Do you compare yourself to other writers? Let’s break the addiction

This week on Duckie TV,  we kicked off  Q & Q Friday 2017,  with a mindset question.

A duckie wrote to ask if I ever compared myself to other writers and if so, how did I cope with it.

Hello? Did I ever compare myself to others?

Hell, yeah!

I’ve even tried to dress like my favourite authors. (I’ll never pull off the long black coat aka Neil Gaiman.)

Neil Gaiman by Beowulf Sheehan

Ditto, the beard

On the video, I talked about how I’ve come to terms with this tendency and how I’ve more-or-less eradicated it. I had to. For the sake of my own mental health.

It all comes down to self-protection. And, I guess, self-love.

We must understand that comparing ourselves to others is the first drink. It’s the poison. It’s the addiction that will only lead to tears. Don’t touch that first drink!

It can work in various directions, too. At first, I used to compare myself to others who were STREETS ahead of me (aka Neil Gaiman, Cornelia Funke, Roald Dahl). It was agony.

BUT, in the early days of my career, I also spent time (shame on me) comparing myself to… ninnies.

Yep. I’ll admit it. I compared myself to writers who were, in my eyes,  useless.

I took particular pleasure in comparing myself to hacks who were hugely successful in terms of financial gain.

Oh, the indignity! I was suffering for my art, why weren’t they?

For a few moments, comparing myself to Daisy M. Kafoops*, would give me a perverse sense of superiority. My ego would get all puffed up and mighty, and I would feel so feckin’ self-righteous.

And then I’d crash.

And then I’d fee like… crap.


I had to spin on this cycle repeatedly, for years, before I finally woke up and said, ENOUGH. This is making me miserable. And not only that, it’s demotivating.

I do not want to be miserable. I do not want to be demotivated.

I also realised that comparing myself to others, competing with others, was a form of procrastination. AND a form of self-sabotage. (Linger on this. Does it ring true for you, too?)

So I stopped comparing myself to others. I stopped competing. I withdrew from the race.

Then I had energy. Then I could find out who I was, as a writer, an artist and as a human being.

I’m not saying I’m all Zen-like and Lama-ish. I’ve still got that bottle of whiskey on the sideboard.

But mostly I avoid it.

I have a cup of tea instead.

Jen xo

* Daisy M. Kafoops doesn’t exist. I made her up. To protect the innocent.

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5 Replies to “Do you compare yourself to other writers? Let’s break the addiction”

  1. Thanks, Jen xx Don’t know if it happens to you, but several times I have come across publishers who ask me, as part of my submission/pitch, to name at least three other published books books that are similar to the one I am submitting. In other words, who do I write like? I never feel that I want to answer that question. I write like me. Of course I read other writers, I admire other writers, I love other writers and they influence me, but I don’t want set out to write books that are just like theirs. Love reading your posts!

  2. Jen, it’s true what Carol Ann Martin says … when publishers ask you to compare your manuscript, or your style of writing with other (presumably) very successful published books or other successful writers’ style, I find it difficult too. I read a lot of books for all ages, and I admire tremendously my favourite writers, but I honestly can’t find anyone who writes the same as I do. Maybe that is good, maybe it’s not so good. But I can’t do anything about it, so I just keep writing my works-in-progress and try not to think too much about all those other questions that could cause author resistance. One must be careful of RESISTANCE. Believe in your story, believe you are following the best way you can that very human skill that’s been around since the cave dwellers from the past – to tell stories. 🙂

  3. What timing – today I told someone in the business that’s my greatest weakness – comparisons. It is terrible, because it slows down the writing process and progress. Duck (pun intended) when those “I’m not as good as they are” thoughts start to invade (they don’t call them invasive thoughts for nothing).

  4. Hmmm if a publisher asks me to compare my writing to somebody else’s I guess I will pick eith Zaphod Beeblebrox or Dirk Gently. Neither are writers both are fictional characters. I write like me. I write what I like or what the voices in my head tell me.

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