Monday, January 10, 2011

Can You Stop Comparing?

"When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you." Lao Tzu

What is one habit that is destructive to writers?
What do you think?
Here's one: Comparing yourself and/or your writing to someone else and their work. 
Every author is different. Their words, characters, ability to build tension are unique to that writer. 
By comparing yourself, negative feelings build up and build up and by the end of the day you've given up your dream of writing.

How do we stop comparing or at least get it under control?

1. Give back.
By giving back, you are thinking of others and not focused on yourself. You've come along way in your goals and talent of writing. Has someone helped you along the way? 
Our local writers community has sooo many authors who are willing to help newbies like me. They give advice and help and humor. They give back because they were where I am now and someone helped them too.
So giving back is a great way to refocus on the positive.

2. Don't fall into the trap of being perfect.
Seriously. How many books have you read that are perfect? The grammar is perfect. The characters have amazing arcs, etc. etc. etc. Right. You haven't either. You and your work don't need to be perfect. BUT you do need to do your best. By doing your best you will feel empowered which will make your brain work and your story will grow up and be amazing, right?

3. Give up comparing.
If you can't give up on comparing yourself negatively, give up comparing positively too. You don't need to compare yourself to feel better about yourself. Both sides of comparing are often connected (interesting concept, isn't it?).
If you can't stop doing the negative comparisons then stop doing them both. You may need to give up the positive to move away from the negative.

4. Compare you to you.
The best way to compare is yourself to yourself. 
I saw this concept work in my husband. He's a very competitive athlete. He's fast, thinks quickly and acts. He's a natural athlete. He's also short for most sports. Instead of comparing himself against the taller guys, he compares himself against his progress. 
Through his sports days he worked on running faster, making free throws, interceptions, drawing fouls and making lay ups. On the court and field he's not a hot head who thinks everyone else is to blame for losing the game. He looks at what he could do better next time. 
(There is one exception: of course the refs and umps are to blame 95% of the time, right??)
He's also positive about his talents. Not cocky. He appreciates what he can do and then he pushes the limits to do better.

5. There are worse.
If you're a writer, find a book that is horrible in writing and grammar etc. I know, I know. This is comparing. This is the last resort. You know you can do better. So do it.


Renae W. Mackley said...

I think it's human nature and takes effort not to compare. I liked the "compare you to you" suggestion and the quote at the top. Thanks for reminding us and giving ways to avoid this.

Shaunda said...

This is a great reminder. thanks!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Love this! You have some great tips here, thank you. It's so hard NOT to compare everything in my life to other things. I really like the Give Back attitude and the Comparing You ones. Perfect!

kbrebes said...

Excellent, Taffy! I love Lao Tzu, too!

Taffy said...

Thank you ladies! Love hearing from you!

Lois D. Brown said...

This applies to me in just about everything. Thanks for the reminder. I found your blog through utahchildrenswriters yahoo group. Thanks for posting. My blog is:

Janette Rallison said...

So true. Writers also eat too much chocolate and pick apart every movie we see. Actually, we have a lot of flaws . . .

Scott said...

Comparing paralyzed me for a while right after college. One of the hazards of a lit major in two languages trying to write.

Comparing has two sides. Most of us compare and think we're not good enough. Others compare and think they're soooo much better than what gets published. That group is often the set of writers who won't take criticism or read books about writing.

Taffy said...

Good to hear from you Janette. Welcome Lois!
Thanks Scott. Good to hear from the men!