Friday, March 4, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s….

House, Wife, Ox…or Publication Story.

So I have a problem. It’s called, obsessively comparing myself to others. From the way I write all the way to how fast someone sold a book. This is not helpful in the least to my journey and sometimes it sneaks up on me without warning. But sometimes, most of the time, I let it in by my actions. By purposefully seeking out stories with the intention of comparing them to my story.

For example, when querying, and an agent would request a full, the minute I hit send I had a mission. The mission: Find everyone else in the entire world who had ever sent even one sentence to this agent, read every detail of each story, pick one (usually the most unrealistic, like the agent offered rep two days after requesting) and then lament when my story didn’t match theirs exactly. “Oh no! It’s been three days! She must hate me!” “Oh no! She writes books in two months and I take three! I must suck!”

This does not help me in the least. In fact, it paralyzes me. It keeps me from being productive. So how can I stop this behavior:

1. Don’t stalk people.

I was going to make a list of the things I shouldn’t do, but I think eliminating that one behavior might solve the issue. This won't eliminate my interest in other writers, because I am interested. But taking away the comparison intent will make a huge difference.

I am not my neighbor. I will have my own story.

So what about you? How do you keep yourself from obsessively comparing yourself to others?


  1. I try NOT to read about an authors journey per say. I don't want to know how they found their agent, or how quickly they manage to get published, or how the journey is taking forever...

    To me the writers themselves are what matter, the substance of who they are as a person. If I reflect on anything else, I might go screaming mad. My journey isn't like any other, it's mine. (Hugs)Indigo

  2. I'm the same way. Could I just steal this post for my own person use? Just kidding.
    I have a hard time with comparing myself with others as well. For that very reason, when may agent goes on submission with my first book, I'll probably expect rejection, since I'm not one of those people that get 25 editors fighting over one book. I've learned to sit down and relax though. Everyone has their own journey. Some have to work harder than others, which at times isn't fair. But, I know if I keep plugging along, keep writing, keep my cool when others get a book deal in a day, and keep loving what I do, it will eventually happen to me. I love aspiring stories. It makes me not give up.
    And FYI, when your book sells, I'll be one of the first in line to buy it! :)

  3. I try to remind myself that everyone has different processes and strengths, and everyone is going to have different stories too. This doesn't necessarily mean that one is better than the other.

  4. Since you'd know I was lying if I denied it, I have to say I don't keep myself from obsessive comparison. Oh, I tell myself not to. I tell myself why it's only self-defeating. I tell myself my path is not theirs. I talk a good talk. Then, I ignore myself and do it again.

    I'm doing it today. I'm hanging my head in shame.

  5. But stalking is so much fun. It's human nature to be curious about what's on the other side of the fence. The trick is to appreciate what's on your side. I guess. Easier said than done.

  6. I try to remind myself of exactly what you said: "I will have my own story."

    Granted, it's not always easy. But I try not to focus only on those who who are reaching their dreams faster than I am. I also take a long hard look at those who have been struggling even longer/harder than I have.

    Because it's all relative, yannoh?

  7. My biggest problem is that I compare all my worst traits with 20 other people's best traits, never stopping to consider we all have strenghts and weaknesses. Me vs. 20. I lose every time. Not that we should compare at all, but it is human nature.

  8. I know that my whole unfinished-book status is very enviable, but you really need to stop comparing yourself to me. And the stalking? It's just gone too far.

  9. You guys are all really good at making me feel better about my comparing-myself-to-others problem. Thanks for your sympathy/advice/ways that work for you. :)

    Linda, no need to be ashamed. It's addictive. :) This post wasn't supposed to make you feel bad about yourself.

    Candi, so true. That is exactly what we do and it is entirely unfair to ourselves.

    Jessie, you are my arch enemy so you know I stalk and compare myself to you constantly. I'm sure you're just hiding out waiting to pounce with your brilliant book and awesomeness. You're trying to throw me off your scent. As your arch enemy that should somehow gain me the privilege of reading this book of yours, shouldn't it?

