This isn't a new lesson. It's an old one. Quite old. Ancient, perhaps. There will always, always be someone better than you. Even if you're the world champion in the Track and Field 400m dash, there will always be someone to challenge you. More so, there may be someone who is better than you at the 200m, or the 100. Switch sports, and you may lose all your advantage. You are then no one special. I find this humbling. And rightfully so.
I think writers must be competitive at heart, or else it's too easy to give up and let go of your writing dreams. Even so, when you find yourself pitted against a near-equal, or someone who is obviously better than you, or even someone that you don't perceive as better than you yet beats you in a competition, jealousy is the natural emotion.
I don't like to think of myself as a jealous person. I don't like to give in to envy. But is some of it useful? Does that envy teach me a lesson? Absolutely.
Writing is a subjective art. Just like painting, what one person considers a masterpiece, another considers a waste of space. In writing, what one person loves, another may hate.
I find that I am an atypical reader. I don't like commercial fiction very much. I prefer slower paced literary novels. In fact, I cannot remember the last best seller that I read and enjoyed like the masses (Hunger Games, maybe? Although I thought that could have been done better). Am I too critical? Maybe. But I like to think it's because I know what I like, and only a few people deliver that. I not only want a great plot, but above average (okay, excellent) writing and grammar. I want good structure and surprising plot twists, lovable characters and surprising depth. I want it all. If it doesn't check all the boxes, then I'm not a satisfied reader. But I'm like one of those first-time home buyers who goes in with a list a mile long, expecting not to compromise. And I won't compromise, darn it!
So why should I compromise in my own writing? I am also one of those writers stuck in perpetual edits. It is never, ever good enough. I'm not a perfectionist in everything, but I am with writing. Because why, oh why?, would I put anything less than my best work out there? The only problem is that I am constantly learning and improving. It's almost like the newest iPhone (to use yet another metaphor). As soon as I finish one edit of a WIP, I know exactly how I could improve it--because the last edit taught me so much about writing, I can see new errors in old work. (You know, like as soon as you buy the new iPhone, the newer one comes out, showing you all the things you didn't know you needed?)
Yeah. That's me. So I guess I need to get okay with the fact that there will always be a book better than mine out there. There will always be readers that prefer someone else's writing over mine. There will always be improvements that I wish I could make to my novel. There will always, always, be someone better. That's not their fault. It's mine. Not only do I need to keep striving and keep writing, but I need to accept something as finished, even when I still think it's not "perfect."