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.

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About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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21 Responses to Race Only With Yourself

  1. quix689 says:

    This was very well said, and it’s definitely something that I have to remind myself of sometimes. There are days when I feel good about my process and the progress that I’m making, and then there are other days when I feel like a failure because I usually don’t like my novels until I throw them out and write a new draft. I compare myself to others who can write awesome first drafts, and I feel like I’m not good enough. But you’re right – it’s stupid, and it’s unfair to me. Maybe it does take me two drafts to produce something I’m proud of, but you know what? I still end up with a decent second draft, and that’s what counts. As long as I’m working on it and am happy with what I have, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing.

    Thank you for reminding me of that. 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Thanks! My yardstick for process is whether I’m finishing books and continuing to move ahead in the pursuit of publishable work. You are, absolutely you are. Sometimes things don’t become clear until you see the story laid out. For me, that happens in the outline. For you, it seems to happen in that first draft. Both are entirely valid, because they’re what work for each of us respectively. Don’t forget, that’s what matters, that it’s working for you. 🙂

  2. Very well put. I haven’t written anything for well over a year and since sales on my books has slowed to nil I was feeling very down about it. Though I have many friends on the net, most are involved with their own works and though I like to promote when I can I don’t want to get too involved in case they think I’m living vicariously through them.
    Today my wife and I went out for a coffee and it was brought to the table by a waitress who said no charge as two others came up to sing Happy Birthday and pass me a card and gift. It made me feel quite worthwhile again and though I may not be ready to write, I feel quite happy about setting to and helping my friends where and while I can.

    • Julie says:

      Happy birthday, David!

      I’m glad you had that wonderful moment. And I don’t know that anyone would think you were living vicariously for helping or being involved with your friends and their writing. And who knows, being around other writers and talking about writing may spark you to start working on you own again. I hope so. 🙂

  3. Em says:

    Thanks for sharing this, this has been a huge discouragement for me recently, especially with my writing time so depleted by everything else.

    • Julie says:

      🙂 Glad to help. I think it’s important to take into account all the demands on your time, especially the non-negotiable ones, and I know you have a lot of those at the moment. *hugs* Honestly, from what I know, you’re doing fine, Em, probably better than you give yourself credit for.

  4. Celtic Forest Dweller says:

    I haven’t had any time for reading blogs lately, and it wasn’t until reading this just now that I realized how I’ve missed your blog these last few weeks. *hugs*

    Thanks so much for this. I’m bookmarking it. It is a wonderful post and a very good reminder that I need to pay closer attention to. 🙂

    And that first paragraph? I agree completely! ❤

    -Deborah

    • Julie says:

      Thanks. Missed you too, glad to hear the absence was just due to being busy though. ❤

      I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I know I needed to write it for myself, but I also figured a lot of people might need to hear this. I know a few of those myself.

  5. Pete Denton says:

    Great post, Julie. We are all different writers, working at a different pace and with different styles. I know my time limits me to the amount of writing I can reasonably do during the week, but that’s alright because I know I need the time to let the story complete itself in my mind before I can commit it to paper.

    I do like to take inspiration from more prolific writers to push me into writing another 500 words that day, or finishing the next chapter. But you’re right, that the battle is with yourself at your own pace. 🙂

    • Julie says:

      I like the way you look at this, that others inspire you, rather than cause you to be dissatisfied with not doing as much. Much better to do that, because it can help you, where the other reaction can only hurt you. 🙂

      • Pete Denton says:

        I’ve been writing my crime book for so long it’s the only approach I can take!

        I could write more often. I think subconsciously I don’t write as much as I could out of fear and self-doubt. After I finish the next draft I’ll be letting people read my book.

        Scary thought. Even though that’s the point of writing it, I’m still battling with the negative thoughts.

        When I read bloggers/writers like yourself and the workload you achieve it inspires me to push on.

        Several blogging writers I follow have published their books over the last few months. I want some of that too. 🙂

        • Julie says:

          I want to see you get to that published place too. 🙂

          I totally understand the almost-done fear and such. I often find myself struggling with the ending due to that idea that it’s over and I have to begin the work of shaping it into the best version of itself.

          Oh, and let’s not forget trying really hard to concentrate on other things when I have stuff out with test readers. I don’t want to pester them, but man, is focusing difficult, especially right now, as I have 3 books with test readers. 😮

  6. Chris Edgar says:

    Yes, in my experience, acknowledging what I’ve done so far is one of the most difficult things for me to do, since my usual tendency is to focus on “what needs to be done next” and possibly fret about the fact that it’s not yet done. Making a list of what I’ve done so far has been a useful technique for shifting my perspective a bit.

    • Julie says:

      Wait, I’m supposed to give myself credit for doing a lot of stuff instead of worrying? Omg! 😉

      Seriously, I have the same problem. And of course, the stuff to be done is endless, or should be, because there’s always another story, always one waiting to be written/edited/promoted. Something is always next on the to do list. I like the idea of an “I’ve done” list to remember and give myself a bit of a pat on the back for all the stuff I’ve done. I might have to give that a whirl. 🙂

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    Such very true words! Writing is not a “one size fits all” activity, and what works for Writer A might lead to writer’s block for Writer B.

    So now that I’ve finished Bound and enjoyed it very much, when again can I look forward to your next publication? 🙂

    • Julie says:

      😀 Possession is still out for feedback, but you know I’ll be announcing here when it’s ready. When do I ever keep quiet about anything?

      • jmmcdowell says:

        Seriously, you did a great job. It may take time (that’s the nature of the beast), but I think you’ll build a good audience. The stories, characters, and writing are all there. 🙂

        • Julie says:

          Wow… I think I’m about to break my face from grinning. Thank you, very very much. And I can try to be patient, especially as I know that careers rarely happen overnight, that this is a slow sort of thing. At worst, I’ll just keep writing, since it’s my substitute for patience. 😉 I really appreciate the comments. *massive hugs*

  8. Pingback: Finding a process that works for me « Writer in Progress

  9. Hey! It’s you! Your twitter handle is so elusive! A pleasure to make your acquaintance here.

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