Dear Young Creative, Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Writers
...instead of comparing yourself to other writers to feel miserable, do this instead
“Comparison Is the Thief of Joy.”
As humans (and creatives), we hold the notion that life is all about going up, up, up, at full speed all in the pursuit of our dreams. When we decide that you must fill our space in life and make our journey worthwhile, we are never ready to let any kind of obstacle or failure pin us down or push us against our success. We fight hard in the battle of life and take the challenges that come our way with courage, determination and perseverance that sometimes surprises us. We just keep moving forward with hope while believing that a day will soon come when we will finally get to our desired destination. That the day when life puts the crown of success on our heads is not so far.
However, despite having this strong conviction, we never know how best to deal with the anxiety that fills the space between the ‘now’ and the ‘when’ I speak of. The anxiety of perhaps not doing the right thing and messing everything up. The anxiety of not being good enough. We all have days when nothing we do feels good enough. There are times when it seems like our future holds relatively few promising opportunities. And other times, we fail to see what is truly important.
As writers, we sometimes want to compare ourselves to other writers, which is wonderful for inspiration, but when we compare ourselves to other authors to judge how brilliant or "horrible" we are, it can be really hope-killing.
It is easy to fall prey to the lure of comparing ourselves to other writers when we come across a writer whose style is more incredible than ours, whose characters are more realistic, whose paychecks are greater, and whose praises are louder. Talk of international acclaim. When this happens, we find ourselves desiring, we find ourselves wanting to cry in a corner about how miserable we are. To cry about how our talents may never measure up.
But when we do that, we deprive ourselves of satisfaction in our work when we compare ourselves to other writers. It is easy to feel inadequate when we do that, which never leads to long-term contentment.
Yes, your poetry may never be up to Shakespearean standards and you may never write like George R.R. Martin. But remember that you are you and that is what makes you unique. Maya Angelou wrote like Maya Angelou and not like J.K. Rowling. Stephen King wrote as he would and now he has a name for himself. Every creative is unique. Just because your approaches or tactics differ from everyone else's doesn't make them any less legitimate.
I know there are authors who were published when they were young and there are others who received a fortuitous break into the profession. There are creative people who are living all the success stories you have so much wanted to live. But one thing about those wonderful creatives is that they didn't get where they are now by attempting to be someone else; they got there by being themselves and putting in a lot of hard work. You may not be where they are, but if you don't believe in yourself, you'll never get there.
You can strive to write as well as they do, but don't compare your work to theirs. The key thing is to recognize that your work is somewhat better today than it was yesterday and that your next work is slightly better than your first. All that really matters is that your skills are on an upward trajectory and that you get to be the writer (or creative) you want to be. Yes, look up to other great authors and learn from them, but never let the works of other great authors make you feel like you are not meant for this world of writing. For what it is worth, they were all once doubtful, like you. Now look at them.
To tell you what, this low road of “comparison” is not all that gloomy and doesn't always spell doomsday. Comparisons are a normal human propensity that isn't always negative. In reality, people do it all the time. We compare our present state of being or success to where we came from. We compare our current self to our past self. We compare our knowledge and talents to others in our area.
All of these can be positive. There are some benefits to it.
So, instead of comparing yourself to other writers to feel miserable, do this instead.
Look up these industry greats and establish a benchmark for where you are and where you want to be in your journey. Instead of launching into a self-destructive mode, find inspiration. Look at their success stories and tell yourself it can be you too if you put in the work. Knowing how to channel these comparisons can afford you useful knowledge for self-improvement.
Acknowledge that your journey will be distinct from that of others. Simply because you go about things in a different way than others doesn't mean you are doing them incorrectly. Everybody plays the cards they are dealt differently, so your path will never be exactly the same as someone else's. And guess what? There is nothing wrong with it at all. The goal is to keep going and you will be surprised at what you can achieve from it. Never let yourself feel inadequate because a popular writer or an icon you look up to do things differently. Sometimes, you can learn from their journey, but you always need to come back to your own path.
Instead of assessing your success through the eyes of others, examine yourself. If you have a goal in mind, don't compare yourself to other writers who have already accomplished that goal. Instead, use your prior self as a yardstick. Advancement seldom happens as quickly as we'd want. But regardless of how our efforts stack up against those of others, if we concentrate on the tiny steps we make every day to improve, we may be proud of what we're doing.
It's always a smart idea to have objectives to strive towards, but you should make sure they are both attainable and align with your own desires, devoid of extraneous forces telling you what you should be doing with your life. Suffice it to say, don't feel pressured to do things entirely different than you may want to.
When you decide that the only person you have to please is yourself, it is empowering and motivating. It is a fantastic feeling shutting out the opinions of the outside world which is what I encourage each and every one of you do. If the only person you are competing with is yourself, you can set realistic, attainable, and rewarding goals.
Sometimes the only option is to text a friend or arrange to meet up after work for a drink and let loose. They probably completely understand where you're coming from (particularly if they're themselves writers) and can offset your annoyance with a different viewpoint. Knowing you're not alone in your feelings about your favourite writers is undoubtedly comforting.
Develop enthusiasm for others. When you are tempted to compare your accomplishments to someone else's when you observe their success, replace those negative thoughts with positive ones about the other person. By actively encouraging those who are succeeding, you may reprogram your brain to view other people's successes as thrilling rather than threatening or disheartening.
Seize the opportunity. Make a change if you're not satisfied with where you are on your creative path. Don't squander any more time. You may turn those unfavourable thoughts about other writers around and set yourself some attainable ambitions. Do you wish to create more wonderful stories? Set deadlines and start writing. Infatuated with a specific author's writing style or technique? Try it out and see how it works in your own writing!
Keep in mind why you're writing. Are you writing in order to be the best? To win awards? To demonstrate your talent or capability to others? Or do you write because you like it? Because you wish to assist others? Because you want to teach, inspire, and uplift others? Ponder that.
“By writing something I genuinely enjoy writing, I remember why I chose writing as a career in the first place. I remember that it is the very act of writing, of storytelling, of expressing myself, that makes me smile. Not six-digit book deals and thousands of Twitter followers. Soon, I forget that I was comparing myself to someone more successful than me.”
That is their way of getting out of the deep trenches of self-loathing. It is effective. Try that or any of the other 8 options above. Also, let me know in the comment section if you have a personal way out of these trenches that weren't captured by me. Share it and let others learn from it.
As already established, comparisons can be a double-edged sword. They may be a great motivation, but they can also be a powerful discouragement from doing anything. They are also detrimental to our mental health in the long run. Stay away from it as best as you can.
I don't know who needs to hear this right now at this moment but just write. Yes, do it, even if it's the last thing you do. And while you are at it, remember to not give up, even if you feel it isn't that good—someone somewhere is waiting for that masterpiece you are writing. Keep writing.
As I keep saying, remember that you are MADE for greatness. #MayWeAllBeGreat
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