I’ve written before about the comparison game here and here, how easy it is to get caught up in holding one author’s work to our own and feeling inadequate (or superior) as a result. But lately I’ve been thinking about another type of comparison as I’ve worked through the most productive year I’ve ever had — the kind that compares another author’s output to my own. And once again, it would be very easy to find myself lacking.
My writing life has ebbed and flowed since 1998. But whether I’ve been teaching, on summer vacation, at home with young children, back in the classroom, or back home again with my boys in school, I’ve never been able (or wanted to) write from morning till night. I just don’t function that way. And yet. Knowing others work more than I do means it’s not a very long before I see what I do as somehow not enough.
|Writing back in the old days
When my boys were little, I aimed for three writing days a week. Sometimes those sessions were ten minutes long. Other times, when I had a babysitter, I got in a solid hour and a half. There are authors with little ones who produce book after book, who are able to balance the parenting and writing with (what appears to be) more ease than I. Kiersten White is one of those superstar moms who writes like the wind. I mean, look at those books she’s written with three little ones at home. Amazing!
Since debuting in 2012, I’ve been fortunate enough to sell three more books. Please know I’m aware how much of a gift this is. I have incredibly talented friends who have yet to make a second sale. But I know others who have already released five, six, seven books since our early days. Victoria Schwab is one of those rare talents who writes for both the young adult and adult market. Look at all the books she’s produced in just a few short years.
It’s a slippery slope for me, having access to so much information. Comparing my experience with the sliver of other lives I’m seeing.
The Internet allows us to glimpse others’ writing in a way no other generation of authors ever has before. And while it can be encouraging and inspiring, it can be destructive, too. The thing is next year might not be as productive as this year was for me. And what will I do with that? I know it would be far too easy to see the authors who continue to write “with ease”* and find success as the ones who are doing it right. It would mean my process is flawed and broken.
But the more I live this life, the more I’m coming to see creativity doesn’t work this way.
So here’s what I’m telling myself. And if it benefits you, I hope you’ll listen in:
I’m allowed to be in awe of those who work differently than I do. But I can’t let their style and success spell defeat for me. What they’re doing has nothing to do with what I’m doing. Their efforts don’t reflect poorly on mine. Some years will be more productive than others. It’s not about talent or skill. Not better or worse, just different.
Whatever life phase, writing phase, creative phase I’m in, I want to be fully in it. Learn it, embrace it, love it. Do it. I want to use it in the best way I’m able and learn to let go of the rest.
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” ― Bruce Lee
*And here’s the thing: while I know Kiersten and Victoria have had a lot of success, I’ve also read blog posts where both of them have shared writing can be very, very hard. My gut reaction to their experiences is skewed…and unfair to all of us.