Race Only With Yourself
One of the best things about being a writer these days is the fabulous community we have on the internet. We can meet others we would never have had a chance to know, find people like ourselves who we can share with, who we can turn to for support when we need it. To me, that’s priceless, and I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
The one problem that I’ve noticed with sharing our accomplishments online is that many of us have a tendency to compare ourselves to others, especially our friends. I think most of us, if not all, have done it, looked at someone’s progress on their WIP, and felt like our own is inadequate. Or maybe someone talks about their process, someone who’s successful in some way or who we look up to, and we look at how we write only to wonder if we’re doing it ‘right’. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. We compare and find ourselves wanting, and then feel bad about it. I’ve lost track of how often I’ve done it, quite often lately, in fact. Worse, we let it get us down and discourage us.
I’m going to come right out and say this, as much to myself as to everyone who reads this post. When we do this, the self-judging, we’re being massively unfair to ourselves. Each of us leads a different life, our own, and the unique circumstances of our lives create particular challenges in our pursuit of our writing. How fair can it possibly be to compare ourselves, with those unique circumstances, to someone else?
And it’s more than just the circumstances. It’s also the choices we each make, and how much of a priority we give to things. Our values are as different as everything else. These things affect how much time we have to spend on writing or how much we choose to. And there’s nothing wrong with deciding it’s not your 100% highest priority, or choosing not to spend every free moment writing. Some people have families, others are more social. There are those who have day jobs that require long hours, and others who deal with serious illness. All of these are understandable reasons why someone might not write as much as others. And there’s nothing wrong with writing at your own pace, as long as you are working on it.
Excuses aren’t all right, and I am not saying that they are. But on the other hand, refusing to acknowledge our differences in circumstances that can lead to different outcome doesn’t do any good either. The only thing it’s ever done for me is make me unhappy. Such comparisons only suck the joy out of my accomplishments, and I would bet I’m not the only one who has experienced this.
So, where’s the balance? I think it comes from being mindful of our circumstances, and that others have different ones. I think it requires us to be happy with what we do, so long as we’re spending our time appropriately on the things we value. The numbers, the timelines, the arbitrary deadlines we give ourselves? They shouldn’t be something we use to rake ourselves over the coals, and most certainly neither should the achievements of our friends and peers. Instead, compare your work to yourself, take joy when you do well and improve on past successes. Shout out your achievements and pat yourself on the back for all of them. Let them be enough, so long as you are moving forward. Give that a shot, and I will too. Maybe we can all be a bit more satisfied that way.