Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Writing 101: How Do You Compare to Other Authors?

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I like to delve into the background of famous authors. I want to know when they started writing, how they got published, if they did anything weird in their spare time, even how much money they had when they died. But that’s a bad use of my time, because I inevitably start comparing myself to those other authors. Do you ever catch yourself doing the same thing?

Stacking Up

For a little while there, I was totally obsessed with author origin stories. One author in an interview talked about how she started writing a short story. Then, she said, the next thing she knew she had a 200,000-word book. Yeah, right. Reading stories like this used to make me feel bad, because I sweat to put 200 words on the page most days. So I stopped comparing myself to them. And now, I feel better.

There is a moral to this story: just don’t compare yourself to other authors. Don’t worry about how J.K. Rowling got published, or how Stephen King’s first book got rejected. Don’t read about how easy it was for them, ultimately, to achieve lasting book success. Because comparing yourself to them is inevitably going to make you feel bad, unless you’re a national celebrity in England or practically the king of a town in Maine. Don’t compare yourself to any other author, no matter who they are, when it comes to any aspect of who you are as an author.

You’re not Stephen King, and neither am I. You don’t want to compare yourself to another author because you wouldn’t really want to be another author. You have your own voice and your own stories to tell. That’s why your story of being an author is never going to look like anyone else’s story. So don’t worry about comparing yourself to them. Let them, one day, worry about comparing themselves to you.

Because in my weird days of other-author obsession, there was one thing that I learned through my mad quest: all of their stories are different. Each one of them has a unique origin story, some original anecdote all about how they got published. One day, you’re going to write your own author story as well. And maybe one day, I’ll be sitting around typing on my blog obsessing about you.

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