Why is it so bad to compare ourselves to other writers? Compare our books to other books?
Because quite often, we compare our WEAKNESSES to other people's STRENGTHS. (Or, the equally consequential method of comparing our strengths to others' weaknesses.)
Not only does it make us feel like crap (or in the opposite case, make us feel like everyone else is crap), but it STOPS US FROM GETTING BETTER.
No book is perfect. Let's just go ahead and get that out there. Those books you rate a 5 on Goodreads-- the authors just did the same things we're trying to do. Make our weaknesses not be negatives, and make our strengths shine to their fullest potential.
If we read a book and think, Holy wow! This author is SO GOOD at [fill in the blank], there is NO WAY I will ever be this good! I might as well stop right now. Well, um, yeah. They're amazing at [fill in the blank]. That's their strength. Does that mean we should stop? NO! That strength of theirs might not be our strength. In fact, it might be our greatest weaknesses. But did we notice the things they weren't so strong at? Maybe not, because we were so blown away by the thing they WERE good at, but those weaknesses were still there. No author has strengths in everything. But do you know what? YOUR BOOK CAN BE THAT SAME WAY. You'll just have a different strength that shines. A different thing that will blow others away.
But that bad feeling we get when we look at a strength of theirs that we don't possess, only has the power to discourage. And when we're discouraged, we turn off all ability to improve. Just say to yourself, I am comparing my weakness to their strength. It helps you put things in perspective! Then you can think, A master is at work here. If I pay attention to how they did things, then my weakness will become less of a weakness.
And by the same token, if we read a book where the author's weakness is our greatest strength, that critical Oh, my gosh. This got published?! feeling carries the same power. Yes, it got published because of the author's strength. If we spend the whole time noticing all the deficiencies in that area where we rock, we can totally miss out on learning from that area where they rock. Comparing our greatest strength to their greatest weakness has just as great a power to keep us from learning as does the opposite.
And that's what it's really all about, right? Getting better. Improving every day. Making our greatest weaknesses stronger, making our greatest strengths shine all the more, and making everything in the middle the best it can be.
And that's never going to happen if we compare.
Much gratitude to inluvwithwords at Out on a Limb for passing along the Sunshine Award to me. Thank you!
I write action / adventure books for middle grade readers, and I'm represented by Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties. I have two books released-- SKY JUMPERS and THE FORBIDDEN FLATS (both action / adventure, for ages 8 and up, with Random House Children's Books). I love happy kids even more than I love cookies, I make lists as often as I eat lunch, and I love having every light in the house on almost as much as I love writing.