Comparison is killing your writing.
Whether you’re comparing yourself to someone you know, or someone you read in a magazine, or someone on social media, comparing your writing to someone else’s isn’t productive. In fact, it can often negatively impact your writing.
You might think, “This person is so much cleverer than me.” Or, “I could never tell an amazing story like that.” Even, “I’ll never be a good writer — maybe I’ll just quit.”
Quit comparing, but don’t quit writing.
You have a unique perspective with which someone else in the world will identify. It isn’t fair to compare your journey to someone else’s, especially if you’re in different stages of those journeys.
Instead of letting comparison kill your writing, turn the tables and do the following to empower yourself.
Focus on Being Better Today Than You Were Yesterday
If you’re going to compete with anyone, you should be competing with yourself. Set small, realistic, consistent, and measurable goals to ensure that you’re strengthening your writing muscle. Identify aspects that you would like to work on, write them down, schedule them in a calendar, and keep yourself accountable. That might look like finding a writing buddy who’s going through something similar and meeting up once a week to discuss your progress.
Fail, and Fail Fast, With the 70-20-10 Rule to Achieve Success
A concept I love is the 70-20-10 rule, and it’s fantastic at helping you move past comparison that is killing your writing. Like the concept above, it focuses your energy on growing and developing your writing. Rather than worrying about perfectionism, it allows you to focus purely on creation.
The idea is that if you crank out 100 pieces of writing (or 100 paintings, or 100 cupcake recipes, or whatever you’re creating), 70 of those pieces will not be very good, 20 of those pieces will be average/alright pieces, and 10 of those pieces will be spectacular successes. The thing is, you have to constantly create in order to reach that ratio. The more you create, the more you learn for the next piece, and the better and better your overall writing becomes. As this Inc. article describes, quantity actually breeds quality.
It also gives us permission to fail, because failure is inherently part of the creative process. That’s uncomfortable for a lot of us, but fear of failure can hold you back and lead to inaction. It’s better to fail a lot of times as stepping stones to a success than it is to never try. Those people to whom you’re comparing yourself have failed many, many times to get where they are today, too.
Why Comparison is Killing Your Writing: Don’t Confuse Comparison and Aspiration
Comparison and aspiration are very different things — one can bring you down, and the other can lift you up. Take a mental health check: Are you comparing yourself to someone else and their writing, or are you viewing them in an aspirational and inspirational light?
If you get a knot in your gut every time you see this person or their writing, if they evoke feelings of jealousy, if you start measuring your work against theirs, you could be comparing. Does it drag at your overall energy? Do you want to scream into a pillow or hibernate in front of the TV? Or do you want to throw your hands up and quit? The comparison is killing your writing.
Instead, look for people and writing that are aspirational. That is, they evoke a sense of inspiration and motivation. These people and works can act as energy boosters for you. Perhaps they do something remarkably well, like creating incredible dialogue, which you want make a personal goal for your own writing. This will give you high energy and joy and a desire to put pen to paper.
The key here is to support yourself in building your energy and motivation up, not tearing yourself down. You can do this by:
- Surrounding yourself with people and information that level you up and inspire you. This could be friends and family, other writers, motivational podcasts and books, music, or anything that gives you joy and keeps you going. As this Business Insider article explores, motivational speaker Jim Rohn says you are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. This can apply to all the information you consume, too, from the news to social media.
- As mentioned above, get yourself a writing buddy, or join a writing group, where you can talk things out, motivate one another, and hold one another accountable to reach your writing goals.
- Move beyond your to-do list and start celebrating your wins.
Don’t be Afraid to Use YOUR Voice
Not only do you have a unique perspective, but you have a unique writing style, a unique story, a unique tone of voice, and so much more. If everybody achieved writing success in the same exact way, the world would be an incredibly boring place. We need new and different stories told in new and different ways to help us have important conversations about the world around us.
Don’t worry about your writing not having an impact because it doesn’t sound like someone else’s. Yes, we should all strive to write in a way that’s readable (e.g., correct spelling and grammar), informative and entertaining (and there are a lot of ways to be entertaining!). But we also must remember that writing is more than a science — it’s an art. Joy in art (and writing!) shines through when we are our truest, most authentic selves.
You, and Your Writing, Are Enough — Right Now
There is always room for improvement, and writing is a lifelong discovery process. Think about some of the world’s most famous authors, especially the prolific ones. Their work probably looks very different at the beginning of their career than it does during the middle and end. Those early works are still incredible, but the writers changed and adapted their writing as they too changed and adapted as people, and as new and interesting things happened in the world.
So remember that you, and your writing, are enough at this very moment. If you are writing anything, at all, you are a writer. You don’t need anyone’s permission or a byline or a fancy agent to be a writer. What’s more, don’t underestimate the power you have to lift up others. You never know who is going to read your work and be inspired to take up their own pen.