You Need to Stop Measuring Yourself

My husband gave me a piece of advice yesterday that had the uncomfortable ring of truth to it.  I was giving him a hard time about how successful his blog has been, and how many hits a day he gets (Needless to say, it’s a lot more than me).

“You need to stop measuring yourself,” he said.

I froze as I tried to work out exactly what he meant.  Measuring myself?  I began counting up the ways that I measure myself, the yardsticks that I use to judge my worth.

And he’s right.  Sometimes I measure myself in pounds.  Dress size.  GPA.  Blog hits.  Calories.  Word count.  Page count.  Minutes spent exercising.  I know I’m forgetting a few.

And what would I do if I stopped keeping count of the ways I’m inadequate?  What if I just loved and accepted myself for where I’m at.  Would I stop growing as a person?  Would I lose my edge?

Or would I gain an edge?  Would I then have the freedom to leap off a cliff into failure?  Freedom to make mistakes and suck horribly while I learn and get better?  Would it be a good thing, or a bad thing?

In a world of trophies for every little league game, I think sometimes we celebrate mediocrity.  But I also think that some children have a lot of pressure put on them to be the very best at everything.  I had the misfortune to be one of those children.  I was a good test taker, and so every test I took told me that I was in the top five or ten percent of the state or the nation.  I got As.  If it looked like I might not get an A, I worked myself into a lather to make sure that perceived failure wouldn’t happen.

And so I succeeded.  I got great grades, I was polite, I was smart, I was quiet.  If I played my cards right, I could both be the very best and blend into the background so I never had to deal with the teasing that a braver child might have received.  But I never once had someone tell me that it would be ok, that I would still be loved, if I didn’t do something perfectly.

There is no way that I’m going to learn to be a great novelist if I don’t have the room to fail.  Because writing is a craft, and it’s one that very few people start out very good at.  Even the best writers I know write shitty first drafts, and their first few novel-length attempts were so horrific I shudder when I think about them.  So I’m not outside of the learning curve here–but I feel like it.  Every novel I read is telling me what the end product should look like–and how very far I am from having publishable material.

So I need to keep writing.  And writing.  And writing.  And reflecting.  And rewriting.  And writing some more.

But do I need to stop measuring myself?  I don’t think any of the type A people I know, NYT bestsellers included, never keep track of their progress.  But maybe I need to cut myself some slack.  Or at least, keep going in spite of the great burden of perfectionism I seem cursed to drag behind me like a ball and chain.  I love the phrase “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”  Maybe I should apply it more in my writing life.

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About Wild Song

Me, stripped bare.
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2 Responses to You Need to Stop Measuring Yourself

  1. Just stopped by your blog. Looks like great stuff. I absolutely love your tag line! I have another blog that is much more populated but my family reads it so I have to really sensor myself. Hence this new one.

    I can empathize with you on the in-law woes. Mine are horrible and seem to have no idea the affect their craziness has on their son, my husband. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Wild Song says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m happy to have you. This is my super-secret blog that I hope my family and friends never stumble upon–but strangers are welcome! It’s been a great outlet for me so far, and I love having a place where the filters can come off, and I can call ’em like I sees ’em.

      I checked your blog out, and I LOVE that you nicknamed your in-laws Mr. and Mrs. Crazy. Hilarious. I’m looking forward to reading more posts!

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