Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Danger of Comparisons

During a conversation with a dear author friend (who happens to be VERY successful), the issue of comparisons was raised. My friend commented that no matter how far along her author journey she traveled, she was still vulnerable to comparing herself, her work, her achievements with other authors.

At first I was flabbergasted, spluttering  "'re a REAL bestseller!"

Of course, having reached those ranks, she's now friends with many other bestsellers. She still finds weaknesses in her own writing. She still has projects that don't reach the heights expected by her publisher. She still, at times, feels inadequate.

Just like me. And, I'm guessing, just like you.

It got me thinking: When I first started writing for publication (and frankly, to this day) I constantly ran into writers who were so much better than me. When I first looked for an agent, there were friends who got agents sooner, faster, easier... When my book went out to editors, there were writers who got contracts. And not just nice contracts like mine, but big offers that came faster, better, with fewer obstacles than mine. 

And now I'm staring down the barrel of my third book as a firmly midlist author while many friends books sell more, or their contracts get bigger instead of staying steady. Or they turn out five books in two years so their income is much higher.

I realized that I give it any thought at all, it quickly becomes clear that no matter what stage of the writing journey I am in, there is always someone further ahead, more talented, or more successful.

Is there anything to gain by comparing ourselves to others who've done better? (Or conversely, to others who've done worse?).

I think not. 

I'm not going to feed you platitudes about us all being in this together, or sharing the joys and trials of your fellow authors. We definitely do share the ups and downs--and no one is more empathetic about the journey than other writers. But the fact is, there will always be people and projects you and I can point to and say "I'm crap", or those we can point to and say "I'm not doing so bad..."

So, I want to tell you that there is no comparison. No one else wrote your book. No one else created your world. No one else's audience is exactly the same.

The question can't be about whether someone else is more successful or has a better fan club. Because their fanclub adores THAT book.

The thing you and I need to focus on isn't whether or not some other writer wrote a better book. Because I write for my audience, and you write for yours. Neither of us writes for theirs. The question we really need to ask is whether or not we've done the best for our readers.

Have I worked hard to get the technical aspects right, to better deliver my world to my reader?

Have I made sure that someone who hasn't heard me explaining characters and talking plot for the past six months can follow my story?

Have I done the best research to ensure my characters are realistic in their motives, their reactions, their intents?

Have I written the story I'm urged to write. Not the one I think will WIN?

Then the only comparison can be with my own work. 

Is this book better than the last one? Is this book in the very best shape I'm capable of molding? 

If the answer is yes, then that is winning.

Goals are good. Dreams should be pursued. But there are just too many things in this industry that we can't control. 

The only thing firmly in my hands is whether or not I'm still growing and developing. Whether I'm the best writer I'm capable of being, for my personal audience.

And for today, at least, I say "Yes. Yes, I am."

Can you?

Your Turn: What's the hardest thing about your current point in the writing journey?

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