Writers, Stop Comparing Yourselves

20 Feb

Recently, I finished my first manuscript of 2017. It was also my first pantsing novel…and a novel that I’m truly excited about. So excited, in fact, that I think it fueled me to write more than usual and share more information about a WIP than I normally do. If you follow my social media, you might have seen my adventure as I shared my growing word count over the last two months. It was a fast first draft. And wonderful, too! But when I shared that I finished, I received a few messages: How do you write so fast? Should I be able to reach that word count every day? Is it even a good draft? How many drafts do you write? What do you recommend I do?

All reasonable questions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m more than happy to answer them, too, but at its core, the answer is simple: My writing methods will not be your writing methods, and your writing methods won’t be mine. You have to find what works for you.

I never share word counts or inspiration boards or sneak peeks, because I want you to compare yourself to me. I share those things, because they are fun—and writing can be lonely and hard work. You see “The End” on my Instagram, while I see two months without weekends and wayyyy too much caffeine in my blood (and maybe one mental breakdown in between Chapter Sixteen and Chapter Twenty-Eight).

Taking a small breather to have fun on Instagram with fellow writers and readers is often the only breather I get all day. And I love seeing other writers share those milestones, because we’re in this together. We love the same thing: words. And it’s a delight to share them. (Especially after said mental breakdown between Chapter Sixteen and Chapter Twenty-Eight.)

That being said, I understand that social media sharing can bum other writers out. It can make a writer feel like they’re not doing enough, accomplishing enough, or sharing enough. The comparison bug hits writers a lot. And trust me, it isn’t worth it. You’ll only end up in a pity-party hosted by your worst inner critic.

I mean, does this even look fun?

I mean, does this even look fun?

Kick that critic out of your writing office right meow. Why? Because no writing journey is the same. No story is the same. No writer is either.

The key is figuring out what works for you, and then moving forward every day to the best of your ability.

That’s it.

Keep writing, keep reading, and keep trying. It will work—though I will admit that it will be difficult. You will absolutely struggle and get rejections and feel like giving up. We all have felt bad/sad/hopeless at some point in our writing journey. (And more than once.) That fact sometimes helps more than anything.

Comparison, in practice, isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes seeing a writer friend of mine hit a huge goal pushes me to sit back down to achieve my own goals. Often, when I’m feeling down, I research my favorite authors and read about their writing journey to see how they struggled and achieved and kept on keeping on. That could be considered comparison, but at its core, it isn’t comparison. It’s inspiration. By reading about others’ journeys, I’m reminded that we all have our own future ahead of us. I am who I am and I’m trying to get to where I want to be, and there are millions of authors who did the same before me. It’s inspiration. And hope. And fun.

But comparison is a precarious edge—one that anyone can slip over easily at any moment.

Always remind yourself that you are you, and this is your journey.

So next time you see someone hit a word count or get a publishing deal or finish a first draft, and you feel that sting of jealously/resentment/exhaustion, take a step back and relax. (And kick that inner critic out.)

You don’t need to write 1,000 words every day. You don’t need to go to a million conferences or garner a movie deal before the age of 32.

You just gotta be you.

Keep writing, and keep achieving goals your way, and trust me, you’ll get there.

You’re already on the way.


19 Responses to “Writers, Stop Comparing Yourselves”

  1. Charles Yallowitz February 20, 2017 at 6:01 am #

    Nicely said and congrats on finishing. This post reminds me of a writing course I took back in 2004. I was the novelist and there were two older women who’s implied wanted to learn. They didn’t come back after the first class because me and the poet were intimidating in our seriousness. There were only 4 people in the class to begin with. Still feel really bad about it and it definitely birthed a level of humility for me. I became very quick to downplay myself.

    What about people comparing one author to another? Like when you’re asked if you want to be the next Rowling or Tolkien.

    • Shannon A Thompson February 20, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

      I had some strange experiences in my writing classes in college, too. But I don’t even want to start that rant. lol
      In regards to your last question, I get that all the time from non-writers. “Do you want to be the next Rowling/Meyer/Collins?” But I don’t judge readers for it, necessarily, because that’s how they navigate books they like, by similar genres and writers. I’ve actually never had a writer ask me a question like that. Probably because we all know that answer, right?
      “I don’t want to be the next Rowling. I want to be the next ME.”
      Thank you for commenting. 😀

      • Charles Yallowitz February 20, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

        College writing courses were almost like Hunger Games. Only everyone was a tribute and mutant dog at the same time.

        I’ve been asked by other authors if I’m a Tolkien or a Lewis. Still not sure what that meant. I guess people look to the past as a way to get a feel for the new stuff.

      • Shannon A Thompson February 20, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

        Haha! YESSS. Perfect metaphor to how I felt about the majority of my writing courses.
        In regards to the Tolkien/Lewis comment, you are absolutely right. Comparison is big in the industry. Even literary agents and editors ask for “comp titles” in query letters to get a feel for either the book or where your book would be on the shelf. So there is a level of comparison expected in writing. Excellent point.

      • Charles Yallowitz February 20, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

        I remember being told to do that in query letters. Always felt awkward because I didn’t think the comparison was apt or justified. Probably stemmed from low self-esteem. I have seen a few authors whose entire blurb is comparing to popular novels. Those are funny, but rarer these days.

  2. debyfredericks February 20, 2017 at 10:06 am #

    Yeah, I try to find inspiration and spur myself, rather than wondering why I didn’t get more words on the page.

  3. Sarcasticus Rex February 20, 2017 at 10:35 am #

    Excellent post and words of wisdom. Thanks.

    • Shannon A Thompson February 20, 2017 at 3:36 pm #

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  4. Mia Hayson February 20, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    Very true! It’s good to have a push but we’re all different and so that means are paths have to be different too 🙂

  5. Don Massenzio February 20, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
    Here’s a great post from Shannon A. Thompson on writers and comparison

  6. Seumas Gallacher February 20, 2017 at 1:19 pm #

    …great post… bang on the button! 🙂

  7. Susannah Ailene Martin February 21, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

    I’m trying to ignore other people’s word counts right now because I’m in college. They’re basically paying me to be here, so I feel it would be wise to get the most out of their money. Plus, I’ve got two different writing classes demanding 90 pages of work in one and I think 60 in the other by the end of the semester. That on top of thesis writing and producing a television pilot. It’s still easy to feel like I’m falling behind in my writing career when I’m not working on stuff I want to do.

  8. Ranjita March 19, 2017 at 1:56 pm #

    Great post..clearing many of my blockages as a young aspiring writer!!


  1. When Your Writing Issue Is… | Shannon A Thompson - July 24, 2017

    […] Ideas are everywhere. So is inspiration. And then there’s that classic “Everything’s been done before” line. Trust me, you’re going to come in contact with someone who has a similar idea/book/character as you. Sometimes you might even see that book get published (eek) before yours. Don’t. Panic. Your book and you are perfectly okay, because YOU are the unique part of your book. Only you can tell a book like you can. Emphasize what is unique about your story and keep writing. Related article: Writers, Stop Comparing Yourselves […]

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