Let’s face it, it’s human nature to compare ourselves to others. Our society encourages us to do it, day in and day out, with the commercials and magazine ads and impossibly perfect women on that t.v show you love. There’s the monetary comparison: Why can’t I get a new Lexus for a Christmas gift? You know, because so many people do. There’s the self-image comparison: Does my skin look as perfect as that chic on Game of Thrones? Which is why I watch The Walking Dead, by the way. I’m BOUND to be better looking than a dead chic with no eye, right???
And if that’s not enough to make us feel like a pile of manure, we as writers subject ourselves to a whole slew of other comparisons in which, more often than not, we come out on bottom.
So, when you’re feeling down because your critique partner just landed your dream agent or you BFF was nominated for the grandest of writing awards, here are a few things I tell myself before digging into that gallon of Chunky Monkey…
Compare apples to apples
I’ve fallen into this trap many times, traveling with my bad girlz to conferences. Still do, actually, as much as I hate to admit it. They’d come out from pitching, all jazzed because an agent wants to see the book they pitched and the four others in their closet, and I come out with an unenthusiastic 50 page request. And while I was truly ecstatic for all their good news, I did start to wonder why I wasn’t getting the same vibe. Was my story not as good? Did I suck at pitching? Should I have worn the red heels instead of the blue?
The answer to all three is no, of course. I’m not subpar, I’m just different. Turns out, agents and editors at romance conferences are actually looking for romances. Crazy, right? It seems like a no brainer, but I have to work at constantly reminding myself that things are always going to be different for me because I have to adhere by a whole different set of rules in a whole different market.
The measurement of someone’s success is not a measurement of your failures
It’s easy to feel like you’ve failed when you see others sitting where you want to be, but the truth is you just haven’t arrived yet. So you didn’t make the best sellers list with this one – doesn’t mean your next won’t. There’s always another story to be written, always another chance. The only way you can fail at this business is to stop writing.
Don’t measure your success against others. Measure it against yourself. Everyone has different circumstances, different responsibilities, different expectations. Work to be a better writer than you were the day before, with your own pace and your own process, and don’t worry about the others.
Don’t change into something that you’re not
I’ve spent hours listening to good advice from my critique partners on how I could change my writing into something that would sell. I mean, I’ve tried everything. And while they were all insightful ideas, in the end I had to decide who I am on my own. It was changing my voice and my whole purpose for writing. It felt like I was constantly battling between who I am and who I thought would sell easier.
But here’s the thing – I don’t want to write my next forty books that way. I want to find an agent and an editor who love my writing the way it is. Maybe in a different story with different characters and a different setting, but still my writing style and voice.
And I will, eventually. I just need to keep writing and keep looking.
How do you deal with those dangerous comparisons?