Monday, May 18, 2009

Comparitory Creatures

Entering Elana's stream of conscious...strap yourselves in...wild ride ahead...keep all hands, feet and other appendages in the blog at all times...

Are you querying? Did you see that post last week on PubRants? Did you enter that contest? OMGosh, you have to join Absolute Write. My book is as good as this published one. Who reps this book? Heck, they rejected me! No fair!

I could go on and on. And on. I compare myself to everything and everyone. Do any of you do this? As humans, I think we're very comparitory creatures. This is something I've had to work very hard to overcome. BTW, my husband says women do this more than men. So you men out there: is that true? Is comparing oneself a feminine curse? I certainly hope not, because everyone should have to suffer as I have. *snarf*

Anyway, so recently I threw myself in the query pool without any flotation devices. It's been tough, and I've been desperate to hear from other authors who are querying the same agents as I am. When did you send your query? Did s/he respond? Did you get a request? *grumbles to self* Why didn't I get a request? Why haven't I heard? Do I suck?

This comparitory behavior spills over into other facets. What a cool blog. I need a new blog. My posts are so lame, my colors are so old, I need to update my list. She has so many followers. On and on and on. That website...her agent...that contest...his book. Holy brown cows--do I suck?

So late last week I decided to stop. That's right. S-T-O-P (in the name of love!). I decided that most of the comparing I've been doing is like trying to compare apples and oranges. And we all know that never works. And I found myself sliding into a deep pool of writing funk because of all the comparisons I was making. (Click here if you don't know what the pool of writing funk is. It's nasty, trust me.)

I started comforting myself with these thoughts instead of my Do I suck? thoughts.

  • Maybe Super Agent X rejected my query when s/he requested from my virtual bff, but my unibrow is way more impressive, I'm certain of it. Finally! My vow of no pluckage pays off!

  • She won that contest, but I just ate half a can of those onion things that are supposed to be a garnish on green bean casserole by myself! Top that! Can't do it, can ya? I thought not.

  • He may have just signed a big contract, but I slept until 10 today! Victory is mine!

And I managed to trick myself into having a good weekend. And I did eat those French's fried onion things. Like potato chips. Mmm.

So here's my question: Do you ever compare yourself to others? Their writing? Their blogs? Their published books? Their query success? And if you do, how do you stop yourself from being buried under these comparisons? How do you stop the thought of Dude, do I suck?

And yes, I really do have a unibrow. kenyit I know you wouldn't be able to sleep tonight if you weren't 100% sure.


joannehuspek said...

Doesn't everyone compare themselves to others?

I find that when I'm reading for enjoyment, I'm comparing. "Hey! That guy uses a lot of dangling phrases! Hey! That woman peppers her paragraphs with adverbs, what's up with that?

There's a balance with being true to your own vision and writing to be salable. It's a very fine line.

~Jamie said...

Why do we do this? Why can't we just be happy for our friends that THEY got the request? I mean don't get me wrong... I AM happy... but I am also stressed that I might not make it--in fact, I think that's what it is.

It isn't that I am happy or unhappy for them, it's that I am worried I won't make it. It's that if my stuff gets rejected, or my blog isn't pretty enough, or I don't think I can actually eat that many french fried onions--it's that if I don't do those things, then I am not good enough to make it in this crazy mixed up world of publishing.

So, in comparing, we aren't insulting others--we're putting ourselves down.

Okay, so I just came to a personal revelation there, and I am kind of freaked out about it.

...Backs slowly out of the comment window...

Eric said...

I compare myself to others, in the manner that I realize how many other people write incredibly well while I often feel like I'm stumbling blindly through a dark tunnel. So no, I seriously doubt its a feminine only aspect.

Nisa said...

Simple answer? I don't... My husband reigns me in eventually, but without him, I'd still be wallowing in the muck of self-pity. I know crits are hard to hear from other people, but I know that no one can be as cruel to me as I am to myself... So the rest should be easy, right? I guess the key is, even though I think I suck, I never quit just in case I'm wrong. Plus I know I'm wrong a lot so there's still hope. lol! Does that make any sense at all?

The verification word was bacon, almost! bacion - I'm sure it translates to the same thing. ;)

Casey said...

Heck yes I do!

I'm constantly comparing but I'm rarely negative about it. It's more just natural curiosity and speculation. For me, I want to know what I'm doing right or wrong and what's working for other people. It's one of the ways I learn.

Of course, it's not always healthy, so I try to curb myself.

Litgirl01 said...

I haven't queried yet...but I would feel the same way! It has to be scarey. Try not to fall into the "I suck" thing. There are so many things that enter into an agent's decision, not just the quality of writing.

Scott said...

Gee, thanks for the unibrow visual . . . I was attempting to scarf down lunch. LOL!

Love this post. Yes, I compare, compare, compare . . . so it's not just a girl thang! In fact, I think it's a society thang.

My approach to rejection is that "the agent just wasn't right for me". That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. The first rejection was the hardest, I dropped down into the "I suck, I suck, I suck, why am I even bothering writing" mode for a day or so, and then, eternal optimist that I am - the margarita glass is always half full - I realized "the agent just wasn't right for me".

I also don't think any of us have flotation devices when we enter the query pool. We just have to rely on the fact that we are brilliant writers and that our time will come. Yes, that does sound like drivel. It's my drivel, and it works for me.

So, chin up, Elana! Keep writing, keep querying, and keep following your dream.

Now about that unibrow . . .


