January 22, 2014

Writing Club Wednesday: The Comparison Devil. Or, Be Cool.


Be cool.

Something a little personal today: a letter to myself.

Dear me,

I know your secret: you've been having problems with that ugly little devil on your shoulder lately. Still. You thought he might go away once your book sold, and you no longer had to be jealous of the people who got an agent before you, or a book deal, or who had the great privilege of whining about their struggles with their revision letters on twitter. But no. The Comparison Devil is here to stay.

And guess what? If anything, it's gotten worse. Because now, you know more. Now you know that somebody who sold at the same time as you is debuting six months before you. (Does it mean you've done something wrong? asks the Comparison Devil. Does it mean you're too slow? Does it mean your publisher doesn't like you? What does it mean?)

Now you read published books, and realize your little book is going to sit among them, and you picture a reader picking up this other masterpiece, then your newbie effort, and laughing at you as they stroll to the register with any book but yours. (You can't possibly write as beautifully at this professional! Your prose is clunky and ugly in comparison! And this person's first five pages would make anyone pick up their book. Do yours? Who would ever want to read your little book when they have all these options?)

Or maybe somebody else has a film deal. Foreign sales. An amazing cover, and you can't help but worry about what yours will be. Other things you don't have yet. With each comparison, the Devil knocks you down another peg; you convince yourself a little more that you're not qualified to do this. That anyone deciding to publish your book was obviously a mistake. And, as you know, it's really, really hard to write when that happens. So you despair. You try to figure out what you could do to get better. To be good enough.

But I'm going to tell you a little secret: It's never going to be enough. There's always something to compare to. The Comparison Devil never goes away. Once you get everything you thought you wanted, a whole new world of comparison possibilities will open up.

And guess what else? There are probably people out there comparing themselves to you, too. Some author is jealous of your pub journey. Some author, someday, will look at your book in the bookstore and despair that their romance can't compare to yours.

Nobody can ever have it all. Not those other people. Not even you.

And that's okay.

So be cool. Keep your eye on your own paper. (Erhm, computer screen.) (Except not the part of the computer screen where you can see your own and other people's Goodreads reviews. Stay away from that part.)

You're doing your best on your book, and, even if you sometimes don't believe it, you're probably doing a pretty decent job. And someday, a reader will be wandering a bookstore and pick up your book. And then she won't put it down and reach for something better. Someday, probably at least one reader will choose yours. (Even in this panicked state you can give yourself one reader, right?) And she'll love it. She'll stay up all night reading it, and when she's done, she'll hug it to her chest and will never forget your characters. And that's why you're writing.

Self, you're okay. Your writing is okay. Your pub path and everything else is okay. So be cool. Try to focus on the writing, and it'll hopefully all fall into place.

(Also, chocolate doesn't hurt.)

Good luck, self.
Love,
Me

3 comments:

Krista Van Dolzer said...

No one's commented on this post?! Then allow me to be the first. As you know, this post inspired me. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who's had these thoughts.

staceylee said...

I love this post. It's right on. It is easy to get swept up by the comparison devil when there are so many awesome deals happening around you every day. It's impossible to not use yourself as a measuring stick. Thanks for writing this!

Kerry Cerra said...

Yep, I think we've all done (do) this. It's nice to feel normal. :)

My motto--I learned this while doing mission work in HS--is, No better, no worse. Just different.

Believe me, I recite it to myself often!

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