Today I want to talk about unfair comparisons.
Come on. You know what I'm talking about. What? Like you've never compared yourself to someone else? Someone completely out of your league?
Here, I'll give you an example (we all know how much I love examples):
"I'll never be as thin as * insert celebrity here *! S/he is so gorgeous and I'll never look like that!"
You know what? You're right. You won't. You won't EVER look like that. You know why?
Because that's an unfair comparison.
First off, you're YOU, not THEM. That's reason #1 why you're making an unfair comparison.
Two, are you paid to look that good? Is it in your contract that you will gain 20 pounds for this role and lose 40 for the next? Do you have as much money as they do? Do you have as much time as they do? Do you have a personal trainer, no kids or a nanny for the ones you do have so you can spend time with that personal trainer, and a personal dietician/chef? No? You don't have all those things?
Well, those are all part of the reason you're never going to look like the person you think you should look like.
The same thing applies to writing.
"Oh, I'm no JK Rowling/Danielle Steele/James Patterson/ * insert author you wish to be like here *."
You're right. You're not. They're them, you're you. You know who you write like? You write like YOU (or at least you'd better be writing like you and not anyone else, because copying someone else's work is, in case you don't already know this, BAD).
Don't say "I don't write like anyone else" like it's a bad thing. Yeah, your writing might not be at the Person Whose Writing You Admire's level, but that doesn't make you any less of a person than they are. They've had more experience than you and know more about their craft, that's all. I've said before that comparing yourself to them is insulting, and yeah, it is, if you're a douchebag about it. You don't go up to Steven Spielberg and say, "Oh, I make movies too!" when all you've ever done is shot home movies of your BBQ in your backyard. Same with writers. But, that's what I'm saying about comparisons being unfair. It's not fair for you to compare yourself to someone who is not in the same class as you are. Would you compare yourself to an MIT graduate if you can't even put together a shelf from a big chain store? (Scratch that - no one can do that EXCEPT MIT grads....)
Back to the point. Comparing yourself to other writers.
Do you write? They do.
Do you sell your work? They do.
Now, if you don't sell your work yet, don't despair. Believe it or not, they were all in the same place you were once. Stephen King was, too. He wrote a book about his writing trials and tribulations. John Grisham was an unpublished writer once. So was any other writer you look up to. They all have "Road to Publication" stories and were ALL rejected. ALL OF THEM. Some of them hundreds of times, some of them less than that.
Writing and commercial publication is like a ladder. Some writers are above you, some are below you, but it's the SAME LADDER for everyone. The same one. We're all climbing it, and we're all on various rungs. (Everyone who is going the commercial route, anyway. We're not going to talk about self-publication here. That's a completely different road and not what this blog is about. Try JA Konrath if you're looking for that kind of thing.)
Granted, some people really don't deserve to be on the ladder. Some people don't deserve to climb it faster than you. But you know what? That falls under the "life isn't fair, get a fucking helmet" clause.
You know what else isn't fair? The fact that some people below you, who have worked so hard and are really good aren't up at the top where they should be.
You know what else isn't fair? Shortcuts. People who take one look at the ladder and the climb and say "it's too hard, you people are stupid, screw this" and go build their own ladder. Some of them make it. Most of them only hope to.
The point is, comparisons are unfair. Jealousy is a waste of time and sitting down crying (stopping writing!) about how So-and-So made it to Rung XYZ of the Writing Ladder before you did doesn't get anything done for anyone, least of all you.
And don't gloat either. Just because you made it to Rung XYZ of the Writing Ladder before someone else did doesn't give you the right to stick your tongue out at the people below you. Got an agent? Great! Got a book contract? Awesome! Share the news, but DON'T GLOAT ABOUT IT or lord it over people's heads.
Also, don't be smug or smarmy about Your Way of Doing Things. What works for you might not work for everyone else, and it's completely unfair of you to make that comparison. (See what I did there?) Just because someone else writes differently than you doesn't make them wrong. And no, that's not the reason you've succeeded and they didn't.
It's also not the reason THEY succeeded and you haven't.
There is no magic pill, no quick fix, no One Thing that guarantees you'll climb the Writing Ladder fast and easy.
The only thing that's an absolute must is for you to keep climbing. That is, keep writing. Keep your attention where it belongs and focus on what YOU'RE doing. Not what everyone else is doing. If you worry about what everyone else is doing, you'll never have time to look to your own affairs.
Keep learning, keep growing, don't give up. If someone passes you on the Writing Ladder, fine. Keep on trucking.
*P.S. If anyone quotes that little blue fish from that movie, I'm going to stab you in the eye with a knitting needle. Because that's how I roll.