On Other Creators as Competition

It’s easy to think of other successful people as competition. I’ll admit that I do all the time. Sometimes it’s envy, other times despair, or confusion — but it’s always emotional. I also watch others do the same thing. It’s part of human nature.

If you find yourself in this moment, consider the following.

Should you think “what this this person have that I don’t?”, here’s the answer: everything. Other people have different life experiences, different social networks, different short-term and long-term goals. That all leads to different drives, different voices, and different ways in which folks resonate with others.

You are not playing the same game, even if it seems like you are.

Should you think “what the fuck am I doing wrong?”, maybe there’s an answer. but maybe what you’re doing wrong is being impatient. Or focusing on trying to maintain some sense of credibility so hard that you’re not focusing on what got you credibility in the first place: doing the damn work.

Or maybe you’re not doing anything wrong at all. After all, you aren’t playing the same game as others are, even if it seems like you are.

And if you’re in a place where you feel like you’re “losing” to some imagined competition, imagine what it’s like for those who see you in that same light. They wonder what you have that they don’t, and fall into despair. They wonder what they’re doing wrong compared to you, just as you’re wondering what you’re doing wrong compared to someone else.

But the answer seems to be this: I made choices based on my needs and desires at the time. They impact me today, sure, but I had no way of knowing where I’d be today. And I’ll continue to make choices based on my needs and desires now, while trying to look toward an uncertain and nebulous future. I will grow at a different pace and in different ways than other people.

I will have successes in my own way, and even if they don’t seem as great as those I hold in high esteem, they aren’t valueless. So I should stop treating them as such just because someone else seems to be doing “better.”


Looking at all that, really my only competition is my on sense of self-loathing, of despair, or worry that I’m a fraud or fake or not good enough.

Fuck that guy. I deserve to beat him in the competition that is my life.

– Ryan


5 Responses to On Other Creators as Competition

  1. Miranda says:

    I definitely need to re-read this about once a week.

  2. Greg Machlin says:

    Great, great essay. Took me a long time, but I finally absorbed this way of thinking, and it’s so helpful. Still working my way through definitions of “success” and how to deal with wanting external success (money, better career) through my creative work.


  3. Alphastream says:

    I have great respect for what you are sharing. To be honest, I feel differently. Maybe it comes from my organized play background. I always felt there was a lot to learn and reasons to work with everyone. When I worked with someone new, it was almost always a really valuable experience. The same has been true on freelance projects, but again, maybe due to that perspective I had getting started.

    When I look around I see a ton of talent. And I see a lot of different opportunities. They aren’t all the same requirement or skill base, so different people bring different capabilities and shine for different reasons. I also see a value in teamwork. Projects often end up better when we work together well. The end client sees that – they see if our dynamic was healthy and the product came out great. We have a good incentive to work together rather than to compete. On some projects clear communication can be as important a skill as our ability to write.

    I do hear comments about the competition, but I haven’t encountered it so far. I’m hopeful that aspect can change over time.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I don’t feel this way all the time, but when I do, it’s because I’m in an unwell headspace then. Or I’m sore about a recent professional setback. Or other reasons.

      There are certainly people who have (what I feel is) more success than me who I’ll always cheerlead, because of personal bonds. But even when I’m doing that, I’m not immune from envy.

      I am also hopeful that an aspect can change. But change is slow — which is actually a good thing, because it means that any progress is still progress, even if it’s not wholly resolved.

      – Ryan