Wednesday, February 6, 2013
4 Reasons Not to Compare Yourself with Other Writers
You know the signs: you'll read a book that's so great you'll think you'll never be able to write something as good. Or you'll secretly grumble because someone published the very first book they'd ever written and you're slaving on book seven with no signs of a contract.
And so the spiral into a morass of negative thoughts begins. The threat of giving up becomes all too real and the very thing that started as a way towards helping your writing becomes the thing that harms it. Below are my reasons why it doesn't need to get that far:
1. The volume of work is hidden. As writers, we sagely claim no one can understand the amount of work that goes into writing a novel. Certainly, none of our friends or relatives could possibly have an inkling. I'm sure most of my friends think I spend all day goofing off or staring into space. Only other writers get that it's not just about writing a story; there's all the rewrites, the edits, the countless scenes that had to be written, polished, then tossed. So why do we forget that when it comes to comparing our work with that treasure we found in the bookstore? Like crows to a shiny, all we see is the finished work and marvel at its glory. Common sense? Pish posh! Leave that to the mathematicians.
2. The lone author is an illusion. Even though only the author's name is printed on the cover as the creator of a novel, no one produces a book on their own—not even self-published authors. There's a team of people behind every good book. The critique partners, the beta readers, the cheer squads, the editors, the publishers. So when you compare yourself with other writers, you're actually comparing yourself with a whole team of experienced professionals.
3. Overnight successes don’t happen. You want the manuscript you’re working on to be the one everyone falls in love with. You want a bestseller. You want recognition. You want the world when it comes to your writing. And you want it all now. If other authors have it all now, then why can’t you? Well, you can’t have it all now. Not even the authors falling into the 0.0001% category of those who earn millions from their writing got it all now. Overnight successes are a myth. Good writers need to be thrown into the fiery pit of big candy-floss dreams, claw our way up from wastelands of self-doubt and knock backs, and cling with tenacious hearts to the ugly rope of hard work until we drag ourselves free only to go through it all over again. And that takes time.
4. Everyone is unique. Trite, but true. While a lot can be learned from listening to other writers' processes and their journeys to publication, it's impractical and improbable that you’ll take exactly the same road. You’ll have a different background, different connections, a different approach, and a different voice. This doesn't mean different is bad. Different is simply, well, different. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it except suck it up and find what works for you.
How does comparing yourself with other writers affect your work? How do you avoid it?
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