Today’s gospel, the parable of the generous vineyard owner (Matthew 20: 1-16), is a message sure to ring true with a lot of people. How often have we been stuck in a dead-end job whilst those on par with us rise to greater things? How often have we received a lower grade from a teacher than a friend with almost the same answer? How often are we surrounded by couples and babies whilst we linger alone?
It’s easy to feel cheated when someone puts in less effort and receives the goal you’ve worked so hard for, and to say ‘it’s not fair’ when things don’t go our way.
This is especially true in the world of art, or, in my case, the world of literature and writing. Whilst I love reading stories of authors who’ve snagged an agent or a book deal, twinges of envy attack me as I read of another’s success.
Some authors are lucky enough to get both in short time after submitting. Understand this isn’t the norm – but when these stories crop up, it’s hard not to notice the level of success the particular author has had, compared to your supposed lack of achievements.
Too, every author has their own style, and it’s easy to criticise their style and berate them for being so successful with it. Remember how subjective reading (and life) is. And there’s probably a lot more to their success story (including previous losses) than they care to share publically.
But think of this, and take from today’s parable the simple idea: they’ve made their journey, and perhaps it’s not the route that would have suited you. Some authors have to go through self-publishing before they can attract the attention of an agent/publisher; others are ready to let certain books go, whereas you might have a confidence in an unusual book regardless of its place in the market.
In the end, you must judge yourself only by your own levels and not by how other people, whose circumstances can never mirror yours (and circumstance and luck/timing plays a major part in art careers), not thinking of what others are getting, but looking on your own pay as a worthy prize. In terms of writing, this means trying to stay away from comparing yourself with another, ‘successful’ (whatever that word may mean for you) writer, and respecting what you have already done on your own journey to ‘success’. Though many people say this, it’s worth reiterating: if your goal is to finish a book and you do so, that is worth celebrating. It’s a step many writers do not make. If you gain a new goal whilst writing to publish said manuscript, good for you to have such a goal. However, do not disregard how far you have already come; whilst ambition is commendable, it is never equal to achievement of the present.
Try not to fall into the camp of thinking ‘it’s not fair’. When someone’s journey may look as if it were lighter than yours, it may have been full of pitfalls you cannot see. Everyone is unique and their experiences reflect from how they’ve lived their life so far. Everyone has their own journey to take and we must trust that the Lord will guide us there in His own time, not what we think is the best time.