There’s Always Somebody Better

Trying to write the next Grapes of Wrath and getting blown away like so much dust? Dreaming of outselling J.K. Rowling with an epic fantasy series that knocks Harry Potter off his broomstick… but ending up with a migraine instead? Outraged that people don’t notice your religio-art conspiracy detective thriller (?) is ten times more brilliant than anything by Dan Brown?

Bad News: Whatever you try to do, there’s always somebody who does it better.

Take me for example. I’ve been known to sport a pretty decent beard. In fact, I get compliments on it from a lot of dudes (and the occasional dudette). Here’s a picture of me wearing it:

 Eric's beard

Guys tell me they wish they could get such solid, even coverage. Women tell me their husbands and boyfriends try to grow beards but end up getting frustrated because it looks bad and shave it off. But the truth is, I’m only semi-pro. If you want the King of Coverage, the Baron of Body, the Thunder god of Thickness, the Heavyweight of Hair (that all grows in the same direction)? I give you hockey player Hank Zetterberg, all-star forward for the Detroit Red Wings:

Henrik Zetterberg

Zetterberg is to ______ as Daniel Day-Lewis is to acting. (Answer: beards)

 hank

Not even Chuck Norris would mess with Zetterberg’s beard!

 Zetterberg

I could become despondent over the fact that I’ll never have a beard like Hank Zetterberg’s. But remember what I said above? Lots of people tell me they wish they could grow a beard like mine, and some ladies’ husbands are indeed envious. To boot, it only takes me about a week.

Once upon a time I became frustrated that neither of my manuscripts landed me an agent or a publishing contract. I’d glance over the shelves at the bookstore, randomly picking up new novels and scanning the beginning pages. A lot of them were drivel, honestly. I’d grumble. I’d furrow my brow. My manuscript was better than this junk!

You may have had the same experience. Or perhaps you didn’t sell nearly as many copies of your self-published novel as you dreamed. “Darn it,” you’d say, “How come this other thing got popular? Mine is better. It drives me nuts that that one particular writer is more successful!”

But, guess what… You wrote a novel! And it was pretty good. On the planet Earth, how many people can make that claim? Not many. And you learned a lot, so much so that your next novel will be ten times better. You might not be the next John Steinbeck, J.K. Rowling, or Dan Brown, but you are already the first you. That is a worthwhile and unique achievement.

**************

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54 responses to “There’s Always Somebody Better

  • Shawn Bailey

    Know the feeling. I have a novella on Amazon and BN. It’s about a 6.5 out of 10. Still proud of doing most all of the publishing myself, though.

    But I’m working on my next one, The Village. It’s more like an 8. I’m climbing the ladder. Here’s a link to my Indiegogo campaign if you’re interested – http://igg.me/at/the-village/x/2399958.

    • ericjbaker

      To tell that length of story, to create characters, to conceive and execute a plot, to employ your voice… that is so beyond the scope of most people. Here’s to the future success of “The Village.”

  • toconnell88

    Well, now I have serious beard envy.

    Great post, man. I agree, and it’s good to see you’re ringing in the new year with some level-headed positivity.

    • ericjbaker

      I don’t think there is a more self-critical group of people than writers. We’ve got to give ourselves a little credit once in a while, don’t we?

      Thanks for the comment!

  • M. R.

    BRILLIANT post, EJB! – congrats! I’d been becoming more than somewhat irritated by the number of posts read lately that virtually issue instructions on how to live life better (and how do they know, eh?!); whereas this is (a) not an instruction, (b) commenced with a fun and relevant intro., and (c) positive! I would like to shake your hand!!!

    • ericjbaker

      If you give me your address, I’ll mail you my hand. I’ll also include a self-addressed return envelope after you are done shaking it, if you don’t mind.

      I don’t like to instruct people about anything because, well, what do I know? 8-tracks were all the rage when I was born, and I’m still stumbling around trying to figure things out. I’ll probably never get it right, but I can have fun trying.

  • Kevin Brennan

    Maybe I should sell my beard on Amazon… Just a thought.

