By Gabrielle Slade
I’ve been the victim of unhealthy comparison.
In the past, I’ve written and published two books on Amazon. However, both of them are no longer for sale. The thing which led to their un-publication is that I was playing victim to unhealthy comparison--allowing myself to parallel my own writing with award winning professionals. I asked myself the toxic question which squashes every writer’s self confidence: Why isn’t my writing as good as this person’s?
When I finally determined that my writing wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be on the internet for strangers to read, I took it down and decided to try again. And again.
I’m in the process of writing my third novel. The difference here, is in my mindset, and what I’m speaking into myself. I’m using this tool of healthy comparison.
But before we even get there, let’s go back to that problem of ‘good enough’ or what I like to call ‘unhealthy comparison.’
As teen writers, it’s so easy to get caught in this trap of comparison. We like to look at the surface level and compare ourselves to professional authors, or even other ‘more succesful’ people in our lives, wondering why we’re not as perfect as they are without truly even understanding what’s going on behind the curtain. The show may not be going as great as the performance. Underneath ‘perfect’ writing is failure, rejection, and nasty, negative reviews. Yet, all we see is the glossy hardback with it’s shiny award sticker on display at Barnes & Noble. We see it, and believe we’re not as ‘perfect’ as these other writers, and that we’ll never be ‘good enough’ to be a ‘professional’ author.
That right there, is not good for your mental health.
The more you speak these lies into yourselves, the more you’re going to fail. If you are in a place where you can speak life into yourself, you’re more likely to succeed.
If you’ve never even put your book on the internet before, much less Amazon, or you’ve only written that one novel you’re determined to publish, yet you keep comparing it to so-and-so, why the heck are you comparing your story with someone who’s probably been writing for 10+ years? Especially, when you’ve been writing for probably less than that and have less experience than they do? Do you see how dumb that is?
If you start playing victim to the infection that is comparison, you’re going to quickly get frustrated with yourself and your journey and start believing this lie that we’re never going to be good as other authors. Don’t forget there’s no such thing as a perfect writer. What’s perfect for you won’t be for another reader. And every book ever written has faced bucket loads of critiques, writer’s block, rejection, and so on. The authors, in fact, are probably also victims to their own game of unhealthy comparison.
But what if we stopped playing the victim and instead we learned to use healthy comparison to help our writing grow?
While I don’t believe in placing unrealistic expectations on our writing, I do believe if we started watching other authors with the intention of studying their methods and learning them, then we would be in a lot better state mentally and would be able to stop this unhealthy route of cutting ourselves down.
If we stop placing these expectations on us to be as good as Author ABC, then our confidence is going to skyrocket.
Let’s say an author such as Cassandra Clare, is very well known for writing great and realistic characters, then maybe the next time you pick up one of her books, make a list of techniques you may have noticed that helped with her realistic characters. Then, try incorporating the technique into your own writing and style and see how that works.
If you were learning to play an instrument, you wouldn’t ask a beginner to teach you. No, you would ask a professional who’s played for years, watch how they play, and then try for yourself. Reading writing craft books, watching Author-tubers, and reading blog posts are what I’d call a healthy comparison. You’re looking and trying new things to help you grow as an author. You’re not placing this unrealistic expectation of how your writing should sound. You’re not stopping surface level. No, you’re going underneath the surface and discovering the root of the craft and how to incorporate it into your own personal style.
Now that I understand my unhealthy mindset, I’m actively pursuing a route of healthy comparison as I write my third novel with the intention of publishing it sometime next year. I still struggle with unhealthy comparison, but I refuse to be a victim of it.
I hope that if you got anything from this post today, that you now understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy comparison, and why it’s dangerous to fall onto the wrong path. You’re probably not making a living off your writing, but that’s OK. You don’t need to worry about being ‘as good’ as all these other amazing writers. In fact, having a bunch of money in no way makes one author better than another. Experience does that. You need to grow at your own pace into your own form. Don’t worry about being as good as someone else. Be imperfectly you.
Gabriella Slade grew up as the eldest of seven, two of her sisters being adopted from West Africa. As a home-schooled student, Gabriella spent her free time reading novels and scribbling down stories from a young age, where she discovered her love for fantasy. As a teen, she wrote and edited her debut novel over a period of 3 years. Gabriella has been blogging since 2015. Her blog won the Libester award in 2017. You can connect with her online at gabriellaslade.com
To find out more about Gabriella, check out her: Instagram