Friends, I want to step back from my usual writing advice and books reviews to have a heart-to-heart. I want to talk about something I view as a tough topic, which is comparison.
At the age of sixteen, I wrote my first novel. After powering through an entire month of NaNoWriMo and snagging my hard-earned “winner” badge, I realized that it wasn’t the badge that had brought me so much satisfaction. Instead, it was the feeling of holding my printed draft in my hands for the first time. In that moment, I was a writer.
I never questioned whether or not I made the cut. I simply got to work on editing and querying agents with hopes of putting my novel out into the world. Unfortunately, my first novel received rejection after rejection, but that didn’t stop me from believing in myself and my work.
Flash forward, four years later.
As you all know, in January of last year, I completed the first draft of my second novel and have labored through several rounds of edits since then. But after all this time, I occasionally find myself doubting my status as a “writer.” Why?
For reference, I joined the #writingcommunity in February 2019. But here’s a disclaimer: I LOVE the writing community on Instagram and Twitter. My followers have brought so much light into my life and continue to encourage me to grow in my craft.
But why do I find myself comparing my daily word counts, the length of my drafts, my creative processes, and so much more? I’ve pinned myself against those with more followers or more aesthetically pleasing feeds, which only lowers my confidence and leaves me wondering if I’m doing enough.
Let me say this: your worth is not determined by your ability to put a filter over the harsh realities of being a writer. Even the person behind your favorite account, the one that seemingly has it all together, struggles sometimes.
Writing a novel is HARD. Editing and grinding through five or six (or more) drafts is exhausting. Plotting a novel from scratch, doing research on places you’ve never visited, and trying to get your duck-like characters in a row is an investment that many aren’t willing to make.
No one wants to be a downer, which is why it’s so easy to mask the struggle for the ‘gram.
As writers and artists, we’re all different, and that’s the way it should be. Some are able to write 100 words a day, while some may write 3000. Some color-code their thoughts onto highly-organized flash cards, while some toss their thoughts at a wall to see what sticks.
It doesn’t matter what your word count, draft length, or creative process may be. What matters is that you are a writer, and you are making progress.
There is a difference between having role models on social media and comparing yourself to these “role models.” The writing community is here to encourage you and lift you up when life stands in the way of your plans. We’ve all been there, so don’t let yourself fall into the trap of believing that a filter is equivalent to reality.
So, how do you silence these fears and get back to writing? I’m glad you asked.
1. It’s okay to keep things to yourself
It’s not necessary to announce your word count every day on your Twitter or stories. It’s awesome to let your followers know that you’re making big progress, but it’s also easy to get caught up in exposing every aspect of your writing life on social media. Which can quickly lead to burnout.
Instead, celebrate your milestones and small successes by rewarding yourself with some Netflix, a much-needed snack, or a pat on the back. Train yourself to know that you do not need validation from others to feel that you are, in fact, making any progress at all.
2. Appreciate YOUR journey
I guarantee that your writing process is going to look much different from mine, and that’s okay! I see other writers on my social media that are so put-together and have this intricate, 10-step writing routine complete with journaling and meditation and offering a sacrifice to the Gods before they even start writing.
My writing routine consists of re-reading the last chapter that I wrote and going from there. Depending on how much time I have, I may only write 300 words or I can write three chapters in one sitting. But is this worth comparing?
It hasn’t failed me yet.
3. Remember why you’re writing in the first place
I write because I fall in love with the stories, the worlds, and the characters that are floating around in my head. I write because I want to convey a message to others or teach myself a lesson that was hiding in the depths of my subconscious thoughts. I write because it brings me joy.
Let’s not forget the wise words of Teddy Roosevelt in this case.