I’m better than you. There are so many people who try to give you this message one way or the other, I’m better than you. I’m funnier, I’m cooler. I dance better. I’m more published. I have more famous friends than you. I am richer than you. That’s a really good one because you can’t really argue –at least if you’re me—that pretty much everyone has more money than I do. At least in this country. If I went to a Third World country, things might be different. So… here we are. Lots of people want you to know that they are better than you.
I caution you, they say, I just want to caution you, and then they start to tell you what they know that you don’t. They believe that they know more about writing than you do, more about story, more about everything. In writing workshops, it’s hard to hold your breath and suck it in. Listen to what works for you and ignore the rest.
Okay, when someone tells me that they want to inform me how to run a publishing company, I try to listen. I do my best.
If they tell me how to write, I listen. Because I feel lucky that someone was willing to read my work and give me feedback. That’s what I try to get the writing students here to think about.
Here’s what I think about people indicating to me that they are better than me. It’s very simple. They are right. Everyone I know has better taste in clothes. My “style” is random and disconnected from anything that happens in the fashion world. So if someone tells me that isn’t working, I take their word for it.
If someone indicates that they’re better read than me. Sure. You’ve read all of Pynchon and David Foster Wallace, good for you because I haven’t. Nor am I planning to. I don’t want to and I’m not going to. I read like a maniac, but I read what I want to read.
It’s always tempting to want to stand up for yourself. I like to stand up for myself and for other people. But, if someone is thinking they’re better than me in any way, I like to let them. I like to let them strut their stuff. If feeling better than other people is your thing, go for it.
It’s not my thing. Love and life are yummy, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to just swim around in them and we don’t need to be better than anyone.
But take in writing criticism, work with what works for you and move on. And don’t forget the thing you already know which is this… anyone who wants to make you feel that they are better than you doesn’t feel all that good about themselves. Feel good. Be happy. You got it all going on.