Once upon a time, the greatest fire in recent memory ripped through the vast landscape of Kansas, leaving a desolate and charred corpse of what had been lush and green farmland before. All of the nearby towns sent their fire departments in to help in combating the blaze. But, no matter how they tried, they couldn't keep the inferno from spreading.
Not long after, when it seemed that defeat was imminent, a small fire engine appeared on the road, sent from a small town several hours away. Without hesitating, it sped past the other trucks and into the center of the fire, driving in circles and manically spraying this way and that.
Suddenly, something miraculous started to happen. The fire began to fall under control. The other fire engines joined in and, several hours later, the fire had been safely contained.
A week so later, the country held an awards ceremony. There they had several speeches from the County Commissioner and presented an award to the Fire Chief who was valiantly and bravely drove headlong into the fire. Along with the award, he was presented with an award of $1000. The local reporter asked the Fire Chief, "What do you think you'll do with the money?"
The Fire Chief smiled "First thing I'm going to do..is get that damned fire engine's brakes fixed."
My father told me this story years ago as an anecdote, but I have found it to be a very important realization in my life as a creator. You see, many times, we see other artists hurdle artistic milestones and make great work, it can be easy to think that it just somehow comes naturally for them. That somehow, they are able to pull things off with ease while we simply struggle.
Experience has taught me however, that nothing could be further from the truth. All of the titans that we all hold in such regard battle through the process just as much as you and I. Sure, they might have larger resources, they might have certain things made easier, but we can likely assume that for every advantage that they possess, there is just another stress of aspect of concern added.
To use a well worn analogy, the creative giant is often like the image of a duck, seemingly peacefully gliding across the water. Only, if were to look underwater, we would see the duck's feet paddling like hell. One of the great powers that I have been learning to develop myself is how to conceal my efforts in order to let my results define themselves. It's a subtle art and is used by many of the best out there today.
So, next time another's work makes you feel inadequate or somehow less-than, remember the story of the fire engine, and realize that maybe, just maybe - they're going at it so hard because they've lost control of the breaks. It's a matter of survival.