Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Comparison Trap

A hard-and-fast rule any writer should follow is this: don’t compare yourself to other writers.  Just because someone writes 20 pages a day, or sells their first manuscript, doesn’t mean you can or ever will be able to write that fast or sell that soon.  Every writer has to follow her own path to success.  

Jealousy is an ugly emotion.  Yes, it’s human nature to feel envy, but a full-blown case of jealousy is simply bad for the soul.  In other words, it’s okay to wish you could arrive at the same place as your more successful peers, but it’s not okay to wish they hadn’t gotten there.

Don’t let the green-eyed beast eat at your sanity.  Celebrate the success of others and find motivation in their accomplishments.  They very well may be blazing the trail that you will soon follow. 

Jealousy can work in your favor by showing you what you really want and where you really want your writing career to go.  Instead of spending your time and energy measuring and comparing yourself to other writers, focus on what you can do to help yourself meet your own goals.  Take an online writing workshop to help hone your craft.  Attend a writer’s conference to get inspired.  Do anything and everything you can to keep yourself focused on your writing goals.  Be warned: don’t get so involved in the writing life that all you’re doing is talking writing, attending meetings, e-mailing writing buddies, or blogging about writing.  In addition to all of these things, you must continue to write.

Let’s face it: no one gets better at anything by simply comparing themselves to others.  They get better by doing the work.  A surfer doesn’t get better by bemoaning the fact that he can’t ride waves as well as the next guy.  He gets better by training, practicing new techniques and developing his balance.  Writing muscles and expertise work the same way.

Jealousy is a big fat time waster that can easily sabotage writing goals.  Believe me.  I’ve wrestled with the green-eyed monster on occasion.  Each and every time I did so, I got a case of writer’s block. 

Thankfully, I clawed my way out of the dark pit of self-doubt.  I ignored that nagging little voice in the back of my head telling me everything I wrote was no good.  I didn’t care if I wrote fast.  I didn’t pressure myself to keep up with someone else’s word count.  I allowed myself the time I needed and harnessed my envy and self-doubt into energy.   Once I finally let go of comparing myself to what everyone else was doing, it freed me to concentrate on my own writing.  

So there you have it.  To become a better writer, don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.  Just do your own thing and let that be enough.  Learn the craft through classes, conferences, and books.  Then just write.   Your writing will improve every time you put a word on the page.


  1. Excellent post! I'm bookmarking this. I think I really needed to read this today =)

  2. Thanks, Natalie! So glad my post helped you.