Competition; namely, competition with me. One of the beauties of writing for a monopoly paper like the Chronicle is that if you’re coverage an event or issue is mediocre, at least there’s nothing better for readers to compare it to. Sure, they might think, “This stinks,” but you really can’t appreciate how truly blase a story is until you compare it with another, better written story about the same subject.
The same goes for writers. Which is why, when I wrote a story about a truck bringing steel from the World Trade Center through town, I was very depressed to read a much, much better story about the same event in the Washington Post the next day. I won’t go into all the ways in which Ylan Q. Mui’s story sends my story whimpering away with its tail between its legs, especially since I don’t have a link to my story to provide you with. But I assure you, it does. [Update: here’s my story.]
In tennis, it’s said, that you only get better if you play against someone who’s better than you are. I don’t know about that. I always got discouraged and stopped chasing after the ball. By the way, I see Mui at the event — we both interviewed one of the organizers after the ceremony described in the story, and I strongly doubt she’s out of her mid-20s. Which makes me feel a little bit like the 32-year-old guy hitting .250 in the minor leagues, still hoping for a chance at the big time. Sometimes you’ve got to know when to pack it in.
Fortunately, I don’t need to be good enough to write for the Post. I only need to be good enough to write for the Sun. And I’m learning. Yes, I’m learning. I just can’t stop learning something new every day, damn these brain cells of mine.