The Torture of Comparison
By Jeanine Englert
Okay, here it goes. I’m going to dive into a pool of discomfort for this month’s blog as it has weighed on my mind and been a talking point with more than one of my writing friends over the last few months: the soul sucking torture of comparison.
If you are above the dregs of comparison, then this may not be the blog for you. If you suffer from comparing your writing, books, sales, career, and any other green eyed monster frailty, you might know exactly what I’m speaking of. As a writer, it’s so hard, I daresay impossible to rid yourself of comparison whether it is with your own books, other books, other writers, or your writing career, but I have found something that has worked to lessen the grip that comparison (and the following downward spiral) has on me this year. Does it work all the time? Absolutely not. Does it work sometimes? Absolutely. Which for me is enough.
When I start anything new, whether it is a writing project, ad, or writing related activity, I give myself a personal goal that I’m working toward. For example, it could be a sales goal for a new book, a number of interactions on a social media post, or number of “want to reads” on a Goodreads Giveaway. It could be as small as getting more link clicks on an ad in a different age demographic. Whatever it is, I make my own personal goal for that, and most importantly, I commit it to paper and write it down somewhere, so I can see it. Usually, it is on a sticky note within eyeshot of my writing desk. Once I set it, I try to forget it until the results of that goal arrive.
While this doesn’t prevent comparison, it helps to anchor me back to my writing goals when it starts, which helps me remember that my journey isn’t someone else’s. It helps me stay in my own lane, most of the time anyway. Because we all know what a soul sucking, horrible feeling it is to compare your sales, reviews, book deals, social media likes, or awards to other writers. Nothing can get me into a darker whole of self-doubt faster. Having a visual goal written down helps to shine a light on my progress, as I find I reach 90% of the goals I set for myself. If my goals were comparison based, I’m not sure I would even be in the double digits. As I’ve heard many times before: someone is always doing better than you and someone is always doing worse. Some people will love your books, while others will give you the dreaded one star review and the longest explanation ever along with it. Setting personal goals will help you remember that being an author is a journey and a personal one.
My critique partner (Thanks, Tanya!) loaned me Becca Syme’s Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, and it could not be a more timely read for me. Wow. I’m only about 100 pages in, but I feel seen, and I’ve found it helpful as it encourages you to question the premise of many of the things you hear about writing and accept as truth. If you are hunting down an “out of the box” craft and/or career book, you may want to give it a read. You may want to also try setting some personal goals for yourself over the summer months to see if they work as well for you as they have for me. And, if you do begin to fall into the green eyed monster of comparison, just know you’re not alone, but also remember someone else’s journey doesn’t matter nearly as much as your own.
This is your writing career, not theirs.
Care to share a personal goal you might set for yourself this summer or your own ways to escape the clutches of comparison? Drop me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Jeanine Englert is a double VIVIAN ® FINALIST, Golden Heart ® Finalist, Silver Falchion Award Winner, and Daphne du Maurier Award Winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since. She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels.
When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website www.jeaninewrites.com.
Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, released in June of 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing, is a Victorian romantic suspense that won the 2020 Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery and the 2020 Maggie Award for Best Romantic Suspense. It also won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense. It is currently a double VIVIAN ® FINALIST for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense-mid.
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