  10. The same way I keep from munching on chips. I don't buy them.
    It's tempting to check up on other authors. See what their goodreads numbers are, their rank on Amazon.
    But I know I'd only see the ones doing better than me an never the ones doing worse.
    So I don't look. I'm hoping I can keep the same attitude when reviews come out. :)

  11. Aww, Kasie! I understand the comparison game, and I hate it, hate it, hate it. You are so right that we can't compare, and coveting anything of someone else's is never, ever good. Things will happen for you when they are supposed to happen. I keep telling myself this, too. :)

  12. I think comparing yourself to others is never a win situation. I mean, the other commentors are right, it IS human nature. However, you either end up feeling terribly lacking or snobbishly cocky. No.Win.

    For me, most of the time I just try to remember how incredibly lucky I am (in lots of ways, not just as a writer.) The truth is, we never hear the WHOLE story of someone's life on a blog (nor do we really want to, for that matter) so who really knows what struggles they might be facing in other areas of their life?

    Few people lead truly charmed lives.

    Very thought provoking post.


  13. I kinda feel ashamed here, you know?
    I mean, I'm always comparing myself to others and I seem to do nothing about it, LOL.
    Maybe it's because I've had fun doing it? (Oh please, don't hit me!) I mean, take the querying thing--I had lots of fun reading other comments in query tracker... oh well, maybe I'm so crazy, as Kimberly says, LOL!

    And it's funny, because I blogged about something similar a while ago, about feeling jealous of other writers, and in the end, I got to the conclusion that a little bit of jealousy--without wishing the others something bad-- is good bc it makes you work harder to get your dreams. :P

  14. It will be finished in twenty years (at least that's what I told Candice in our top-secret email exchange which you are not supposed to know about because she is your BFF and I'm your AE) and then you can read it.

  15. Amber, oh yes, that is the next stage, isn't it? :)

    Michelle, I completely agree. I've never felt that things happen at the right time more than I do now. I'm glad you understand the feeling, though. :)

    Shelley, So true. It is good to remember that we are only seeing portions of someone's life. That is a really helpful reminder. Thanks. :)

    Monica, I think you're right, a little competitive spirit can be very motivating. I think it just depends on how you feel after the stalkin--I mean, reading about others. If you feel excited to try to do better, then yes, keep doing it. If, it makes you feel worse about yourself and stops you from being productive, then it must not be healthy. But you are obviously a very sweet girl so it doesn't surprise me that reading about others' stories only encourages you. :)

    Jessie, you evil, evil girl. Stay away from my BFF. :)

  16. Whew! For a moment I thought you were going to send me to a loony house or something!
    And I LOVE that way of thinking! You're so wise, my sistah. :D *runs off to stalk around*

  17. I just know how luck and timing and so many other factors come into play in this business, so I try to mind my own.

    However, that doesn't mean I don't think "unngh, how come .... ungh ... why...ung... how can i...ungh.... she/he ...ungh..." laughing - but I only allow myself to do that for a little bit and then it's back to work.

    Because really, maybe someone is looking at me and saying "how'd she have three books published in two years? how come she found a publisher who loves her? how come she has a walk-about hat from australia that actually fits her little pea-head when other hats never do!" :-D

  18. Yes, this is so me. Its like I'm not satisfied until I've figured out: yes, I'm the most special person ever and said agent is probably snuggling with my mss and singing it happy songs, or (more likely) a request means nothing and why, oh why am I not as cool as so-and-so who not only got a request but wrote the book and published it while she was still in infancy/flying airplanes/cleaning her house (I know. A writer with a clean house? Seriously.).

    So comparisons aren't productive. Learn and grow, learn and grow...

  19. Wow... this is big. I'm pretty I'm not strong enough to do that. Show me how? :)