. I love making up intricate plots peppered with my own experiences. I love wordsmithing and tracking down that elusive perfect word in the thesaurus. I love the process of dialogue, acting out both parts to the dog as Emilia and Silvio have another knock-down-drag-out argument. Dutch has no idea what’s going on, but it’s attention so all good.
Teddy was right. Comparison is the thief of joy.
The thief is always lurking around the corner, waiting to be invited in by a random eye roll or thoughtless remark.
But if the joy is in the creative process, the thief has nothing to steal.
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