Friday, February 23, 2007

You Are Not Alone

Another topic, and the one that’s on my mind today, is comparisons. Comparing your story, your goals, your accomplishments to those of anyone else can put you in the pit of despair faster than almost anything – whether it’s at work, at home, in your family, at school – anywhere in your life. But for a writer, these comparisons can be the death of your creative voice and energy. They can literally suck the life out of your writing and stop you completely. They can kill your career at any point along your path.

No matter how hard we try, we can’t always stop the comparisons. We look at what’s going on around us, at what our friends are accomplishing, and, most especially, at what the people who aren’t our friends are doing. Writer X sold to Big Name Publisher. Writer Y landed a New York agent. Writer Z got invited into an anthology.

And I didn’t. What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t the editor call me instead of them? Was it something I said? Something I didn’t say? What makes them better than me?

Guess what? It’s none of the above. One writer’s career has nothing to do with another’s career. Just as no two writer’s stories are the same, no two writer’s careers are the same. We each have a path to follow, and no two careers are the same.

I have talked to a lot of writers, and I’ve found out that we all have those moments. From the writer with a couple short stories, looking at their friend with a novel contract, to the multi-published best-seller looking at a J.K Rowling or Clive Cussler, we all do it, and we’re all wrong.

I wish I could tell you all that we get over it, that we can find a way to control this behavior. But I can't. Sometimes I think I have it under control, then I find myself spiraling into one of those "she's so much better than me" stupidities, or "he got a request and I didn't." Even when I know better.

Part of it, I think, is the nature of the job. Like I've talked about before, we sit alone at a computer and make stuff up. Including stupid comparisons.

But, if it's any consolation, we're not alone. I promise.


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