Writer Self-Sabotage Series: Comparing Yourself To Other Writers

It’s winding down towards the evening. You’re exhausted from all that you've tackled throughout the day. The kids are down (if no little humans, replace with pets or stuffed dolls).

The house is... it’s, well, meh, and it must do until tomorrow. It’s been a long day and you’re ready to take it in.

You want to get an early start on your writing project tomorrow, so you open your Google docs or Word or Scrivener file to see where you left off in the ol’ word count section.

1,267 words! That was more than yesterday and last week combined! Come to think of it, 1,267 words was your best the entire month!

You give yourself a pat on the back. Satisfied, you close your doc and head to bed, when you get a notification on your phone, and of course you MUST look to see who or where it’s from at eleven thirty-six in the evening.

Oh, It’s @Author_WordSlayer4Lyfe on Instagram. She just put up a post about her WIP. 63,999 words! How in the world? No way! This girl's a beast!

You think back to your own word count. Your measly 1,267 words. The number plays over in your head. You feel the sudden need to want to write more. Surely you can type at least another 2,000 more words before bed, if you reeeeeeally went for it.

You crack back open your laptop, open up your WIP and begin on a frenzy of all night madness. You work until 3am, trying to attain your new goal of 3,267 words.

You’re exhausted from the overkill and need to get to bed.

Before you shut your eyes, you think of your writer friend on Instagram and how she could dish out 63,999 words in one week. Why is it so hard for you to focus these days? What’s wrong with you?

You doubt yourself. You feel discouraged. You slowly give up on your WIP. You take a 3-month break that turns into six and you stray further away from your writing project.

Did I describe a fraction of what you do or have done before? What were the pitfalls? Do any of them sound familiar to you?

Many writers can relate to this roller coaster of emotional torture. It’s called writer self-sabotage, and it can happen in many ways. One way is through comparison with other writers.

Why do we feel the need to look to someone else’s work as validation for our own? Why Do we make a habit of comparing word counts, and published works, and even our schedules to other writers?

We do this because we are not yet content with our own writing. Somewhere along the way, we've lost our confidence as a writer (or may have never had any to begin with), and we look to other writers as a model of what we hope to be. Hope to gain.

How Comparison Can Be Detrimental To Your Progress As A Writer

When we compare ourselves to other writers, we subconsciously tell ourselves that we are not satisfied with our own work. Somehow we've drifted away from making progress and thrown ourselves off course.

Comparing your work to other writers will in fact slow you down. If you become fixated on another writer’s work, how are you moving forward with your own?

So many things can come into play when you put yourself up against another writer, and frantically, it is unhealthy for your progress and development.

Every writer is unique, has their own style of writing and skill set.

That 63,999 words that can take one writer 30 days to accomplish, may take another writer six months to even come close.

Don’t get too caught up in numbers and stats. It’s tempting. Trust me, I know, as I learned this the hard way.

I remember a few years ago, telling myself that I would get back to taking my writing seriously (for the twentieth time!). All my family, friends, even teachers were encouraging me to write a book. “You’re an excellent writer”, or “you have such a way with words”. This is what I heard and quite often. It was pretty cool to be thought of as a writer, me? I enjoyed the compliments.

So I decided that I would do the thing. I would write this book that everyone else wanted me to write...but did I want to write it? No. Not at that time anyway. So what happened? I made an attempt at novel writing and NEVER followed through with finishing. I got discouraged, because it had been years since I wrote anything longer than a to-do list and I felt I lost my way as a writer.

If I waited for perfection, I would never wrote a word. - Margaret Atwood

I was however, doing more reading during this time, and I got so caught up with all the authors that were releasing so many books within one year! It scared the mess out of me. How could I ever live up to this status? How could I compare? There would be no way humanly possible that I could write even one book every year.

It wasn’t a reality for me. So, I soaked in feelings of incompetence and left writing alone entirely for years. I compared myself to authors that have been writing for decades and felt like an infant, trying to measure up to their accomplishments.

Did I ever recover from my tragic writer experience? Yes and It took years for me to realize that it was okay to be exactly where I was in my writing journey. I had to learn that my journey is my journey, no one else's and I can be content with who I am as a writer. But what did I do exactly to overcome this? Well, I started to focus more on my own writing.

I learned my writing style, curated a voice (that I'm still figuring out, however, appreciating what I'm discovering), created a writing routine, figured out my writing process (and this changes from time to time), and played around with story telling in other genres that I wasn't used to writing in.

I also started reading tons of writing craft books to help me hone my own writing skill.

As I was putting more focus and effect in my own writing, I became less focused on other people's writing and less comparisons were made. I'm at a point now where I respect who I am becoming and learning what makes me a writer, and of course, embracing it.

3 Healthy Ways To draw Inspiration From Other Writers

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. - Stephen King

Read other writers/authors work

There’s nothing wrong with reading other writers’ and/or other authors’ material, in fact, it’s encouraged that you do so. This can not only strengthen your skill set as a writer, but reading allows you to draw so much inspiration for your own material.

Reading various genres and understanding how different writers use their own voice is beneficial. You can learn an impressive deal just by studying other authors.

Take some time to read your favorite author’s work. Read through the material as a writer, and not as a reader. When you read as a writer, you open yourself up to explore the author’s work critically, other than discovering the story (as a reader would do). By doing this, you can learn what made the story great (or not so great). You can pick up a sense of style and voice and learn the structure of a story from beginning to end.

Critique for other writers

Another healthy way to draw inspiration from other writers is by critiquing. This is done as the former suggestion, however, the only difference here is that the writer knows about you and has agreed to allow you to critique their work. This can be especially useful if you critique swap with other writers and you receive some feedback on your own writing in return for giving feedback on theirs.

Join a writing community or support group

The writing community is filled with some of the most positive and supportive people I know! Joining a club or support group for writers is a great way to get feedback on your work, learn writing craft, network, communicate, vent and make friends! Writers are hungry for strong, healthy support systems, so if you can find an inviting writing community to be a part of, you will gain a lifetime of support!

Photo credit: My Life Through A Lens (Unsplash)

Writing is difficult. It’s challenging, frustrating, embarrassing, painful, emotional, and maybe even a few other choice words I wouldn’t dare express. Long story short, writing is hard, and for some, it’s one of the hardest things they’ve had to do in life. To pour your heart and soul on paper and have people read what’s been locked up in your head, it’s a vulnerable predicament to be in, and it’s no wonder why so many writers crave to be prolific! Writers appreciate their readers' understanding of their visions.

Never compromise your journey by comparing what you can do as a writer to what others are doing. This will slow you down in the long run and only fill your head with negativity, and who needs any of that? Especially now.

If you get to a point where you are on the brink of comparison, stop and have a pep talk with yourself. Ask yourself why you are even writing. Is it to create beautiful stories that take readers away from their world and nestles them into a world that you’ve designed and crafted all for their pleasure? Or is it to get in your feelings every time you feel inadequate about your writing?

If you write because you want to create dynamic characters and intriguing fictional places to visit, comparing yourself to someone else’s passion and goals will not help you attain your own!

You are a writer. Believe in who you are and own what you do. Focus on building a level of respect for yourself as a writer, and you won’t need to compare yourself to what the next writer is doing.

You got this!

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Until next post or email...

Just keep writing! ; )

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