Stop Comparing Your Writing Journey!

How many writers do you follow on Social Media? I’m curious, because I follow quite a few. Mostly for inspiration but also because I want to connect with other people who do what I do. And it’s a wonderful and beautiful thing to celebrate and connect with others who share some of the same interests that you do, but there is a dangerous trap present too: comparing writing journeys.

I do this.

I do this a lot, actually. Especially when I see someone younger than I am with a slew of titles to their name and a well-establish career. It’s easy to look in on that and think: well, don’t they just have it all. I bet they’ve never struggled with writing or publishing or self-doubt or any of the things I’m dealing with.

But the reality is, that this isn’t easy for anyone. And before we look in on someone’s highlight reel, we need to stop and remember that no one’s journey is painless and perfect. There’s probably a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and backstory that we don’t know. We don’t know about the early mornings or late nights. We don’t see the tough edits or horrible comments. But finishing a book or getting a publishing deal doesn’t just happen. It’s often the culmination of YEARS of hard work and effort.

But we don’t see that. We see the pretty, shiny end product. And it can really take us down when we start comparing where we are to the shiny end product.

And let me tell you friends, that is a nasty and dangerous game to play. But there are things you can do to shift your mindset away from comparing and learn to be a confident and content writer.

Ditch the scarcity mindset.

If you’ve ever panicked when you see someone writing a book that’s similar to yours or (dare I say) even better than yours and think, “Well, why should I even bother? They’re already doing it, so I shouldn’t even try.” That, my dear friend, is a scarcity mindset. This idea that there isn’t enough room for whatever you’re writing or doing. This is a lie.

There is room for you too.

There are millions of readers out there, and every year, new readers are born. No, your work won’t be read by everyone, but that shouldn’t deter you. The people who like steampunk novels will keep reading them. And the children who love animal picture books will read them. Whoever your readers are, they want what you have to offer.

Your journey is not their journey.

In truth, I hate these types of “inspirational” quotes, but it’s true. You cannot compare your writing journey to anyone else’s. Wherever your “chapter one” begins will be different than anyone else’s. Some people are published as teens, while other don’t publish their debut novel until they are collecting Social Security. It doesn’t make one better or worse, it just is.

So just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one word after the other. Put blinders on, and just focus on your writing and your journey. It’s going to look different for each writer.

Be the person who encourages others.

A good practice, no matter what, is to be the person who is kind and encouraging to others. Celebrate the accomplishments of those in your writing group, or authors you follow online. Their successes don’t mean you’re failing, so don’t act like a martyr and pout about it. In fact, finding joy in others can help give you a sense of joy and peace about your writing. (Plus, it makes you a more pleasant person to be around.)

Acknowledge and appreciate what you have accomplished.

One trick I’ve been doing to really help me as I wade through an onslaught of rejection letters (see Project 100), is focusing on the things I have accomplished in my writing. The goals that I had ten-twelve years ago and now see them realized. The habits I’ve gained, or the projects I’ve finished. These things help give me perspective and keep me positive.

Some things to review in your writing include:

  • Pieces you’ve finished–Short stories, poems, manuscripts, etc.
  • Habits you’ve kept up–E.g. writing every day, blogging once a week, keeping track of your ideas and notes
  • Rejections–yes, that sounds weird, but remember, rejections are proof of effort.
  • Pieces you’ve published–whether in print or online, small local journals or huge publications, contest you’ve won or placed in.
  • Improvement in your skills–every time you write, you get better and better. Has your dialogue improved or the voice of your piece gotten stronger? Are you better at plotter or editing now?

I’m not saying that you’ll never stop comparing. But I think if we can focus on the positive, live with an mindset of abundance, and encourage others in a really difficult craft and industry, writing (and life in general) becomes a lot more pleasant and beautiful.

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