ElanaJ said...

Thanks you guys. Especially you men, so now I know this is something the entire human race suffers.

And Scott! Thanks for teaching me how to spell flotation! Gah! What an embarrassing spelling mistake--that I have now fixed. And you have a problem with my unibrow? I'll have to take a close up picture, it is quite fetching. LOLOLOLOL.


Danyelle said...

Elana, has anyone ever told you how awesome you are? (OF course they have! Probably on a daily basis.)

I do it all the time. It's part of that perfectionistic bug that I'm trying to kill. The one that says if I just tried a little harder, I too could be like that.

*squishes bug for the bazillionth time*

Truth is, if we were all like everyone else, we might all have awesome blogs, a gazillion followers, and an agent in the bag. But then everything would be the same and you can't make orange juice out of apples, or applesauce out of oranges. We need to be different--just like everyone else. *snicker*

Now, to convince the heart of this.

Lynnette Labelle said...

You're too funny! Thanks for the laugh. Yeah, I do sometimes compare myself to others. I think that's human nature. Then, I look at the good things in my life and don't feel so bad. As for my writing, I can see how it has grown, so even if I'm not pubbed yet, I know I will be some day. I just have to finish the re-write on this ms.

Lynnette Labelle

Michelle McLean said...

ahhh Elana dear...I do have the comparitory problem...and more often than not, you are the one I am comparing myself to!! :D You are made of awesomeness and I love everything about you...including the unibrow ;-)

Horserider said...

Daily. I do it all the time. It's part of the reason I started querying early. :) Because a couple of my writer friends were. But also because I was overexcited about querying.

P.S. I also enjoy eating the french fried onion things straight from the can.

Katie O'Sullivan said...

As your other worthy commenters have already noted, we all do this. We all compare ourselves to others - and don't think guys don't do it! They compare everything. And compete on everything - altho men tend to see themselves come out on top more often than women do. And I don't mean in a sexual way, LOL.

I always want to be happy for the other women in my writing group who've made a sale, or sold the three-book deal...but I'm also busy thinking "Darn! Why her and not me?" I really think that's human nature, and not a personality flaw. Or at least I tell myself that.

You're an awesome blogger and an awesome writer, and just have to connect with the right agent, the right editor and the right moment in time. Serendipity. It happens. Just gotta keep going.

Jaime Theler said...

Now I'm staring at the mirror trying to compare my unibrow to yours. ;)

Seriously, I do this all the time but work hard not to leap to the I Suck conclusion. I'm trying for the "If they can do it then so can I" conclusion instead. And some days that even works.

Crystal said...

Hi Elana!

Love your blog! And yes, I am, too, guilty of comparing myself to other writers, both published and unpublished. But like Lynette said, I think it's probably human nature. Because I think it even goes back to our school years. I mean, who hasn't (or maybe I'm the only one) compared grades or SAT scores with their peers/classmates or styles of dress, etc. So I think this mode of self-doubt goes on throughout all areas of our lives. But as writers, I've found you just have to have that inner confidence in yourself and your work. And I feel blogging, networking with other writers, participating in critiques (whether online or in person),and attending conferences really helps to increase this inner confidence. At least, that has been my experience.

Again, thanks for starting this great post, Elana! I love reading everyone's viewpoint.

Mim said...

Yes, I constantly compare myself to others. But I try not to. My husband is always telling me to stop--all that matters is my book and how I fix the problems there.

But on the other hand, I feel great happiness for everyone who succeeds and breaks through and achieves their dreams. I want that, but I don't want to take it away from them.

So this week, I'm committed to focus only on my novel. Get my third rewrite done, and jump in the querying pool too! I hope I don't sink!

christinefonseca said...

Oh yeah...I am the queen of comparisons. Not that I intend to do that...I think it's just human nature. I can usually stop myself from being ridiculous, but not always. And when it happens, I find myself stewing in a bad case of writer's funk (amazing what an emotional business writing is - isn't it)

My problem isn't a jealousy thing, or anything like that. My comparisons usual take the form of "Holy cow, she's a brilliant writer - I mean brilliant..." then if she is published I say "Man, I'll never be that good. I should just forget it." And if she isn't I say "Well, if she doesn't have an agent yet, what chance do I have..."

And on and on it goes!

So, I try to be very aware of when I'm doing it...and move on, very deliberately. 'Cause I'll never become a better writer if I keep doing that!

Great post Elana - and for the record, You are AMAZING!!!

Tess said...

I wish people did far less of this. It isn't fair to their friends. I have a friend who scored a contract last year and she said her writing friends gave her mixed responses. She ended up feeling BAD for having the success she had worked sooooo long and hard for. That's unfortunate

*stepping off soapbox*

Sorry, Elana. I hope you don't mind me sharing my real thoughts here.

Katie said...

I do this until I step back and realize that all of my friend's books are SO different - so it's hard to compare. I used to think it would be a problem with my blogging partner because we are on the same path and I thought, "What if she scores an agent first? Will I freak out and be jealous?"

But then I realized that her voice and material is so totally different from mine that it made it easier to just be excited for her successes.

The same goes for my friends. We all write such different things that I have been able to stop and breathe and simply enjoy the stories of everyone else. And I can't help but think that our friend's successes help us as well. You never know who will pass your name along to their agent or introduce you to another person who just gets you one. step. closer.

And you know, it's actually kinda cool in a geeky way to realize how insecure we all are - and yet we are freely discussing it here! LOL

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