Humans are habitual comparers.
I wish I knew exactly what it is that constantly compels us to compare our lives to those around us. Whether it’s fitness goals, money goals, house goals, travel goals…we’ve structured ourselves mentally and physically, in many ways, to measure our success against what others have, have done, or are currently doing.
Unfortunately, writers are no exception.
Have you ever gone into a bookstore, looked at a bestseller or debut novel on the shelf, and thought, “Man, I wish that could be me!” Or followed an author on Instagram, Twitter, or their Facebook or personal blog, scrolled through their posts of professional writing deadlines, book signings, and fanart and letters, and hoped with all your heart that you’d make those same posts someday?
These things can all be great encouragements. I know that for my part, I always leave Barnes & Noble with newfound vigor to get to drafting, ASAP. But in the back of my mind, I’m constantly reminding myself of one crucial thing: Out of thousands of success stories winking at me from those shelves in the form of my own dream come true – my book, published and available in a mainstream bookstore – not one of those stories will be mine.
Sounds a bit discouraging, doesn’t it? Like taking the pep out of pep talk.
But here’s the thing. Just because one writer has an agent stumble across them on Fictionpress or Twitter and approach them, rather than the other way around, doesn’t mean it’ll happen to me. And just because someone else gets thirty rejection letters before a publisher looks at their draft, doesn’t mean I won’t get picked up after just five rejections. The point isn’t that we’ll all have less success than those whose writing journeys we admire. It’s just that our success, when it comes, will be different.
This goes for more than just publishing, too! For example, in the drafting process, no two people write at the same pace. I used to really sweat that I wrote slower than my friends. Now I have to battle my self-doubt over the fact that I finish most of my first drafts in a month or less. No matter which end of the spectrum you fall into, chances are you’re going to struggle not to feel like you’re doing something wrong just because you’re doing something differently from how other people do it.
This week, my encouragement to you is this: forget the standard you’ve imposed on yourself. You are not bound to it. No one writes like you, so write however you write. Don’t waste your time trying to replicate someone else’s journey – you’re not walking their path. They’re not telling your story, and you aren’t telling theirs. Stay focused and go at your pace, and don’t be afraid to embrace the uniqueness of your own journey.
Someday, that’ll be a different story for you to tell. It will not be like anyone else’s, I can promise you that. But it will be just as great as all the ones you ever dreamed of – because it will be your own.