The Comparison Game

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Hello lovelies and welcome back to the blog.

Have you ever read a really good book? I mean one of those great books that made you want to become a writer? The ones full of descriptive worlds, achingly real characters, and beautiful prose? You read certain pieces of writing, and just about die on the spot because the writing is so good. Then you come back to your own draft and you want to burn your entire novel world to the ground. You get into this terrible mindset where that book you read was so good, and you’ll never hope to write or publish anything that good ever in your lifetime so why even try?

That voice inside of you that says that you are an utter failure and that you are and will never be that good? Kick it. It’s lying to you. That defeatist mentality can only set you up for failure and mask some very important truths.

  1. That published author has a team. 

Whether indie or traditional, that published author has had people behind them with eyes on their books suggesting and helping to make improvements at every step, and likely with multiple drafts. You are not seeing their first drafts! You are seeing a draft that has been scoured through multiple times, likely by alpha readers, beta readers, critique groups, an agent, an editor, by the marketing team going over the interior details, and by the author going over it multiple times themselves. 

  1. That published author may not have published the first book they ever wrote.

Brandon Sanderson famously wrote thirteen novels that he tried to sell before Elantris ever got sold. In his own words, Brandon says, “The journey from starting to write to actually getting published was long, frustrating, and difficult. I wrote 13 novels before I sold Elantris, which was my sixth. The big change for me happened when I managed to figure out how to revise. I always had good ideas and got better and better at storytelling. But it was the power of revision that finally got me published. It took about eight years of dedicated writing and being rejected.”

  1. That published author isn’t you.

Of course stories about magical boys discovering their origins as they learn to wield magic at their magical school has been done before. But has it been done before by you? You are likely to tell a wholly different story than she-who-must-not-be-named, and there is so much room in this world for the story that you want to tell.

So how can you overcome that tragic little voice inside that tells you that your writing is trash and you should just never try? It’s so hard, because I feel that way myself so often. 

  1. Focus on the story you want to tell or the impact you want to make.

Most likely, you started writing because you had a story you wanted to tell. Maybe you enjoyed reading. Maybe you wanted to say something that would make an impact. Double down on your why. Right now, you have the chance to do the work just for the pleasure of it, just for yourself and for no one else. Focus on the story and the impact in the here and now.

  1. Don’t worry about it. 

No one is even looking at you right now, so even if you make mistakes, no one cares, no one is looking. Make the mistakes. Write clumsily. Muddle your way through. Learn. Get better. Put your head down and do the work anyway. Becoming famous will mean that you will never have this unique time to make mistakes without a spotlight on you. Do what you can to learn and grow as a writer now whil;e no one is looking. 

  1.  Compare yourself to yourself.

It’s the only measurement you have control over. Compare your writing today to your writing from a year ago. Compare your ability, your word counts, your social media following. You are allowed to be better than you were before. You are allowed to compare your middle with your beginning. You’re in the middle of your own hero’s journey, the sort of challenges and temptations section where you are meeting mentors, learning and growing. You need this growth during the rising action leading up to the ultimate climax; will you or won’t you publish a book? By all means, challenge yourself to rise to the occasion. 

Click this link to hear this blog post as a podcast with your favorite podcasting app!

Do you play the comparison game, and how would you say it affects your writing and productivity? Does reading really great pieces of published work inspire you or get you down? Have you ever thought about yourself as the protagonist of a novel? Let us all know in the comments below!

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