June 15, 2014
by Jennifer Brown Banks
Don’t believe what you’ve been told. You know: the well-intentioned, widely circulated advice that contends that you should never compare yourself to other writers. Hogwash. This kind of recommendation can stunt your creative growth, limit your horizons, and cause complacency.
In fact, I just read one of these misguided blog posts recently, and felt compelled to address it to correct it here.
If you’re on board, let’s get busy…
Comparisons have existed for ions, and likely always will.
Intentional or not, we compare ourselves to our siblings, our friends, our co-workers, to air-brushed models, and to the acquisitions of the “Joneses.”
We want to know where we stand, how we’re doing. Are we better or bogus?
Author John Gray compares the psychology behind men and women to Venus and Mars in his popular series.
Even behaviorists compare the actions and habits of different groups in order to establish patterns, identify distinguishing characteristics, and learn from our similarities and differences. But here’s the key: there’s a right and a wrong way to do it for optimal results.
With this in mind, here are four reasons you should dare to compare.
1. Because others do
Comparisons are simply a tool/technique others employ to help save time, money, and shoe leather, to arrive at a more informed decision. When you think about it, we use comparisons everyday: at the grocery store, when we hire service providers, in choosing schools for our kids, even in dating and mating. And as writers, we should be mindful that we’re being compared to other writers/bloggers too. It’s done by editors, potential advertisers, agents, and busy readers, as we compete for their limited time, dollars, and resources.
2. For positioning
Objectively comparing ourselves to others allows us to know our value in the “virtual marketplace.” It helps us to recognize our U.S.P. (unique selling proposition), enabling us to become more strategic. This is crucial to today’s successful writerpreneur. For example, on the hit TV show “Shark Tank,” two of the main questions posed by sharks to business owners seeking capital are: “How is your product different than your competitors?” What makes yours better, cheaper, more useful?” You need to know the answer.
3. Comparisons foster growth.
The more you know, the more you grow. For this reason, I check out who is writing what and how it’s being received. I analyze stats and other parts of their publishing “story.” When I explore, I try to look at where I am lacking, and what my strengths and weaknesses are comparatively.
Just as other writers and bloggers have inspired me, I hope to be an inspiration to those who possibly may have not reached my level. When I dare to compare, I realize that I’m not where I want to be yet; it keeps fire in the belly. It motivates me to keep dreaming and achieving. You should too.
4. Comparisons keep us grounded.
Awesome talent abounds! If you’re ever inclined to feel a little “big headed” about your accomplishments, all you need to do is to check out the books and bios of hugely successful folks that are raking in the big bucks, garnering a cult-like following, and earning a full-time living, while you‘re still struggling to reach the “big stage.”
The moral of the story here? You can always get better….wherever you are.
Here are some general guidelines to also consider….
- Don‘t torture yourself with the results.
The objective of “constructive comparisons” is to get better; not to feel worse.
- Don’t compare apples to oranges.
In other words, newbies shouldn’t compare themselves to veteran writers, or to scribes with Ph.D. degrees. That’s like comparing a starter home to a celebrity mansion.
- Don’t just compare yourself to others. Compare today’s “you” to yesterday’s you.
Is your bottom line bigger? Have you made progress in your goals? Are you increasing in confidence? Remember, comparisons can be used to make good writers greatly read!
Jennifer Brown Banks is an award-winning blogger, ghost writer and relationship columnist. Her popular site for writers took "Top Blogging" awards for 2013 and 2014. Learn more at http://penandprosper.blogspot.com/
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