I know almost nothing about football except that I believe all men should be required to wear those tight little pants.
But living in Oregon, I can’t help but notice there’s a big game occurring Monday.
I was going to just call it “big game,” but my father informed me it’s the BCS – the Bowl Championship Series. The University of Oregon will play Auburn to determine which team is the best in the nation and which team should be rounded up and executed in the parking lot.
People seem to care very much about this, but not in the ways I expected.
As in most states, Oregon has a longstanding college rivalry. Ours is between fans of the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. I won’t dwell on the hows and whys, but suffice it to say, they wish to set fire to each other’s schools.
Still, I assumed that with one of them playing for a national championship, we’d set aside the rivalries and just cheer for the Oregon team that happened to make it.
That’s not how it works for everyone. In recent weeks, I’ve heard a number of OSU fans declare themselves devout fans of Auburn. We don’t want University of Oregon to win a national championship, they say. We want anyone but them. Their fans are too cocky. They don’t deserve to win. Or my personal favorite, OSU probably won't ever have a shot at a national championship, so we don’t want U of O lording this over us forever.
And just as my blood started to boil over this silly, narrow-minded way of thinking, I stopped and realized I’ve done this.
Not over football. I couldn’t care less about the Ducks and the Beavers beyond the acknowledgment that those are two of the oddest school mascots in the country.
No, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve done this with writing.
Deep down in that place I don’t like to admit exists, I’ve had dirty little thoughts I’m not proud of (I’ve also had plenty I’m proud of, but that’s not what we’re talking about here).
I’m talking about those secret, mean-spirited, moments I think a lot of us have had. Yay! I support other writers wholeheartedly! Except THAT ONE.
Maybe it’s motivated by jealousy, or a firm belief THAT ONE is not a strong enough writer. Doesn’t have the right attitude. Didn’t work hard enough.
And while I might sincerely wish I could beat my head against the wall until thoughts like this vanish, I have to acknowledge they’re there. Not all the time – pretty rarely, really – but they do exist.
And acknowledging the thoughts is probably the first step toward taking myself by the ear, giving myself a shake, and reminding myself that someone else’s success does not diminish mine.
This is something you’ll have to deal with at every stage in your career. Someone else will always finish that first manuscript faster. Someone else will always get better feedback in a contest, a bigger advance, a prettier cover, a cooler agent.
OK, not if your agent is Michelle Wolfson – duh, there is no one cooler – but you get my point.
There will always be secret rivalries. There will always be green-eyed monsters. There will always be mean little demons that whisper in the back of your brain, anyone but THAT author.
All I’m suggesting is that you acknowledge it. That you admit it. And that you make a conscious effort to remind yourself we’re all on the same team – all writers, everyone who’s ever struggled to put words on a page with the hope they’ll eventually land on someone’s bookshelf.