Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Beware, Don't Compare
Did you hear about Susie? She began writing only last year and sold her very first book! I’ve been writing and submitting for five years and haven’t even had a request.
I heard that Sally just got a three-book deal with a big New York publisher. She and I used to be critique partners and everyone said my writing was better than hers.
Janie told me she writes 15 to 20 pages a day. Well of course she does! She doesn’t have a husband or kids to interrupt her.
When I set goals each month, I’m forced to not only examine past goals and whether I achieved them but I am also tempted to compare myself to others. Did I write as many pages as they did? Submit as many stories? Make as many sales?
Comparisons are by their very nature a recipe for failure. Desiderata author Max Ehrman wrote “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
In the case of the statements above, maybe Susie’s really been writing in secret for years and was afraid – or even ashamed – to admit she wrote romance novels until she’d honed her craft. As for Sally and her critique partner, that’s one of the deadliest traps to fall into – comparing your writing to someone else’s. Each author has a unique voice and to weigh one against the other is like comparing apples and oranges. And what about Janie? Did you know her children are grown and live across the country where they can’t visit often? And Janie’s husband passed away year before last after a long battle with cancer. She wasn’t able to write a word during his illness or for a year after he died; the spark just wasn’t there.
An old Native American proverb states, “Before you judge another man, first walk a mile in his moccasins.” Have you always been willing to tell everyone you’re a writer? Have you been through a life-altering or life-threatening family health experience?
As writers, we are taught to read and study our target market. Reading expertly crafted writing hones your own skills. There is also no deadlier trap than quitting because you believe your writing falls short of the work you’ve read.
Nido Qubein, author, educator and businessman, wrote, “Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people.”
This doesn’t mean I’ll stop reading. It does mean that instead of comparing myself to the latest New York Times bestseller, I will compare what I’ve achieved against the standards I’ve set for myself. Did I meet my daily page goal? My monthly submission goal? If so, I’m as much a success as that Times bestseller. If not, perhaps I set an unrealistic goal, failed to consider possible obstacles or just didn’t do the work necessary to hit the mark.
And what is the solution? It’s certainly not to gauge myself against someone else. I must re-evaluate, re-consider and work harder because I can’t be someone else; I can only be the best me.
Are you tempted to compare? If so, how do you combat the urge? If not, tell us your secret!
P.S. One of the Playfriends is posting this for me since I'm out of town visiting with former guest blogger Roxanne St. Claire who is attending a promotional event in Birmingham. I don't know if I'll have internet access or not. I'll be back home Wednesday afternoon.
Yesterday's winner is ayla because she too has been saved by her geek--gotta love 'em. Email PC (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a mailing address to claim your prize!