The Comparison Game

Wake Up (2)
Comparison can turn friends into adversaries.
-Frank Sonnenberg

Morning, lovelies!

Hopefully you’re having a lovely day and great start to your week.

I’ll be honest, my weekend and my Monday were rough. I had a pretty gnarly headache. Not a migraine, thankfully, but this nagging pain going right across the back of my skull and no matter what I tried, it just would not go away. I am not one to shy away from taking medication if I need it, so I was on top of my pain meds at strict four-hour intervals, I had ice packs, I had lavender oil. Chamomile. I was pretty desperate.


And, yes, the font above the polluted beach is difficult to read on purpose, because that might as well be how my eyes were interpreting even the most basic font after a while.

I hope it is a long time before I go back to feeling like the polluted beach.

One thing I noticed while I was feeling like a piece of garbage was just how much I have been comparing myself to others lately. I figured that was as good a topic as any to blog about today.

10,000 Words A Day

One thing that kept popping up for me on social media the last several days was a particular hashtag noting people who were writing 10,000 words in a day.

That’s a lot of words, my friends.

And, since my headache wasn’t a migraine, I still wanted to pluck along in my own WIP, but there was no way I could bang out 10k words in a single day since I would write about 200 and then have to shut my eyes for a while.

And it was during that time I had to shut my eyes that I would start comparing myself to those writers who were posting about their progress to 10k. It wasn’t that I wanted them to fail at their goal…I was just jealous I couldn’t play along.

I then started wondering about how many words per day most authors are able to write. Surely I wasn’t living up to the norm. Surely I was already failing.

Word Counts by Author

I generally fall somewhere between 2k-3k per writing day…though, some days all I can manage is 500. I’ll start referring to those as my Hemingway Days. 😉

The thought kept popping up in the back of my mind.

I did a quick google search to see how many words per day Stephen King writes. I already knew it wasn’t a massive number. But I just wanted to see it again for myself. I mean, have you seen his books? They’re monstrous!

The website I found listed many more authors, though, and how many words they average(d) per day.

Daaaang, Mr. Crichton! May the man rest in peace, but he was doing the 10k a day challenge before internet challenges were a thing.

But look at the rest of those authors. Stephen King averages 2k—that’s what I average!

Ernest Hemingway, one of the all-time greats? I’d wager most indie writers write more than that per day.

And do you think any one of those writers ever stop(ped) to worry about how many words another is writing? Do you think Stephen King ever thinks to himself man, if only I could be more like Michael Crichton, I might make it?

I’m going to guess that’s a giant no.

Dwelling on “Shortcomings”

So, here I was dwelling on the fact these people were writing 10,000 words in a single day while my brain felt like polluted beach.

But guess what?

had written 10k words in a single day before. Actually, my most productive day writing the first draft of SLT was a whopping 11,000 words.

And once I remembered this feat, I wondered why I had forgotten it in the first place. 11k words in a day wasn’t something I ever thought I would forget. But after I thought about it for a while, it occurred to me I hadn’t forgotten. It’s just, well:

1.| Writing 11k Words Sucked. It was more physically draining than some of the trails I’ve hiked. You’re stuck in a chair the whole. freaking. day. You’re staring at a bright screen the whole. freaking. day. You don’t have a lot of time to eat, drink, or even go to the bathroom. It wasn’t the same kind of tired as I am after hiking or going to the gym or anything else…it was a worse kind of tired. Sure, I celebrated the victory of so many words…but I didn’t enjoy it. (Also, it really sucked when I inevitably cut a bunch of those words during revisions.)

2.| I Now Know My Limits. Not only did I write 11k words in a single day, I wrote the entire 82,000 word first-draft of that book in eleven days. That’s an average of 7,455 words per day. That’s insane. It is no wonder I experienced so much burn out after finishing that book it took me over year to produce the sequel. The very idea of writing that much in a single day again? No thanks.

I guess it isn’t so much I had forgotten as I didn’t like to think about it. Because the fact was, for me, writing 11k words in a single day was a bad experience after everything was said and done. I guess a little part of me thought that was a failure.

If I can’t “successfully” write 10k a day, I must be a bad writer.

That was how I felt when I saw this challenge pop up. But you can really insert anything there and most certainly someone, somewhere out there feels that way.

If I can’t get a publishing deal, I must not be good enough.
If I can’t master marketing, I must be stupid.
If I can’t publish as fast as him, I must be doing something wrong.
If I can’t make $1500/mo from my fiction, I must not be a good writer.
If I can’t get 10,000 Facebook followers, I must be boring.
If I can’t _________________, I must be ______________.

But, from where I’m sitting, try as people might to make writing and publishing a venture where there’s a formula for success…there really isn’t.

