Comparison is the thief of joy.
I recently awoke from a vivid dream filled with high seas adventures, golden beaches, a stowaway, an overprotective parent, unrequited love, and secret treasures of the heart.
The interesting part about this dream is that I took away from it less inspiration for a new story to write, and more inspiration for how I will treat my writing friends.
To be honest, I think that the dream started with a tendril of story from the (4th) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides movie with its subplot of the mermaid and the priest love story. Sometimes, a stray thought from earlier in the day drops onto the center stage of my nighttime dreams, and this was the case for me.
I can’t recall the dream story clearly, but I do know there was a young woman who didn’t want her father to tell her what to do anymore, and that she was in love with one of her father’s deckhands. This lucky fellow loved her back, but her father’s first mate and also her father’s closest friend, also loved the daughter, only to find that he never so much as earned a warm smile from her in return.
My dreamscape was flashing across a first kiss scene with the daughter and the deckhand she loves in the sunshine and seafoam , and then on to another scene encompassing a sober talk between the heartbroken first mate and captain as the captain explains that the first mate is still required to protect the captain’s daughter, even if he will never be entrusted with her heart.
While I was dreaming, I thought the story was awesome, even though I didn’t know how the scenes would all fit together.
As I began to wake, I felt a strange deja vu sting in my chest:
I have a friend who’s already written this exact story.
It was a good story. It was a publishable story. The next emotion that crackled through my skin was envy. I wanted to have a story as dynamic and compelling and imaginative as this one…and for a moment, I didn’t want my friend to get published.
I’m not proud of this reaction. I know it comes from fear and insecurity.
I then returned to full waking consciousness and realized, no, my writer friend hadn’t actually written a story like this (at least, not one that I’ve read). But he is a good writer and I’ve read so many sections of his stories that are carefully wrought, detailed, and very vivid. I can honestly say, I want him to be published.
The truth is, when I see gorgeous, well-honed writing, my job should be to celebrate it and join the rest of the world in rejoicing that something excellent has been brought to life.
My personal application from this dream is that I need to encourage my friend in his writing. I’ve had so many people who believed in me and championed me when I was trying to get published, and I’m sure some of them were pushing down the same pangs of envy.
And here I am, with a novel published, and realize I’m still dealing with doubt and insecurities. Yes, ladies and gentleman, the truth is that I’m still human.
I strongly believe that competition has no place among friends. We’ve been given different gifts and talents to use, which makes us, by definition, not direct competitors. We each have our own stripe of the spectrum to paint.
But do we live and think and feel that this is true?
I want to hear your thoughts on this. Is rivalry eating away in your creative circles?
Is there something you can do, perhaps an act of help or kindness toward your rival or even someone whose writing you admire to the unhealthy point of your own discouragement, that would move yourself and this fellow artist into a direction of partners on the same journey?