The Comparison Trap for Writers

Saturday, February 24, 2018
I have been in a book study called The Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley. In this study, we talk about how people, women especially, are terrible about comparing themselves to others, and this causes a lot of discontent and negative behavior. It causes broken relationships and broken spirits. Before taking this class and doing this study, I didn't realize how often I compared myself to other women and felt like I wasn't measuring up; or worse, I made myself feel better when someone wasn't as successful as me.

I am so thankful this study came into my life, and of course, I started thinking about it in terms of being a writer. Writers also compare themselves to others, and it can cause writer's block, a giving-up attitude, and hurt feelings between writer friends.

Have you ever found yourself reading a Facebook announcement from your writing friend about finally securing a big New York agent and thinking that's it, I'm done, no one will ever want to represent me?

Or how about your critique group member who received her 20th rejection, and you are secretly celebrating because at least you had an acceptance last month?

I know both of these scenarios sound like you are horrible person, and you don't have to admit that you have thought this way, but you probably have. And you are not alone. It's human nature, but it's not helpful to you, your creativity, or your career.

So what do you do?

What I'm learning with this book study I mentioned above is that "There is no win in comparison." Stop looking to the left or right. You need to look at yourself and your talent. Think of how you can reach your writing goals and how you can improve your craft. Focus on you and your writing--not your Facebook friend's new book, not your critique group member's literary award, and certainly not your favorite writer you've been following on Twitter when she makes the bestseller's list.

This does not mean you don't celebrate success with every writer you know. This simply means that when you find yourself starting to compare another writer's success or failure with your own, stop. Just stop. Because it is really true that there is no win in comparison. But you can win when you improve yourself!

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach, editor, children's author, and instructor, living in St. Louis, MO. Her next novel writing class starts on Friday, March 2. To find out more information about Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach, please click here


Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Margo, and I'm interested in checking out that book! I think it's natural for writers to compare themselves to other writers because we're told to read authors' books to study craft. And those books we're studying have been agented and edited to perfection (and don't you just delight when you find a typo! lol) I personally want everyone to succeed and I honestly don't feel jealous when another writer snags an agent or clip or pub deal, whatever. My problem is I think everyone is better than me (writing and life) and I compare my writing to writers whose prose is so much better than mine. So you're right, the only way I can change that is to improve my craft and focus that energy inward in a positive way. Thanks for the post!

KAlan said...

This is a constant problem for me, so not restricted to women. In my case, I even compare myself to one-in-a-million masters, or top bestsellers, and more than once the knowledge of my inferiority to them has made me want to quit. I guess the sensible view (which might be the typically male view?) is that each writer has something to offer, which people will either take or leave. Whether they prefer it to Updike's writing might be irrelevant. And yes, Angela's approach of wanting everyone to succeed must certainly make life more rewarding.

Margo Dill said...

I totally agree that it is not just a female issue! I think in "real life" men tend to compare things--salaries, cars, houses, etc, and women tend to compare everything else (body parts, kids, husbands, LOL). Being in this class with other women opened my eyes to it and how ridiculous it is.

Naturally, I thought of writers for the reasons you both stated--but it's probably true of a lot of creative professions.

Anyway...let's stop! :)

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