I went into the Barnes & Noble at BU today to pick up a copy of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. On the way out, I had an epiphany about my occasional inferiority complexes when it comes to being a writer. Middlesex, it turns out, won the Pulitzer. I started thinking about all the other books I’ve read over the past two years. Kavalier and Clay won the Pulitzer, too, as did Empire Falls. The Big House, which I just finished reading, was a finalist for the National Book Award.
This got me thinking: Is it fair of me to compare my own writing to writing that has won these kind of awards? No, it’s probably not.
The other day, I actually found myself ranting to Stephanie about how my writing just wasn’t on the same level as the stuff I was reading, how that meant it wasn’t publishable, and how that meant it wasn’t really all that good at all. Now, when I look back on the conversation, I feel silly.
How could I expect my writing to be on par with the stuff I’ve been reading when the stuff I’ve been reading has been widely recognized as some of the best stuff out there? It’s just ridiculous.
The thing you have to come to grips with, as a young writer, is that you aren’t going to be brilliant in your first novel. You have to come to this realization without slacking. You have to make sure you are constantly pushing yourself. But, in the end, you have to realize—I have to realize—that what I put together is not going to win a Pulitzer. It may be good—It will be good—but you’ve got a long way to go, and if you just keep working at it, you’ll only get better.