In his book 12 Rules for Life Jordan Peterson introduces his fourth rule (‘Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today’):
It was easier for people to be good at something when more of us lived in small, rural communities. Someone could be homecoming queen. Someone else could be spelling-bee champion, Math whiz or basketball star. There were only one or two mechanics and a couple of teachers. In each of their domains, these local heroes had the opportunity to enjoy the serotonin-fuelled confidence of the victor […] If you’re one in a million now, but originated in modern New York, there’s twenty of you – and most of us now live in cities. What’s more, we have become digitally connected to the entire seven billion. Our hierarchies of accomplishment are now dizzyingly vertical.
No matter how good you are at something, or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent.
I think, generally speaking, a writer’s confidence is easily shaken. A dry day where the writing drips out of me even after hours of work can sow doubt in my mind that I may never again write fluently but I don’t often doubt myself as a writer when I see other writers getting published. I feel there’s plenty of room for everyone (or at least plenty of opportunity) and besides, despite how well they’re marketed, some books on the market are awful.
I think it’s easy to despair over one’s art when we live in a predominantly Capitalist society that seems to only value art in the context of the market. If I don’t have a book selling on the shelves is my writing worth less than someone else’s? My head says “maybe” but my heart says “no”.