Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why We Don't Compare Ourselves

Okay, so it's no secret that authors are some of the most conflicted people on the planet. Oh, come on. Admit it to yourself. You have issues. Or maybe that's just me... Ha!

But if you spend any time on blogs, or twitter, or Facebook, you're going to see statuses and things that might twist the knife of jealousy, frustration, anger, or [insert negative emotion of choice here].

Sometimes we ask ourselves "Why can't AAA AMAZING NEWS happen for me?" Or "What are they doing that I'm not?" Or "#*!(%^!*!"

Those are dangerous sometimes. Those questions should not be asked, because the answer is always the same.

You don't live Awesome Person B's life, and they don't live yours.

The focus should be on yourself; this is one time to be completely selfish. It's a time to own your process, own your schedule, own your own life.

Maybe you have a family that needs dinner every night, and Person With Twenty-Nine Book Deals doesn't. Maybe you have a day job that sucks the life right out of your body. Maybe you can write fast, or maybe you write slow.

It doesn't matter. The focus should not be on what everyone else is doing in comparison to you. It should be about what you're doing to get better, grow more, take that next step in publishing.

So, today, that's what I'm focusing on. I'm happy for those who seem to be doing everything I want to do, don't get me wrong. But I'm not comparing.

Have you ever fallen into this dangerous comparison trap? Why do you think it's best to avoid it?

40 comments:

Creepy Query Girl said...

Yes, I've been taken by surprise before by news of so-and-so's getting an agent and a book deal faster than the speed of light and thought 'Why not ME?' but, like you said, this is my route, my journey. I'm doing what I can and things will unfold as they unfold. I also tell myself that maybe I'm not really READY for that stuff to happen for me, as much as I want it to.

JeffO said...

There are days where I avoid any blog post titled "Great news, everyone!" I'm genuinely happy for people, and, yes, a bit jealous, and I don't like that aspect of it. But I try to view their success as a source of hope and inspiration for me, and keep plugging away.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Absolutely, I've wrestled the green-eyed monster ... more than once. To overcome it, I try to look back at How Far I've Come. I also remember that there are plenty of ups and downs in this business, and what looks like something good from the outside may come with a lot of baggage or an unhappy twist for the seemingly lucky author. That little bit also reminds me not to get too cocky when I get good news myself. The future is uncertain, and I am so happy that the writing community is supportive and uplifting. We need each other!

Sigh. Gotta head off to the life-force-sucking day job ...

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm a firm believer that there's a reason for everything, and there's a reason why I'm slower at writing a book and landing an agent. And I'm glad it's that way. It's forcing me to do things I never expected to do, and I'm thrilled with the outcome. My moment will come when the time is right. I really do believe that. :D

Jessica Bell said...

Oh yes, I've been there! But I've recently learned how to let go. And I feel so much lighter. You just have to realize that the power is in your own hands. If there's a will there's a way, right?

Artemis Grey said...

Since I'm still stuck in the 'almost-but-not-agented' zone, this is an almost daily struggle for me. Down to 'should I work on this WIP because I love it, or that one because it's marketable and so-and-so just had a book come out that's somewhat remotely sort of like this one...'

So when 'other' people suddenly have awesome agented news, or 'I got an agent now and instantly got a 9 book deal' news, I find myself looking at my life an trying to figure out what I can change to 'fix' things, and then have to stop and remind myself that my life is okay, that I'm on the right track and that I can't just make things happen.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Fallen? I think I live in the trap some days. It's a totally unproductive place to be. All I can do is the best I can do - not the best someone else can do.

Still, like JeffO said there are days when I avoid the Great News posts because I just can't take another person succeeding ahead of me.

:shrug: It's a thing I have to work through.

Julie Luek said...

Anne Lamott has great things to say about the jealousy factor in Bird By Bird. Yes, occasionally I hate all other successful and published writers and damn the publishing industry. Then I take a deep breath and remember others' successes mean mine ARE possible.

Mara Rae said...

That's me in a nutshell. Part of the reason I took this month off of blogging was to try to avoid the constant comparisons. I try to tell myself "that's their journey, not mine" even though it sounds like hippy new age age nonsense. Writing something new helps more than anything else though. It gets me into a place of hope rather than constant anxiety. :)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Yes, this is actually one of the hardest parts about pursuing publication for me. To fight it I usually step back and refocus on my path and how far I've come. I get excited about where I'm headed.

And I cling to a spirit of gratitude. Cling!
~ Wendy

mshatch said...

oh, yes, been there done that but you are so right when you say the focus has to be on ourselves and that our journeys are our own. And Dianne makes a good point, too. Sometimes what seems serendipitous turns into a nightmare. All I have to do is look back five years and see how far I've come and know, I'll get there eventually.

Empty Refrigerator said...

Thank you for writing this, EJ. I struggle with these feelings a lot, and wrote a post about it recently - (http://emptyrefrigerator.blogspot.com/2012/11/yes-im-jealous-of-agented-writers.html). In the past week, I have considered taking the post down, because I didn't want (future) readers to think less of me, but I haven't yet, and maybe now I won't.

I agree with you that one of the most helpful things we can do is remember that we are on our own unique paths. The other thing I think about a lot is that the querying / publishing process is, not only a path towards dream fulfillment, but a path toward personal / spiritual growth (whatever that means for each person). It certainly has been for me, but I can easily see myself NOT growing from it, but instead shrinking into bitterness and stagnation. Hopefully, I'll chose the former.

Thanks for "coming out" (as an imperfect, conflicted human - we all are, but it's hard to admit).

Veray said...

