I came across this old post the other day and thought it was both a timely reminder and a message worth re-sharing.
It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap. I’ll be heading off to RWA nationals soon and, although I’ll undoubtedly come back with a lot of useful information and a renewed commitment to my writing, it’s very likely that I’ll also come back with thoughts of “I’ll never write as many books as Author X” and “I’m not nearly as far along in my writing career as Author Y.” It doesn’t help when I see notes from ghost-writer friends about their 10,000 word days or how they drafted out a book in a week. Though I intellectually know better, and it tends to take the shine off my own progress, it is regrettably easy to do.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
As writers, we’re all on our own paths. Writing the stories that only we can write, and in a way that is unique to us. Comparing ourselves to others does little more than take some of the fun out of our creative process and can, in some cases, stop creativity dead in its tracks.
“There is no comparison between that which is lost by not succeeding and that which is lost by not trying.” ~ Francis Bacon
Avoiding the comparison trap is a challenge for me because, as I found out during one of the random “team building” assessments we periodically do at work, I’m a bit competitive. Gasp! I don’t think of myself as competitive, but when I asked some independent observers for confirmation (i.e., family members), they responded with comments like “oh you absolutely are” and bombarded me with examples.
I, like my manuscript, am a work in progress, and there’s no time for comparisons with others.
Comparison really is the thief of joy. It’s so easy when we look up from the keyboard and make connections with other writers to see ourselves lacking in some way. But every step we take—a chapter finished, an idea followed, an outline completed—is a milestone we can feel good about. There really are many roads to Oz, and lots of those roads have detours. Enjoying the journey is part of the process
You’re absolutely right Kay, about the many roads to Oz and the joy of the journey. Coincidentally, the latest plaque that I put up on my office wall says, “Find Joy in the Journey.”
Now I just need to take my own advice 🙂
This is a timely reminder, Elizabeth, thank you! I’m thrilled about my Golden Heart final, obvs, but I’ve spent the last three months chatting to the other finalists about their manuscripts, their previous finals, their agents, their editors, and their publishing plans. The Omegas (GH Class of ’19) are all nice, smart women, pursuing their own individual goals, but it’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking I could/should/could never do what they are doing instead of focusing on what’s right for me.
As Kay says, there really are many roads to Oz. And nothing but good times ahead 🙂
Nothing but good times ahead indeed, Jilly. Glad you have made such a nice connection with the Omegas. It seems like those connections are really some of the biggest positives of the GH nomination.
I’m trying to focus on the progress that I’ve made since I first joined RWA, rather than being distracted by the progress others have made, but it is definitely a challenge sometimes.
I fall into the comparison trap all the time. Even amongst us – some of our 8L are going gangbusters with published stories and I’m stagnant.Of course, it’s completely my fault as I’m not doing it and they are. And I’m ecstatic for them.I need to use their successes as motivation for me. And get writing.
I hear you, Michille. I’d love to use their successes as motivation to get writing as well, but I’m afraid my slothful nature keeps getting in the way. Or maybe it’s all those enticing bright shiny objects that keep catching my eyes.
Comparison is really a double-edged sword. It’s fun! And you can “steal” ideas (not really stealing, but yeah, stealing and making them your own). There’s nothing like a good rival to spur one to greater heights — note, a GOOD rival. A bad rival could get you killed, or make you kill yourself with overwork, and I say that light-heartedly, but is could easily get dark.
I think one of the tricks is to get a whole lot of measuring sticks. Throw away the ones that make you despair, and keep the ones that make you feel good, and the ones that make you try harder.
Also, it’s important to compare with yourself. (Although that can be a depression trap, too.) I have a lot more writing experience than I did seven years ago, and I have some (unpublished but finished) stories to show for it.
I don’t know how in the hell I managed to make time two hours each night to do NaNo during the years I did well, but I do know that I did it, so I feel like I might be able to do it again someday, if I need to.
(-: I’m really happy for our ladies who are getting their works published and out in the world. I feel a little bit jealous, but wow! I might do the same, someday. (Well, not the same. In my own, inimitable way, I’ll do something.)
When it comes right down to it, we’re the only one in the world who can tell a story a certain way, and that has to count for something. There’s no comparison.
Michaeline, I love the idea of throwing away the measuring sticks that make you despair and keeping the ones that make you feel good. That definitely needs to go on my priority list.
I’m pretty sure that no matter how well I do, it will never be enough. My parents installed an “over-strive” button deep inside my psyche when I was a small child and whenever I succeed at something, I find a way to recast it as failure.
Yay! I won the Golden Heart! Boo, I didn’t get a publisher.
Yay! I’m a finalist in two contests this year with the book of my heart! Boo, I didn’t final in the RITA.
Yay! I have wonderful reviews on my books! Boo, I only have a handful of them.
I’d like to think that having a bestseller would finally assuage that need, but I’m pretty sure I’d just feel disappointed that no one wanted to make it into a movie..
I was raised having it constantly pointed out to me how others were nicer, smarter, more successful, etc. It was intended (I think) to be motivational, but was mostly just tiresome. That’s why, as Kay mentioned above, I try to put my focus on the journey.
Maybe it would be different if what we accomplished was based solely on how much work we put into writing/publishing/marketing, but there seems to be such a component of luck, timing, fickle reader-preference.
P.S. I would totally make a movie out of your bestseller 🙂