I'm not just an author. I have a day job. My day job often sends its employees to training seminars in the name of making us better. Yesterday, I went to what amounted to a leadership development training. Naturally, the facilitator had a power point presentation. One of his slides was this quote from Theodore Roosevelt: Comparison is the thief of joy.
As soon as I read that, I had one of those a-ha moments, but it wasn't related to my day job. It was centered around my writing. I realized just how much I compare myself to other writers.
Every time I shop for e-books, I'm looking at the covers. Sometimes, I'm thinking I love a cover and how much I'd love to have it on one of my books. Other times, I'm happy that my covers are better and I'm grateful to my graphic artist.
The big thing I do when I shop for other books is look at the reviews. When I see a writer with more than twenty reviews, I'm immediately jealous. I wish I had that many reviews. I wonder what the author did, other than write an amazing novel, to encourage readers to leave a review. I start thinking about all the ways I can get more reviews and wondering if I can make it happen.
When I crack open a book and start reading, one of two things always happens. I either find myself rewriting it in my mind as I would have written it if I were the author, or I wish I'd been clever and creative enough to come up with such a stellar book.
Every month, I get a report of my book sales for the prior month. My sales are steady, but there is no way I could support myself on my royalties. I see that report, and I start thinking about my peers. Some of them share what they make on their social media. If a peer makes more than me, I start to wonder why and how I can make more money, aside from writing better or more books.
Whenever I see a book on a best seller list, it pulls one of two reactions from me. If the book is really good, I wish that my writing was on par with the other author so I could also be a best seller. If the book isn't as good as I think a best seller should be, the green-eyed monster rears its head. This is especially true when the other book is full of errors or just plain weird. I always go on a private little rant about how it doesn't make sense that a book about alligator shape shifters can be a best seller, but my contemporary romance about a Marine suffering from PTSD barely registers on the radar.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Yesterday, I read this quote and I immediately understood just how true it is. By focusing so much on my fellow writers and trying to live up to them, I'm causing myself undue stress. I would not be surprised if that stress was carrying over to my writing and affecting its quality. I can also say without a shadow of a doubt that comparing myself to my peers often results in me second guessing my talent and ability and wondering if I should just give up. All because I'm so busy wondering what others are doing that I'm not putting my energy where it belongs, on my own writing.
I can't promise I'm going to quit my comparison addiction cold turkey, but I know it's not doing me any good. And I owe that knowledge to Teddy Roosevelt. Well, him and the trainer who introduced me to the quote.