Friday, September 9, 2011

Happy Writers: Your Only Competition

It's you. It probably sounds cheesy—and heaven knows it doesn't always feel like that—but the only person you're competing against in writing is yourself.

This is a creative venture, after all. It's subjective. Yes, there are accepted standards, but at the same time those standards are often broken. Maddening, right? I both love and hate the idea of subjectivity. Sometimes I just want there to be a formula that says my book is GOOD. Of course then it could also say my book is BAD.

A lot of the times, I want to make this more complex than it is. But there's a simplicity to the writing/publishing gig that we will never escape:

1. It's subjective.
2. Therefore, stuff happens that may not make sense.
3. We can't control anything but our own work.

That's...pretty much it. It's kind of like running a marathon. Yeah, you could focus on those guys who run at Olympic speed. You could get bitter and think, "I will never run a marathon that fast, so I'll give up." But that fact is, if you CAN run a marathon you are pretty dang awesome. And if you can beat your own time, that makes you even MORE awesome. Independent of anyone else.

Writing a book is like that. Yeah, maybe you aren't the Olympic Book Writer, but if you've finished a novel, you are AWESOME and I raise my glass of Sprite to you. And if you've improved since then, you are MORE awesome. It keeps going—independent of anyone else.

I could spend a lot of time wallowing in the fact that I didn't sell as fast as I wanted. Or that I'm still so far from publication. Or that I won't be a bestseller. Or that I'm not this or that and the other. But that's just silly—I'm further along than I've ever been! I've written a better book than I ever have! And it's going to be published!

Comparing me to me, I've improved a lot, and I've come a long way. When I remove everyone and everything else from view, I can sit here and be proud of myself.

Because the most important thing is besting myself, and as long as I do that everything else will work out.


  1. I raise my glass of Dr. Pepper to you!

  2. Isn't this the truth? I've gotten to the point where I don't feel like the worst writer on the planet when I get a rejection. I tell myself this is a subjective industry and it's not me. Of course, I haven't gotten a rejection in a few days, so the next one may be devastating. LOL!

  3. ...I think writing a novel feels like training for a triathlon... 'cause the first draft is one thing, then there's beta-feedback, then revisions.

    ...and if/when you start querying, it's like another thing entirely... maybe running barefoot up the Himalayas?

    Point #3 is excellent :)

  4. A timely reminder as I begin another round of requested revisions. Great post!

  5. You'll never know how much you've just boosted my self esteem. Thank you very much!

  6. Thanks for the reminder, Natalie!

  7. A valuable piece of advice, and one we too often forget.

  8. Every little bit of writing I do improves me... step by step.

    It's hard to be patient, and it's easy to think everyone else is a better writer than we are... but in the end, it is our OWN writing that we are working on, and that takes time.

    Thanks for the pep talk! Cheers!

  9. Very nice post.

    I think I write to see what I can learn from it. I want to be published and have other people enjoy my stories, possibly learn from them, of course. But I look forward to what I can learn from it as well.

  10. Brilliant post. I am yet to finish my first novel but a few years ago I hadn't even written a short story (and now have quite a few under my belt). I write every day and every day I know I am improving - I just have to look over my blog posts to see that.

    Writing to me is an art. And all art is subjective. If we start worrying about other people's reactions to it, then we will stop creating the art that is inside us begging to come out.

  11. Nothing is more damaging to my creativity than getting in the loop of comparing myself to others. It totally shuts down my ability to produce.

  12. Yeah I'm competing with myself - and I'm going to win!

  13. This is so perfect, Natalie. Very wise words, indeed!