Doing It All - Part 3
Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt.
One of the hardest, and most natural things we do to ourselves while we're working toward our goals is to compare where we are against other people who are working toward the same goal. I think even the most non-competitive person has the tendency to look over and wonder, "Why are they so much farther ahead than I am? We started at the same time." or something along those lines. And it feels like an excuse to remind yourself that everyone's journey looks differently.
Remember back to that panel I attended where the authors were going to share their secrets of how they balance everything to meet their goals and write more? The one where one of the authors sent her hubby off to work each morning before settling in to write for 8 hours a day while he was gone? Or another whose children were out of the house so she worked her day job, then happily wrote for hours each evening. It would have been so easy for me to stand up and walk out of that room feeling like they weren't speaking to me. But what I realized while sitting there was that while I might dream of my writing time being structured the way they described, there were plenty of other people in that room who needed to hear what they were saying.
We're all struggling in ways that others don't know. You've heard that saying, right? But the realization that the struggle doesn't have to be completely overwhelming to throw someone off course has helped me understand that, even though it may not feel that way sometimes, we really are all in this together.
This whole blog series came about after a conversation with USA Today, Best Selling Author Tess Thompson. Tess and I met through our RWA Chapter (Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America) and over the past couple of years I've been watching in aw as she works so hard and meeting goal after goal. Much to my surprise, she said something to me about watching me meet goals. (I still think she must have me mixed up with someone else, but shhhh...don't tell her.) So it seemed like a natural ask when putting this together to chat with her about this self torture we all fall victim to, otherwise known as "comparison".
One of the hardest things to do (for both beginner and veteran authors) is not comparing yourself to others. Are there any tips/tricks you’ve learned to keep yourself from falling into this?
I'll be honest, I'm super competitive so this is hard for me. Especially hard is seeing authors who started out the same time as me killing it, not because they're better writers but because they made better business decisions. That's rough. But what helps me is to remember that I've learned so much from my mistakes and that my journey is my own. Perhaps it wasn't my time yet or I had to learn more life lessons before I was ready for success. For me, I had to learn how to look after myself and not give loyalty to people who weren't worthy. Once I went indie, my career started to fall into place. Would it have happened sooner had I parted ways from my publisher sooner? Probably. But I'm in the place I'm supposed to be now, just as we all are. Each of our paths is different and we have to embrace where we are and set concrete goals of where we want to be. Comparing yourself to others is just noise that distracts you from your goals. It's also the sure way to rob all joy from writing. We love this work. A great way to quit loving this career is to compare ourselves to others. We need to keep our eyes on our own paper! Also, it helps if you accept that a lot of what happens in this business is luck. Does that mean hard work doesn't pay off? No. It's just going to take some of us longer to get there than it did others. Too, when you feel that anxious, jealous feeling when you see someone else doing better, go back to work. The real work of writing and improving craft, not how to make Facebook ads work. Sitting down to write and create stories is a great distraction from the business stuff.
How do you cut yourself some slack when you’re feeling particularly down about your productivity or the outcome of a book while you watch others succeed?
I try to remember how far I've come from when I first started out in this business and how much I've learned about the business and the craft. When I look at the last three years and all of the little steps I've taken that each inch me closer to where I want to be, I'm proud of myself. Also, if I'm feeling vulnerable and anxious, I stay away from social media. Nothing will put you in the bad place faster than seeing so-and-so's post about their book rising up the charts or hitting the USA Today list AGAIN when you're struggling to sell a hundred copies on release day. When I'm feeling terrible, I shut out the world and focus on writing. I know that the path to success is all about writing great books, even if it takes longer than we want. When success does come and you have a backlist of 30 books you wrote when no one knew who you were, then even better.
Thank you so much Tess!
For me, one of the best ways to squelch that green monster is to turn it into a cheerleader instead. And I have to say, celebrating other people's successes feels so much better than feeling down about where I am.
I know that's easier said than done at times, but it's the end goal right? Building that network to be positive and supportive will only pay dividends in the end.
Now, back to the keyboard! #ButtInSeat