Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More
By Ken Patton
We all do it… whether it is at the gym, or at school or work, even out and about as we happen to walk past someone who momentarily catches our eye – we all compare ourselves to other people. Like most things in life, some of us do it more than others. It’s not a crime… it’s natural. And like most things, it can either be a healthy thing, or a harmful thing. The trick is realizing what it is for you.
For me, the realization came while spending an obscene amount of time immersed in social media. I have this friend who redefines being “social media savvy”… everything he posts is pretty decent. That’s a lie – everything he posts is absurdly brilliant, and when I peruse his seemingly effortless, artfully curated daily musings, or perfectly lit photos, or outrageously comfortable life, it awakens some uncomfortable comparisons in my mind. I’ve felt all of the feelings… awe, jealousy, envy… and I could see myself falling down the rabbit hole. I told myself that I needed to stop comparing myself to him, but as usual, I didn’t listen to myself. With dread I would open his daily (yes, daily!) posts to see what fresh hell his perfect life was going to bring me. I had been blocked for months, and no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t put pen to paper. Reading his delightfully entertaining posts on a daily basis wasn’t really helping me, but I just couldn’t stop myself… frankly, I was obsessed. But then about two months ago, there was a post that ignited a spark, and though I didn’t realize it initially, that spark pushed me towards a much healthier path, as crazy as that may seem.
I found myself thinking about that post long after I first saw it. Then I found myself going back to it, again, and again. My friend spoke of a man that inspired him… inspired him in a way that sparked change, and it got me to thinking about myself, and my process when it comes to writing. And then the strangest thing happened; suddenly, it seemed like everything I came across was a trigger towards a new realization… watching a movie or a television show would transport me and inspire me, whereas before those things would only either entertain or irritate me; hearing a song would trigger an idea, and all of a sudden a scene that I was stuck on for months was suddenly alive and vibrant for me once again… and then, wonder of wonders… miracle of miracles… I found myself writing again, which was something I hadn’t done in MONTHS. And I liked what I was writing. I looked forward to my time at the keyboard every day – on a daily basis, I would celebrate the ideas pouring from my mind, and the words flowing from my fingers. And then I realized, with a laugh, that when I took that daily trek to read my friend’s posts, that I was no longer trepidatious about reading his musings… instead I found joy in what he shared, and pride in the fact that a friend of mine had such a remarkable gift. So I guess what my Grandmother used to say is true after all – we never stop growing.
I am far from a perfect writer; I have as much to learn as I have to share, and here’s hoping that each new day brings me just a little more insight to help me find my way. Now, if only I could learn how to tackle being able to focus on more than one project at a time, then I would be a happy camper!
Baby steps… baby steps.
And now I find that instead of comparing myself to my friend, and finding myself wondering why I don’t write like him, or have a life like his, I am finding myself marveling at the fact that he set me upon a path – a rather circuitous path, but a path all the same, a path towards unlocking the worse case of writer’s block that I’ve had in years. And for that I am incredibly thankful, and grateful. Inspiration can truly come from anywhere… inspiration can come from anything… if you allow yourself to be open to the possibility.
Comparing yourself to others can be a good thing, as long as you don’t lose yourself in the process. When you’re focused on another person’s accomplishments, whether in writing, traveling, or life in general, it’s easy lose focus, and to quit moving forward in your own life. If you’re primarily preoccupied with the progress of others, you won’t even notice that your own life has ground to a screeching halt.
Comparing yourself to others becomes a bad thing when the bitterness you might end up feeling shuts down the parts of your mind that are otherwise open, observing and adapting, which are essential tools for any writer. If you envy the way another writer in your group disciplines himself to write first thing in the morning and last thing at night, you’re less likely to ask him how he does what he does, and less likely to do it yourself.
So, take a tip from me… appreciate the gifts of those around you, and let them inspire you to grow, and enhance your own gifts. If you see something that someone else does that brings envy, use that; create with that… learn from that. Trust me… You got this!
Born in Dayton, Ohio and raised in New York and California, Ken Patton has been passionate about words, theatre and music from an early age. Upon graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles with a BFA in Theatre, Ken continued his career in the Entertainment by spending the next 3 years at Columbia Pictures Television participating in their now defunct on-site talent training program, learning the various aspects of Television production. Ken has been known to serve as a Producer and Story Consultant for various independent features. Ken also works freelance as a Production Manager, Event Manager, and Consultant. Currently, Ken is working on the book and lyrics for an original, contemporary musical Dirty Martini. Workshop performances for Dirty Martini are slated for later this year.