Once upon a time there was a point in our lives when we realised achievement sometimes wasn’t enough to impress but how that achievement stacked up against the achievements of others. Many of us never look back, and can’t, because nobody else is.
As we get older, we learn the depth of achievement. That how we achieve something and the extent to which we do is a personal journey that is unique to us. It’s true, and it’s a wholesome concept. But when we care so deeply about the outcome of a particular journey, like our author careers (if we have one, or plan to have one), that we can’t help but compare ourselves to others at times.
The urge to be a success as fast as possible has been nurtured in us from a young age by a fast-paced and demanding society. The indie author world is no different. Authors with no back-list talk about how they topped every chart with rapid releases and the rest of us sit here wondering how on earth we can write an entirely trilogy well in three months. It’s no wonder we want to be international bestsellers after day one.
Regardless, comparison is not a healthy mentality when authors are building. Building their skills, building their back-list and most important, building a business mindset. Later on, when we know what we’re doing and we see others doing better than us, we have everything we need to try and hit higher targets.
In the meantime, here’s a few tips to help us stop comparing ourselves to others.
1. Extract lessons from the achievements of others.
Sounds like a line from a coming-of-age martial arts movie but it’s an important thing to consider. Successful people get to where they are through hard work, luck or a combination of the two. It’s usually the latter but one way or the other, they’re doing something right and it will help us to figure out what that is.
In the indie author group 20Booksto50k (join it if you haven’t already, it’s full of ridiculously good info for authors starting out or building), authors post about their journeys. They often outline their successes, their failures and a cliff-notes version of how they got to where they are. This transparency is unbelievably helpful if we are trying to map out our own trajectory and avoid pitfalls. Better yet, if we are focusing on how other people’s journeys can assist us in our own, we are less likely to compare them and feel bad that we aren’t as far along as they are.
Learning how to avoid mistakes and setbacks from people who have already made them is the biggest advantage we have as authors who are just starting out or still building their careers. So, let’s use it!
2. Remember not everyone starts the race at the same time.
The starting gun fires at different times for everyone and remembering that we are the beginning of our journeys is the first step to achieving patience. Patience that will stop us spending too much on ads before we know how they work and from putting the laptop away after three hours so we don’t neglect our families.
The urge to get everything done right this second is one I have battled with a lot. Only through taking a step back and realising that my time will come if I work hard, not necessarily fast and not in every waking moment. (Just most of them!)
3. Write the darn book.
It’s amazing the things we will do to distract ourselves from writing. The dishes, a good, long notebook shopping trip, or browsing Facebook to see what’s up and finding that while we were procrastinating, someone just hit the bestseller list on Amazon. Congratulations and aw, man, why aren’t I a bestseller yet?
This is the most simple solution on this list. Sit down and write your book. Or stand, nobody’s fussed, but they will be fussed if you deprive them of that amazing upcoming book of yours. There’s no better way to make you feel better about yourself for not yet conquering the literary world than to write yourself towards the finish line.
All your thoughts about comparing yourself will be replaced with plot points, character arcs and beating your self-doubt up with a crowbar. (That particular demon only responds to force). Better yet, you’ll make some progress, even if it’s just a few hundred words to keep the comparison thoughts at bay.
It’s not always fun to admit to ourselves that we’re comparing ourselves to others but it’s a natural, human phenomenon and if it won’t go away on its own, we can at least use it to our advantage.
Thanks for reading!