  • Megan

    Great post! I think all writers dream of being the all time best. But once reality sets in, it can turn their perspective upside down. If all goes well, they can realize what you said: “You wrote a novel! And it was pretty good. On the planet Earth, how many people can make that claim? …. That is a worthwhile and unique achievement.”

    True and true!

    • ericjbaker

      I wouldn’t mind writing novels as a secondary source of income. It’s awesome to shoot for the stars, but it’s not bad if you only get to orbit the Earth a few times, either.

  • nrhatch

    Yes!!! One of my favorite sections in Desiderata:

    “Do not compare yourself with others. You will become vain and bitter for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

    I am that I am.

  • Ann Koplow

    Wonderful post. And great beard, too.

  • Dave

    Wonderful post, Eric, and so positive. Seriously, I finished reading it, paused for a moment, and realized I felt noticeably better. You’re right, there’s always a better beard. I’m pretty happy with mine, but it ain’t no Zetterberg. Man, that’s one nice looking beard. But hey, my wife likes it, so I guess I’m her Zetterberg.

    As for writing, you are dead on. Years ago my single goal was to get my first novel published and become the next Stephen King. These days, after mellowing quite a bit, my goal is to get one of my novels edited to where I’m happy enough with it to self publish (which should be fun). After that, one real reader who likes my book will pretty much make it for me 🙂

    • ericjbaker

      My other half isn’t so crazy about my beard (she says it’s prickly… though she should have guess from my personality). She still puts up with me though, which is the best I can hope for at thi spoint. 🙂

      As WordPress blogger, we’re so used to being around other writers that we don’t feel special. But then you have to think about all those folks who can barely put together a sentence. We got some skills.

  • Moontoe Fairy

    I love what you say. Everyone on planet Earth has something unique to share. It’s truly sad that we’re stopped in doing that by negative mind chatter and the comparisons with others. My goal is always to be the best me that I can be.

    • ericjbaker

      I agree 100%. Comparing oneself unfavorably to others is poisonous. Besides, we don’t always know how much effort goes into another’s image. How many supermodels and movie stars would look like supermodels and movie stars without make-up, professional lighting, photoshopping, etc.? The same goes for famous authors, who have multiple editors, paid researchers, paid fact-checkers, and so on.

      Thanks for the comment! Love the WordPress handle, by the way.

  • Therin Knite

    Great advice. All writers need to understand this before they jump into the market and end up sorely disappointed. It’s just a fact of life. You’re not the best. And that’s okay. No one is the best, not really. “Best” is such a subjective thing. There’s no one gold standard. Just be YOUR best. That’s what’s important. 🙂

    • ericjbaker

      Indeed! I admire a lot of writers (including right here in WordPress) and could never do what they do. I’ll just sit back and enjoy their creativity. Then I’ll exercise my own, in my own style and voice, and hopefully those same people can enjoy what I come up with.

  • skywalkerstoryteller

    As always Eric, you make me smile. I understand that beard thing as Brian is always working on his. As for writing, how many “great” writers of today died unknown and/or broke – two poets come to mind – Emily Dickinson and Kahlil Gibran, whose birthday I share. What is happening now is that so many of us are writing, and that is good. Time will tell of what is the most remembered.

    • ericjbaker

      Brian can always draw one on, no doubt with greater skill than me or Zetterberg! To your point, Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting during his life, but look at him now!

  • seanbidd

    Like most, many aspects to what we need, wish, want to pursue, it all takes time, and work. To achieve a trade/profession, it takes four to six years in most cases. To master different technical and precision intricacies to them, takes a lifetime, whether growing a beard, writing (so many different types, styles, species, families), or anything else.

    • ericjbaker

      That’s it! Just keep doing it and don’t worry about someone else doing it better. Like someone else commented above, it’s all subjective anyway. One reader’s idea of a masterpiece is someone else’s scribble.

      Thanks for commenting.

