One of the best pieces of advice I was given in college was this:
Never compare yourself to others.
If you do, you’ll compare their strengths to your weaknesses, and you’ll always be the loser.
When I compare myself to other writers, it doesn’t do me a bit of good. I either pick up some frothy bonnet romance and throw it across the room, puffing myself up with thoughts of superiority. My books will have more meaning! I will be more literarily significant! I won’t have any ripped bodices! Or, I will read something breathtakingly good, like The Elegance of the Hedgehog or Someone Else’s Love Story and moan in despair that I can never achieve what that author has done, so I might as well give up.
It also doesn’t help that I’m a bit melodramatic in just about everything I do.
The truth is that if I’ve signed up to be a writer, then I’m already pre-disposed to be melancholy and moody. I’m already insecure. I’m already thinking that living a secluded life like Salinger or a despairing life like Sylvia Plath isn’t all that unreasonable. So this whole business of wallowing in what I’m not is an easy and comfortable occupation at times.
The truth is, I’m not going to be successful that way.
I should not look at the accomplishments, styles, sales or rankings of any other writers around me. I shouldn’t compare blogs, compare paths to publication, compare works in progress, compare how many followers I have on Twitter, instead, I should focus only on meeting my goals for the day. One day at a time.
Today’s writers’ market is brutal to the insecure.
Because of the highly competitive market out there, the demand for originality, the constant pressure to be liked, followed, or tweeted is everywhere and it can easily wear away at our self-esteem. It wouldn’t take much to find a way that our statistics aren’t good enough. But if we keep looking at the writers around us, we’ll just make ourselves miserable. I’m pretty sure that’s a creativity killer, right there.
And EVERYONE has advice to follow.
We need to be secure enough in our own skills, talent and abilities to know what NOT to do, what won’t work for us, or what can wait for another time. We don’t have to read every writing book on the market. We don’t have to create a promotional video. We need to be comfortable in our own skin.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be teachable.
It is a poor writer who chooses not to learn. But when I move from teachability to despondency because of my perceived limitations (which is a short trip in my brain) then I’m in trouble.
So, write what you know, write every day and read constantly. But most importantly, just keep your head down and pay attention to you and your work alone.
You may not be the richest or best-selling author, you may not be the most famous or win the most awards . . .
But you will be the happiest. And it will show in your work.