Have you ever heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”?
If so, you’re not the only one. I’ve heard that saying a hundred different places, and it always rings true. However, I would like to take it a step further and say that comparison is the thief of creativity.
Our stories are very special pieces of our hearts. When we’re focused and happy, they flow right from our souls, and they occupy their own spot in our hearts. But, if we’re more focused on someone else’s story and whether it’s better—or worse—than our own, we’re neglecting the story we’ve been entrusted with—and the characters that belong to us are the ones to suffer for it.
Comparison is hard to catch in the beginning. I mean, who hasn’t read an amazing book—published or unpublished—and thought, “Wow! I wish I could write like that.”
In some ways, this thought—if directed properly—can be a good thing. It can be an inspiration to work harder, to develop our stories and take them to a new level.
The trouble comes when we let it grow past that point.
Comparison happens when you’re focused on competing instead of collaborating.
Once it becomes a competition—a desire to do better than the other person or the crushing realization that you’ll never ‘write like they do’—it becomes toxic. The kind of toxic that will kill your story, drain your creativity, and leave you defeated and jealous. Never a good state to find yourself in.
How To Make It Happen
Fortunately, as with all the other thoughts in our head, we can choose not to let comparison or jealousy take root. Once it has taken root, it’s much harder to get rid of, of course, but we still have the power to dig it out of our minds and choose another approach.
When I have trouble with this, I root it out with two truths, three tricks, and a moment of humility.
You are not in competition. Writing doesn’t work like that. As many writers as there are in the world, there are more readers. And readers who are looking for new material. A book can only be read so many times before its readers start searching for a new adventure that is similar to the one they loved so much—maybe yours.
You’re not supposed to ‘write like they do’. Why should you? You’re not them!
Writer, you have your own unique style. A story no one else is going to tell. A way of communicating that is only yours. Why would you damage that and risk marring it by trying to be someone else? We already have one of them. Now we need one of you.
- Worry less about the results and more about being the best you can be. Growing as a person and a writer takes time. You can’t rush it, and you can’t skip past it. The only way to grow is by solid hard work and dedication to your craft. Comparing yourself to someone else won’t help you grow—it may even hold you back—and your journey is long enough. Dump what doesn’t drive you forward, and you’ll find the journey much easier.
- Embrace your story—without undermining someone else’s. Find what you love about your own characters, your plot, and your dialogue. Embrace it. Revel in it. Then learn to appreciate what others have without holding it up besides your own work to see how they compare.
- Find what’s beautiful in your story—and what needs a little watering. We all have places we can grow, and if you’re busy working on your own weaknesses and strengthening your own story, you won’t have time to worry about what someone else is writing—and you’ll also find a lot of joy in your own work at the same time!
A Moment Of Humility
It took me years to realize that having humility didn’t mean thinking less of myself. It didn’t mean believing that everyone was better than I was or that I had much less chance of succeeding than they did.
What I should have realized all along was that humility meant being able to rejoice in their success and to applaud their beauty without questioning my own.
Maybe their story does blow you away. Maybe their characters do enchant you. Maybe their grasp of ambiance or prose takes your breath away. Rejoice in that. Tell them. Believe me, everyone is struggling in their own way and everyone needs the boost of an honest compliment now and then.
Then take a step back and realize that you have your own gifts to offer, your own stories to craft. Their success does not threaten your own. So stay in your lane, keep your stories close to your heart, and don’t be afraid to celebrate with someone else. It costs nothing to rejoice with someone who needs it.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.
How do you block our comparison in your own writing journey? Tell me about it in the comments! And stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing joy and how to find it in the midst of a crushing schedule.
2 thoughts on “A Writer’s Life: Comparison”
Wonderfully written, Abigail, and excellent advice and wisdom for us fragile creatives! I think the biggest thing I do when comparison comes calling is to remind myself that only I have my story, and that’s the story and the words that need writing. God gave me my way and my words, and so that’s my commission.
Other times I devour the delicious writing and see what I can incorporate into my writing. Treat that author like a mentor and not a competitor.
And other times, I just shrug my shoulders and lose myself in the wonderfulness of their story. ☺️
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I love it! What a great way to shrug off the need for comparison. Since I’m a reader as well, I also find it helps to flick back to a reader’s mindset and be excited for a fantastic new book that I get to devour. Who could be upset about that!