Let's face it: If there's anything the internet has taught us, it's that it's entirely too easy to put a shine on anyone's life and make it look perfect through the power of carefully-crafted social media. We all do it: putting our best face forward, showcasing the brightest, most sun-drenched days, hiding or concealing the parts that we fear might make others uncomfortable.
It's like taking a picture of the cleanest corner in your house, putting a filter on it, and pretending your whole place looks that good. (If you're anything like me... it doesn't.)
There's nothing wrong with sharing joy... but when it comes to the way this makes us feel, it can be hard to untangle whether seeing those pictures really is joyful.
And for a lot of authors I work with, it isn't. (Not when it comes to books.)
It sometimes feels like everyone and their cousin is publishing a book. We see all these authors building successful platforms, doing the marketing, putting themselves out there, and it's not at all uncommon for this deluge to make us feel completely overwhelmed and intimidated. Almost as if there's no way to compete... and that can lead all too quickly to the thought that your story isn't even worth telling.
Let's set the record straight: Your story is worth telling.
Just because someone else has made one beautiful cake, and you're still fine-tuning your recipe, doesn't mean readers won't be excited for even more cake. Cake is amazing. Who doesn't love cake?
It's really intimidating to look out over the giant sea of the internet and see all of the amazing things that other people are doing. It's natural to wonder how you can possibly make your voice heard. But don't let the impression that everyone else is a successful, published author stop you from writing—it's not true.
The internet is full of people making themselves look as appealing as they possibly can. While there are people (and authors) out there living the big life for sure, you have to remember that every person you see trying to sell a book is putting their best foot forward. You have to take everything you see on the internet with a grain of salt. Don't beat yourself up for having a house in the middle of spring cleaning, just because someone else's corner looks great.
Plus, our problems, shortcomings, and struggles seem a lot worse to us than other people's problems because they're our problems. It's really easy for us to see all the shortcomings and frustrations of our own life, but even the people that are our closest friends don't share every doubt and insecurity they have with us. And the people whose websites you're looking at most certainly don't expose their deepest fears to the world-at-large. (Unless that's their thing, and even if it is you're still not getting the full picture.)
Comparing your life to what you see people doing on the internet is like comparing the commercial version of a Big Mac to the burger you actually get in the box. If you go to McDonald's expecting to get the burger you see in the ad, you're going to be sorely disappointed. But that shiny-looking burger ISN'T ACTUALLY REAL. Comparing your sad-looking burger to that ideal burger is a lie! Everyone's Big Mac looks pretty sad when you open the box and give it a good, hard look.
Set aside comparisons and fears; your job is not to outshine others, but simply to shine.
Finding the motivation to continue producing original content is hard, but you ultimately have to trust that you have something to say that is worth listening to. You have had experiences and have perceptions that are different from the people around you. One of the greatest things about fiction is that it gives us the opportunity to get into someone else's head—and you have the ability to offer that experience to someone else just by virtue of not being that person.
And while you can encourage yourself to develop thoughts that are worth listening to by participating mindfully in the world and while you can focus on your own work to avoid being influenced, you're still different by default. Plus, I don't know about you, but I have found that experiencing others' differences through writing is very interesting, but I am often moved the most by the stories that speak across space, time, and circumstance to the sameness in us all.
So. Go forth and write.