‘When you’re creative, you render competition obsolete because there is only one you, and no one can do things exactly the way you do. Never worry about the competition.’
Comparisonitis – a disease that can spread through a writer quicker than an STI at a music festival.
You read your manuscript and sigh, it’s just not as good as <insert name of writer you admire>’s work. Closing your laptop you wonder if you’ll ever get to ‘that level’. You wonder if your characters or your plot lines will ever be that compelling. You wonder if your books will ever grace the window displays in your local bookshop.
May as well just give up now.
It’s pointless to even consider a career as an author.
You feel doomed to live in Mediocre-ville for the rest of your writing life. The people are friendly, the shops are quaint and the hedgerows are neatly trimmed, but, let’s be honest, it’s not the Big City.
There are no bright lights, no hustle and bustle, and no opportunities. The Big City is where you want to live, but it’s not for writers like you. You’re not ‘good enough’.
You’ll stay in Mediocre-ville because it’s comfortable. It’s easy. You can continue comparing yourself to other writers while you prune your hedges.
Hand me a pair of gardening shears, won’t you?
Comparing Yourself to Other Writers
So why do you do it? Why do you compare yourself to other writers to the detriment of your own sanity?
Well, the good news is that it’s perfectly natural.
If you’re at the start of your writing career, you look up to the authors who you admire and long to be as successful and as talented as they are.
You put them on a pedestal.
You imagine them lying in their ivory tower on a bed of cushions, dictating their latest novel to a minion who types furiously on a typewriter until it’s complete.
Nope? Just me then…
But seriously, we tend to put writers we admire on a level that seems impossible to get to. In fact, we often inflate their successes because it seems to justify our own weaknesses.
They must have come out of the womb, pen in hand, with a publishing deal on the weighing scales, right?
But it’s not only writers who suffer from comparisonitis. Why do you think so many celebrities, fitness gurus and thought-leaders are so successful? It’s because people aspire to be like them.
Whether it’s Kim Kardashian’s booty, the washboard abs of David Beckham or the work ethic and attitude of Gary Vaynerchuk, everybody wants something that they haven’t got yet.
They see their heroes with all the success or the fame or the money and they want it too. They devour the celebrity’s content, buy their products and attend their events because they want to be just like them.
And you know what? The celebrity or the guru only becomes more successful and the fan only becomes more dispirited with his own life and his own dreams.
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Writers
So is there a way to stop this comparison madness? Can comparing yourself to other writers actually be an advantage?
Before you become the dispirited fan, believing they’re never going to be as good as their writing heroes, try these on for size.
1. Aspire But Don’t Compare
It’s actually good to aspire to greatness. It can fuel our goal setting, our work ethic and our productivity. But, as Terry Crews says, there is only one you. There will only be the books that you write, the stories you create and the fans that you gather.
Readers will like you for being you. They don’t want an exact replica of another author. They want to find original voices and original stories.
Aspire to be a great author that tells stories their readers love. Don’t aspire to be another Agatha Christie or JK Rowling or Dan Brown.
When you begin comparing yourself to other writers it can have a damaging effect on your creativity.
Aspire to be the greatest version of your author self that you can be. No one else.
2. Everyone Has to Start Somewhere
When you’re reading through your manuscript and start comparing yourself to other writers, remember the following:
- Your hero author (HA) had to write the very first word of their very first book at some point too. Then they wrote another and another until the book was finished. Stop worrying about the level of their writing before you’ve even written a single word.
- Your HA had to suffer rejection, procrastination, self-doubt and negativity too. A publishing deal had to be won through hard work and determination.
- Editors are a writer’s best friend. Your HA would have gone through many revisions and edits before the book became the thing you admire. Nothing is written perfectly on the first attempt.
- The HA will have experience under their belt. Children’s author, Jacqueline Wilson, wrote for twenty years before her first book was published. All that writing experience counts. You don’t run a marathon without putting in the training miles first. A great book about this is: Before You Write a Word . . . by James McCreet.
3. Negative Energy Can Damage Your Chances of Success
What your conscious brain thinks, your subconscious brain believes. If you always tell yourself that you’re ‘never going to make it’ or your writing ‘isn’t good enough’, your sub-conscious brain thinks, ‘Oh okay then, that must be the way things are.’
The scary yet amazing truth is that your subconscious brain doesn’t know the difference between fact and fiction. It simply believes what you tell it and what you visualize as true. If you’re constantly having negative conscious thoughts, your subconscious will believe those to be the truth.
That, in turn, impacts everything. Your desire to write, your productivity and how often you listen to your inner critic.
Find the time to say positive affirmations each and every day. Make them writing-specific. Make them bold and exciting.
The more you tell your subconscious brain that you’re a successful writer, the more it starts to believe it and take that as the truth. Suddenly you’ll find yourself with a whole new outlook on your writing life.
4. Find and Remember Your ‘Why’
People write for different reasons. Some dream of fame and glory, others like to write as a hobby. Most of us would like to be published, either via the traditional route or via self-publishing. We just want to see our book ‘in print’.
If you always compare yourself to other writers, you’re forgetting your ‘why’. Tap back into it – why did you start writing in the first place? What are your goals? Focus on them every day and don’t get sucked into the perceived achievements and successes of others.
Remember, there is no such thing as an ‘overnight success’. Someone who seems to achieve this accolade will often tell you about the many months and years when nobody read anything they wrote.
It takes years to be an overnight success.
5. Be Grateful
Instead of feeling negative or jealous about the successes of more established authors, be grateful to them.
Published authors pave the way for everyone else. Yes, it’s hard to get a traditional publishing deal, but it’s not impossible.
New writers emerge every year and open new avenues with their work. Self-publishing no longer has a stigma attached to it. Furthermore, some traditionally published authors are choosing to self-publish to be in greater control of their writing careers.
Terry Crews addresses this when considering his acting career. For every part he doesn’t get, instead of feeling resentment towards the actor that won the part, he feels grateful to them. They pave the way for him to explore new roles and work with new people.
You are Enough
As writers, we are our own worst critics. When you listen to that inner critic every time they speak or begin comparing yourself to other writers too often, remember this:
You are enough.
Your writing, your efforts and your story… are enough. Don’t try to be someone else, concentrate on being you.
You’ll be a more successful, well-rounded and happier writer.
Goodbye Mediocre-ville, hello Big City.
Do you suffer from Comparisonitis? Do you often compare yourself to other writers? What strategies do you use to overcome this? Leave a comment in the box below – I’m looking forward to hearing from you.