There is a trap that I fall in to quite often, one that I feel a lot of my fellow creators do as well. Its that feeling of looking at a creator that you admire, that inspires you, that you aspire to be like, or whose influence you have felt and having the “I’ll never get there” feeling. This could be someone on youtube you look up to for videos, or your favorite author. It is very easy to look at the avenue that we want to follow and get discouraged by how many people we see ahead of us. I fall in to this quite often, and I realized recently that it is accompanied by a feeling of lesser-than-ness, this idea that we are lesser than those who inspire us.
As you may have noticed, I have a lot of listening time at work (My entire last post was inspired by a podcast I found while at my desk), and my natural go to is to find interviews with my favorite authors. This started with Jim Butcher and Neil Gaiman, then expanded on to Nika Harper, Amanda Palmer, Veronica Roth, all people whose work I respect and look up to greatly. I was reading On Writing by Stephen King, his auto biography/writing advice non fiction book at the same time. I started realizing a consistent trend in my favorite interviews and podcasts, and in my favorite chapters of King’s book: They all talked about the road leading up to where they are.
Veronica Roth talked about the difficult time she had coming out of school and suddenly having to adjust to writing full time, things she would have done differently, adjusting to being married and moving while having to create a new book, going to therapy.
Jim Butcher talked about writing during his overnight job in tech support, of the bad novels that he wrote, of his accidental discovery of The Dresden Files series that he has been writing for roughly ten years now.
Amanda Palmer talked about dealing with her parents responses to her early works about her family, old work that has inspired her new work, people and things that have brought her to where she is now.
Neil Gaimain, well frankly, was Neil Gaiman (I would listen to that man read the phone book), and talked about the hard parts of writing, of growing up, of becoming a young writer, of his first jobs in writing that were not where he’s ended up now, of finding his voice.
And they began to become human. They stopped being these all knowing symbols up on top of a mountain who sprung in to creation full formed and published, with vast reams of books, hundreds of youtube views, and millions of adoring fans and they became people; people who had worked their way up, had had a few lucky breaks perhaps, but had worked very hard through the dark nights and the hard days to get
to where they were. I was able to listen to their stories and see where I fit in to the common story of the writer, of the
creator. Imposter syndrome, lack of self confidence, comparing yourselves to others, we do all of these things compulsively as creators because we can so readily see the work that we aspire to be like, or to build from or to create something different because of. Listening to interviews, reading the biographies and generally just listening to my favorite authors as people has made the journey to where I want to be seem so much more manageable.
If you’re looking for places to find these kinds of interviews I highly recommend The Nerdist Podcast with Chris Hardwick as the host. Their archives are extensive and include everyone from Wil Wheaton to Neil Gaiman to Daniel Radcliff.
Also over at The Nerdist is Making It with Riki Lindhome where she talks to people in various parts of the entertainment industry specifically about how they got their careers.
I have also had some great luck going to Sound Cloud or Youtube and searching for my favorite authors. If I can make any suggestion to someone who feels overwhelmed by the idea of how far they have to go, it would be to relax, and spend some time listening to the people who inspire you. You really aren’t that different.