And to deny that is lying. Beneath the insecurity, artists are egotistical. We have to be. There is a certain brashness to what we do—deep down we believe that what we are writing and creating is worth the attention of others. That what we are trying to say is something unique and worth communicating. So when one witnesses the attention, praise and adoration of another's book, while their own is forgotten-- there's a fear that perhaps it's because the other book is better and more special. And then the aforementioned ego comes into play, rears its ugly head; and the insecure artist begins to make comparative lists, ticking off stickers and posters and publicity campaigns as measurements of quality.
Because it is a hard, hard lesson to learn that someone else’s success does nothing to take away from our own. It’s a lesson that I’m still learning. Sometimes when I see an older couple happy together, I feel a bitterness wash over me as I think my husband, because of his unstable health, and I may never reach that. But that bitterness has to be quickly checked because the person it hurts the most is me. It's similar to when we get upset when others get special treatment or acclaim. Our despair only hurts ourselves.
In the book Zen Shorts, when a rude woman is carried over a puddle by an old monk and she doesn't even thank him, the monk's companion broods about it for a long time until the monk says:
"I set the woman down hours ago," the older monk replied.
"Why are you still carrying her?"
And that message is one to take to heart. Maybe if we ungrit our teeth while congratulating others, let go of the comparisons and stop carrying our dejection, we can find some peace. And maybe it’ll even be something close to zen.