There’s no point in worrying about whether you’re writing enough words in a single day…are you writing good words? Or are you writing junk just for the sake of a word count? Are you going to lose the bulk of those words in revisions?

There’s no such thing as mastering marketing. Because as soon as you think you’ve mastered it…trends change. Algorithms change. Don’t worry so much about mastering it, so much as being open and willing to continually learn and adapt to the inevitable changes. Because there will always be change.

There’s a lot of evidence that points to quick publication as good way to make money. And for the authors who can publish quality content quickly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with rapid releasing. It probably is the best way to “make it” in this business. But if you can’t rapid release with quality then…don’t. Because you’ll just be frustrated with the outcome.

There are so many things we seem to worry about that do nothing but hold us back from appreciating our own strengths.

Acknowledging Our Strengths

This is something I struggle with. I think many of us do. We feel that if we allow ourselves to acknowledge—even quietly, to ourselves—that we are good at something that we’re just being narcissistic.

It’s why so many authors, myself included, feel the need to apologize if we know someone is or is about to read our work. We’d rather focus on that misplaced comma that the general public won’t even notice than our work of art as a whole.

It’s at the core of why so many of us, myself included, are terrible at marketing.

I can’t advertise my own book. People will think I think it’s good.

But, why…and believe me, I’m asking myself this question…why would we hit publish on something we didn’t think is good?

I hope the majority of us wouldn’t do that. So, I’m going to start a challenge of my own.Mewself (1)

All I want you to do is think of three things you feel you’re good at.

It isn’t up for debate. It doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t agree with you—right now, in this moment, the opinions of others do not matter. And I’m not talking about coming up with three things you’re perfect at. (Perfection doesn’t exist, anyway.) I’m not even asking you to think of three things you’re not interested in improving—I feel everyone has room for improvement in pretty much everything. Hell, I’m not even asking you to list three writing-related things you feel you’re good at. Just three. I’ll go first.

1.| Book Covers. So far, I’ve made all of my own covers and I am pretty pleased with each of them.
2.| Dialogue. The other day I shared a snippet of new dialogue with a friend of mine and she complimented me on how I write dialect. This made me absolutely giddy. I tend to take a long time writing dialogue, researching how people would’ve spoken during the time period, actually speaking aloud my sections of dialogue so I can hear it. Writing dialogue is my favorite thing about writing.
3.| Cooking. Maybe it’s cheating to list this since it’s what I went to school for, but I am a pretty good cook.

I’m not going to lie, owning up to three things I think are my strengths wasn’t easy. There is a little part of me that worries when someone reads this they’ll think Um, Aila…your dialogue sucks, actually… but that’s okay. I think?

Yeah, I guess it’s fine.

Anyway, please feel free to share with me your three things in the comments below—or if you’re feeling really froggy, share this post on social media and list three of your strengths there using #WriterStrengths.

Final Thoughts

Comparing ourselves to others is sometimes a positive tool that lets us grow. You like how Susie describes her scenes better than you describe your own? Study it. Learn from it. If you would really like to up your word count so you can publish faster, study the methods of writers who write faster than you.

But don’t get so bogged down in the course of comparing yourself to others that you lose sight of your own fantastic abilities or your true purpose. Don’t let your friends become adversaries, and remember there is always more than one way to do something, to achieve something.

And just think, out there in the great wide somewhere, someone may just be comparing themselves to you and feeling like they come up short.

Most importantly, the number one person you should compare yourself with is who you used to be. Always strive to do better than you did before. Always keep a hunger to learn more than you knew yesterday.

That’s all I’ve got today, sweet friends. Have a fabulous week. ♥

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4 thoughts on “The Comparison Game

  1. Christa Miller says:

    When I fall into the comparison trap, I work on reminding myself that my path is my path and my friend’s or colleague’s or competitor’s path is their path. I then look for ways to reach out or help in some way, either that person, or someone else — trying to instill in myself a sense of community rather than competition. We all struggle! And finally, I try to look for things to be grateful for. Even just small things. I actually try to meditate on gratitude so that it goes deep and isn’t just a surface level thing that I don’t really feel.

    What’s not on this list? Reminding myself of my own strengths, as you so adeptly pointed out. And I should know better, having gotten stuck playing to my weaknesses (at work) or becoming overly focused on “improving” because someone else saw me as “not good enough.” I don’t think it’s as easy to be grateful when we don’t know our worth. So thank you for the reminder!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Aila Stephens says:

      Meditating is something I need to get back into on a regular basis. I used to do guided meditations every evening when I went to bed and I really feel I would benefit from doing so again.

      I am happy you took some time to focus on your strengths! Thank you for participating and commenting. 🙂 I hope you have an amazing day, Christa! ♥


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