There’s a sizable mountain range separating my part of Oregon from the part where all the Romance Writers of America (RWA) meetings occur.
In the summertime, the mountains are merely scenic. In the wintertime, they’re downright treacherous. It’s not unusual to see cars buried in snow banks or flipped upside down, and I prefer to keep my eyes shut tight for most of the trip.
That doesn’t work if I’m driving alone without Pythagoras, which was the case this past weekend.
The drive over on Thursday afternoon wasn’t so bad, but Saturday evening’s return trip scared the holy living snot out of me. The roads were icy, the sky was dark, and the snow was flying from 859 directions.
I wanted to curl up on the floorboards and whimper. I settled for fixating on the taillights of the guy ahead of me. For two hours, I kept pace with his Jeep. I gauged his speed on slick curves, noticed when he tapped his brakes, and invented an imaginary identity for him that included a falcate sword and a gladiator costume.
By the time we made it over the mountains, I wanted to follow him home and hug him. I refrained, mostly because he’d think I was a stalker, but also because I would have been really disappointed if he didn’t have the sword.
The experience made me think about the post I wrote last Friday. In it, I talked about the downside of having bitter or jealous thoughts about other authors. The post sparked one of the coolest discussions we’ve had here, further cementing my belief that the people commenting on my blog often have smarter things to say than I do.
One of the most thought-provoking comments was this one from Mark Simpson:
When I was a hurdler in high school there was a kid in the next town (lets call it Colstrip because that's what everyone calls it) who was both amazingly talented and a complete asshole. (Lets call him Bobby Gregg, since that's his actual name. ha)
More than anything I wanted to beat him, to see his face lined in pain as I broke his will. So I drug railroad ties through the snow, trained and bled and sweated. I finally did beat him a couple times, although he won the ultimate contest. (probably because he was better than me.)
But even as the memory of my broken heart spilling its blood into the gutter of my soul still rings fresh, I know that loathing disdain for him still brought out my absolute best. I needed him like spring needs the rain. (And now we're FB friends. ha)
These days instead of running endless intervals to the Top Gun soundtrack on my Walkman, I read Tawna's blog. And although I am dazzled daily by her unattainable level of wit, humor and charm – there is a part of me that wants.. nay NEEDS... to see something that ISN'T clever, funny or charming. Every day I scour the text in vain yearning, all while honing my own writing skills – skills that even as they peak will always be deep in her shadow.
Tawna is my modern day Bobby Gregg– inspiration, nemesis, and femme fatale.
She is the rock I break myself against.
As a side-note, if you’ve ever wondered how many regular blog readers I know in real life, the answer is “almost none.” Mark is one of the few – an old pal from college I haven’t seen for years, but who recently found me on Facebook. I bring this up because seeing that comment from a total stranger might’ve creeped me out a little. Seeing it from him just made me giggle.
But I digress.
Aside from his facetious Tawna-worship, Mark makes a great point. While I don’t encourage petty jealousy and evil thoughts about others, a little friendly rivalry can push you to be better.
During my bumpy path to publication, one thing that kept me going was the steady stream of positive feedback and “almost there” comments from editors.
But on the flip-side of that, the comments that made me even more determined to succeed were the ones containing traces of the sentiment, “you can’t.”
Those were the comments that made me stand up straight, shake off my disappointment, and scream, “hell yes I can – watch me!”
So while I stand by what I said Friday about holding your venomous thoughts in check, there’s a benefit to having something that keeps you driving forward when you might otherwise be tempted to curl up and cry.
What pushes you to keep going? Is it a professional rivalry, an outright failure, or just a guy in a gladiator costume with a bright pair of taillights? Please share!