  • livelytwist

    Encouraging post. I think it’s important to give your best always. It may not be recognized or rewarded by the world, but you can revel in that satisfaction. Btw, I prefer your beard… too bad my preference won’t bring you fame or fortune 🙂

    • ericjbaker

      We don’t know yet! Somehow, your preference for my beard over Zetterberg’s could have paradigm-shifting effects that change the world in ways that can not be imagined! The Butterfly Effect!

      Or not, but it might make a cool short story! Or a shocking new twist in the saga of Dayo and Soba. Eric’s beard! What does it mean for our star-crossed lovers?????
      😉

  • Jill Weatherholt

    Thanks for putting things into perspective, Eric. Comparing ourselves to other whether it’s our writing. appearance or possessions, is wasted energy. I wasn’t aware of this coveting of beards among men…very interesting.

  • mobewan

    If you’re going to grow a beard, then grow the best damn beard you can. Look to others for inspiration (even the odd jealous glance), ask them for tips (if you can do it in a way that doesn’t get arrested), but always come back to what you can do to make your beard great. If you want people to like your beard then you are more likely to get respect if you’ve done your utmost to make it the best you can. People will see through a beard that has not been trimmed, moisturised and nurtured. Too many people out there are simply ‘not shaving’. That’s not the same as growing an awesome beard.

    Is there anything in life beards cannot teach us?

  • Ensis

    Great post, Eric. I think the indie movement will change some of that, though. At least a little. Maybe a TINY bit…

    • ericjbaker

      Self-published authors seem pretty keen on sharing what worked and what didn’t, which makes the whole thing seem less competitive. It takes a village to write a book???

      Thanks for the comment!

  • shelleyhazen83

    Gotta love a beard. My husband’s is better than that hockey dude, though… 🙂

  • Janna G. Noelle

    That’s some nice facial fur you’ve got there, Eric, and even though I have a mild horror of beards (what if something is living in there??), you’ve parlayed yours into a valuable life lesson. 🙂

  • D. Thomas Minton

    Zetterbeard’s is pretty good, but personally the beard on hockey player Brent “Sasquatch” Burns takes the cake for me. That’s some serious facial hair.

  • 1WriteWay

    I could sport a mean mustache if I wanted to, but I don’t think anyone (man or female) would envy me 🙂 Seriously, this is the kind of post I need to be reading right now.

  • kristenotte

    I love this post. And the beards.

  • Arkenaten

    My favorite example of a bearded person is Frank Beard.
    As a muso, And you will know who he is and why. 😉

    Happy New Year, Eric. Best of and all that…

  • mrschmoe

    Reblogged this on Just another inane writer and commented:
    I am a little late in rebloggin this post. But internet had suffered a slowed down syndrome

    • ericjbaker

      Thanks man! I frequently suffer a slowed down syndrome when it comes to posting, so it’s nice to get some extra mileage out of something I already wrote!

      😉

      • mrschmoe

        Your welcome. Yeah there are periods that we each have an empty head sensation. Nothing inside, we just stare that blank document or blank page of pad in catatonic state, not being able to write anything.

  • quirkywritingcorner

    I love your beard. I thought it was interesting that your beard is gray in exactly the same spots as my husband’s. I like beards (not on me, of course). They add character and distinction, but they are not for everyone. Those thin line mustaches always remind me of bad characters–the villains. While handlebar mustaches are cool for looks, they’re terrible to kiss. I was sooo glad when my husband trimmed his back.
    All that aside, I want my sci-fi story to do exactly what you said–to outsell J.K.Rowling and knock Harry Potter off his broomstick. Don’t get me wrong. I still love them both and would love to meet Ms. Rowling one day.
    I decided to follow your post–not just because of your beard, but for your humor with life.

    • ericjbaker

      Please do outsell JK Rowling. I am not above name dropping. “yeah, she used to comment on my blog.”

      So your hubby has a reverse-skunk beard too? I’m not sure why mine does that. It used to be orangish. Now it’s striped. Yeah, no one wants to kiss a dude with a beard, no matter how good it looks. I don’t like the way I look without it, though, so I guess vanity wins out over romance in my list of priorities.

      Thanks for the comment!

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