I guess I have learned to compare Me to Me. Did I do better today than yesterday? Am I reaching my goals? I think that is the only way to avoid those negative feelings that come from comparing yourself to others.

Linda Jackson said...

I admire your honesty, Elana. I finally stopped looking at others and began focusing on myself, accepting who I am as a writer. It was liberating.

Janet Johnson said...

How do you strive for that and NOT fall into that trap sometimes? But I constantly remind myself how happy I am in my own life, even if it doesn't include a huge book deal or whatever. And more and more I've realized that writing success isn't the key to happiness. Life is full of twists, and you never know what someone else is going through behind the scenes.

Julie Daines said...

One thing I love about the publishing industry is that there's always room for one more. Just because someone else sold their book, doesn't mean there's not a place for your book. Readers love good books, and the more the better. So don't be jealous, be happy for them. Your turn will come when the time is right for you--and as long as you work really hard to make your story awesome! Thanks Elana.

Angela Brown said...

Oh, Elana. How "not alone" you are when it comes to having issues. Yep. I admit it. I do have issues.

And yes, I've had a moment or two, thankfully not an oftimes occurrence when I've wondered why? Why that person and not me. But, I also have to take an honest look at my situation and take comfort in knowing my life is not theirs and vice versa. I don't know what that person has gone through or is going through as they have no clue of what happens in my life.

I'm a mom.
Full time employed.
That's two jobs that have a stranglehold on my day right there and I must own what I choose to do. Another mom who is also full time employed may have made different choices that got her to the much desired agent or book deal. But again, we are different people and have different paths.

Comparing can be helpful in regards to seeing where you are but isn't something to set your standards by.

Be your own standard bearer and reach your own goals. Some just take a little longer than others.

Shallee said...

All comparing ever does is make me miserable. Reason number one to avoid it. When I fall into the trap, I try to think of things in my own writing life I'm grateful for. Usually helps!

Heather said...

I've never fallen completely into that quagmire, but there have been moments where I thought, why isn't it happening for me? But I shook myself out of it and realized that each path is different. All we can do is strive to be better and keep going. Great post! Power to you!

Martha Ramirez said...

That is so true. So important not to compare to others. I LOVE Katrina Campin's advice about success. She says lots of people tend to compare themselves to others.

Here's the video of a short success clip. I may just do a blog post on this now! LOL

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q84MzWFGCiY

Martha Ramirez said...

Thank you for this post. I've been wanting to share that video from Kat on my blog and now I can link you and her video.

Here's to Success!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I've definitely been there. But I do try to focus on just me. I was just thinking about this last night and am glad I have moved at the slow pace I am because I do have all those other things you mention and then some that make my journey slower. But that's okay because I don't want life to go any faster than it does.

Jessie Humphries said...

Um no, what are you talking about? I've never even considered soul-splitting, jealousy-ridden, unbearable comparisons before. So yeah, I have no issues with that whatsoever. ;).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I can only control me, so that's all I worry about.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I think back to your previous post about the grass being greener where you water it. That has done wonders for me lately. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Worrying about me takes enough energy - don't have enough left over for much else :)

ali cross said...

Um, heck to the yes. Would I be human if I didn't?

But now I just try to remind myself that I'm on the stage of MY life so I'd better ROCK IT!!

Cathy Keaton said...

This is a great attitude to have and one we all need to remember. I have my limitations that most writers can't even fathom, so, of course, I am not going to be able to have the same experiences they are able to have.

I'm trying to do the best I can and find out my strengths and exploit them.

June G said...

Girl, I've just given up for a while and taken a break from all things writing. I'm still annoyed I didn't write Twilight! LOL...Seriously, for me, writing a publishable story is taking me a lot longer than I anticipated and I decided to pull back. I still love to write, it's just that there are other things I want to do right now and since I don't have the pressure of a book deal and a publisher's expectations, I'm hanging loose...for now...

L.T. Elliot said...

For the most part, I've done pretty well at minding my own side of the fence but lately I've struggled more. Your post was super timely. Thank you!

Christine Fonseca said...

You have no idea!!! Or maybe...you do. LOL!

J.R. Johansson said...

I absolutely agree. The comparing only ends up in a very unhealthy frame of mind. Thanks for another great post, Elana! :)

Genital estetik said...

I always thought that changes is the only thing that are permanent in this realm. You have informatively tackle down such issue.
Kızlık zarı

Matthew MacNish said...

Well said EJ. Sometimes it is oh. So. Hard. But you're right, you're only hurting yourself.

Richard said...

Yes, I'm guilty.

Theresa Milstein said...

Nice pep talk!

I never compare person for person, but I have to say there seems to be a streak of people getting agents and book deals of late. I'm feeling a little bridesmaid.

Denise said...

Yes, we feel jealous. We go to writer's conferences, and smile and (mostly genuinely) say to our friends, "I'm so happy to hear about your good news!"

And then hopefully we go back to writing, and think about what cute outfit we'll wear on the day when it's our turn to be congratulated. I'm going to wear something sparkly.

Michael Nelson said...

Great tutorial. I am planning to use a static front page and you gave me th ehelp I needed.
One question though, is there a way I can get a part of the recent posts to appear on the static page? By using the optional exerptc.
estetik

Donelle Lacy said...

I've got to agree with Creepy Query Girl. Even though I might want something to happen right away, I might not be ready for it. I might need my journey to prepare me for when that time comes. Great things shouldn't be rushed.

That said, I have a very hard time not comparing myself with other writers and asking "Why can't I be a writing dynamo like Person A?" I have different priorities than Person A, after all.

Marcia Mickelson said...

That is so hard to do. Thanks for writing about this. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who suffers from this.

See Elana's recent blog posts

Recent Posts Widget