do your thing (or The Incredible Jessica James)

<< Just watched this (the movie, not the trailer) and it gave me all the feels.

First of all, it’s awesome. It’s like Bridesmaids meets Broad City meets…Frances Ha. Or something. Love + confusion + heartbreak + doing that thing you have to do, despite rejection.

As “pretentious white millennial” as it sounds, I’ve been having a mini existential crisis lately around writing, or my identity as a Writer. Main problem: comparing myself to other people. Specifically, other writers I’ve worked with whose careers have taken off. I quit Twitter because I couldn’t squelch the comparisons: They had more followers, more little public side-convos with Important People, more retweets, faster and wittier quips about current events. Just typing it makes me re-feel how sour and twisty (to borrow Shonda Rhimes’ word) I felt, like paper burning or a leaf curling in on itself. The opposite of expansive. When other writers were getting better and better writing gigs, getting book deals, I felt like I was floundering. I lack the backbone and financial independence to freelance full-time (the year I did was terrifying, although not bankrupt) and the confidence to relentlessly, constantly self-promote. It’s self-doubt, not humility.

So I withdrew. “Don’t play no game that I can’t win.” Best to give up on writing, to slink away from an over-crowded field stuffed with self-important megaphone-holders and become a plumber, right? I went to a career counselor, investigated different fields, thought interior design was a good fit (maybe it still is).

But if I’m honest, writing will always be my #1. It’s what I lose myself in, the only thing that can make me forget to eat lunch (LUNCH! glorious lunch), the thing I do for absolutely no reason other than I like it and I have to do it or I’ll go mad. Journaling keeps me sane. Typing this is my way of trying to make sense of life. If someone I knew was a mediocre musician in a random band, I wouldn’t tell them to give up and become an actuary; I’d respect that they were at least TRYING. Why can’t I extend that kindness, patience, and appreciation to myself?

Which brings me to The Incredible Jessica James. No spoilers, but at one point, Jessica is questioning herself, and her idol basically says, Well, you’re doing the thing, aren’t you? You NEVER really arrive as a creative person; you just have to do whatever it is you do. Like the cliché that a writer is someone who writes. I’m writing this blog post, therefore I’m a writer! Not that imma confuse myself with Shakespeare or Nora Ephron or Lindy West anytime soon. But doing the thing is how you get better at it. Trying and showing up is 90% of it, right? (End paragraph full of clichés.)

Anyway, that scene made me cry. I’ve felt like such a complete and utter FAILURE as a writer lately. But I can’t just give up because I found some people who’re better than I am. There will ALWAYS be people better than me. That’s a wack reason not to do something.

There’s no neat, tidy end here…I have no resolutions to pitch my stuff to XYZ website, or submit one thing a month. I have no goals. For right now, it’s enough to say to myself, You’re a writer. You write. You love writing. You aren’t the best–AND THAT DOESN’T MATTER ONE BIT. All I can do is be gentle and honest with myself and go from there.

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4 thoughts on “do your thing (or The Incredible Jessica James)

  1. Kelly Hinkle

    Gah, stop comparing yourself. What you do is uniquely you. Only you can write the way YOU do…and that’s super original and fun!

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