This is going to be a short post.
There are entire lists out there on success for writers, on building an audience, and on writing well. All of those are external; my focus today is internal: I want you to be happy as a writer.
That Darned Elusive Bluebird
You won’t be happy all the time, of course. It’s hard to rejoice when the 50th rejection arrives in the inbox, but I’m talking about your “normal” attitude – how you feel on an ordinary day as a person who identifies as “writer.”
Most of us spend much of our time anything but happy. We’re not as successful as we like, or we didn’t win NaNoWriMo, or we’re stuck on a chapter we didn’t anticipate, or we’ve written ourselves into a corner… you get the idea.
Constant writer happiness isn’t the goal. Normalizing it is.
There are many steps to finding writer happiness, but one is important above all others: stop comparing yourself to other writers.
No, I really mean it. You read me. Stop.
Yes, you need to read other writers to hone your craft. That does not mean comparing yourself to them. Stop.
Stop comparing yourself to other writers.
I don’t care if they write faster.
I don’t care if they write “better” (whatever that means).
I don’t care if they win the contests, or get the accolades, or land the agent you wanted. Stop comparing yourself to other writers.
The Creative Gap
I talk a lot about the creative gap around here. I talk about it because I’m in it, and chances are, so are you. That gap is why you compare yourself to other writers and end up disappointed.
For those who can’t watch YouTube right now, here’s the transcript:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners; I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap.
For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.
Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
You know your work isn’t as good as you want it to be, and that’s okay. We all go through that. Ideally, that understanding will drive you to keep working, keep learning, and keep refining your work.
But if, while in that gap, you compare yourself to other writers, you will lose the ability to see where you’re going and only see where you’re not. In other words, you’ll get so disappointed with your work that you will feel miserable.
There is one solution. Just one. Stop comparing yourself to other writers.
Yon Hypocrite Speaks!
Easier said than done, I know. I fall into this trap myself on a regular basis; I compare myself to friends who started writing at the same time and have more accolades, or friends who got the agent I wanted, or friends who write a hell of a lot faster than I do (that’s pretty much all of them). And when I do that, I no longer see the gap, see where I’m going, and feel motivated to overcome. I just feel miserable.
This week, let’s make ourselves a pact. I’ll stop comparing myself to other writers – and so will you.
You’re not alone, fellow writer. You can do this, no matter how difficult it seems. This is a step you can take.
Find writer-happiness: stop comparing yourself to other writers.