Of Apples and Oranges … Why Writers Should Never Compare Themselves to Others
Authors do it all the time. We look at the writings of another and we compare talents. The problem with this is that we are very subjective about our abilities. When we indulge in comparison, we are looking for only the similarities. Because we are subjective beings, writers often give their own work a better benefit of the doubt. With that benefit in place, the similarities become weighted, and other comparisons are then made: If I write better than him, why haven’t I received a contract; or if I write better than her, why does she sell more books? This is where we fall into dangerous territory.
The path of comparing ourselves with others breeds discontent, jealousy, feelings of inadequacy, even fear, and depression, because, in comparison, we are either better or worse than another.
Instead, we need to contrast our work with the works of others. This allows us to look not only for the similarities but the differences. We get a better overall picture. Contrasting our work with another means that we have to do our best to put the subjectivity aside and realize that we all write differently and in different ways.
Comparing one author to another is like comparing the proverbial apple to the proverbial orange. It really can’t be done. To ask me to say that I write like another is setting me up for a lie. I don’t write like anyone else, and another author can’t write like me. In contrasting my writing with that of my friend, Betty, I’d have to say that she writes description more expressively than I do, but that’s not saying that I write description badly. Description is more important to Betty than it is to me. My focus is more on emotion and deep POV, but that doesn’t mean that Betty doesn’t portray those elements equally well. She has her own way of bringing them into the story.
Contrast better allows us to look honestly at our work and the work of others. The idea isn’t an all or nothing proposition: Either my work is better or the other writer’s work is better than mine . Instead, I see both similarity and difference, and hopefully they are in balance. The path of contrast leads to contentment, peace with fellow authors, confidence, strength and optimism.
Fay Lamb (The Tactical Editor) is an author, editor, and writing coach.
Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Fay has contracted three series. Stalking Willow and Better than Revenge, Books 1 and 2 in the Amazing Grace romantic suspense series are currently available for purchase. Charisse and Libby the first two novels in her The Ties That Bind contemporary romance series have been released. Fay has also collaborated on three romance novellas: The Christmas Three Treasure Hunt, A Ruby Christmas, and the newest A Dozen Apologies. Her adventurous spirit has taken her into the realm of non-fiction with The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.
Future releases from Fay are: Everybody’s Broken and Frozen Notes, Books 3 and 4 of Amazing Grace and Hope and Delilah, Books 3 and 4 from The Ties that Bind. Also, look for Book 1 in Fay’s Serenity Key series entitled Storms in Serenity.
Fay loves to meet readers, and you can find her on her personal Facebook page, her Facebook Author page, and at The Tactical Editor on Facebook. She’s also active on Twitter. Then there are her blogs: On the Ledge, Inner Source, and the Tactical Editor. And, yes, there’s one more: Goodreads.