Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Fabulosities--Don't compare yourself to others

Browsing in my local library, I came across this book packed with quotes. In my new "Friday Fabulosities" series, I plan to share some of the inspirational quotes within, and perhaps add a little reflection of my own.

Today's quote comes from Carrie Vaughn, author of the critically acclaimed werewolf series, Kitty Takes a Holiday, Kitty Goes to Washington, Kitty and the Midnight Hour, and Kitty and the Silver Bullett.
"Don't compare yourself to others. There will always be someone who writes faster, or slower, or gets a bigger advance, or better advertising. Everyone's career and writing process is a little different. Follow your own path."
Years ago, I read a book by Bonnie Friedman. That book was Writing Past Dark: envy, fear, distraction, and other dilemmas in the writer's life. Unfortunately, I don't have it on my shelves, and the library's one copy is out on loan. But I can still recall that "aha" I had at Friedman's honesty. Is there a writer alive who hasn't been, at one time or another, envious of the another writer's success? I've envied famous writers, as well as members of my critique group. I've imagined what it would be like to have adulation and acclaim--or even just a publishing contract.

Envy is a drag. It's a sin against belief in an abundant universe. It is exquisitely toxic and can drive you mad. But, if you follow Carrie Vaughn's advice to "follow your own path," and use envy not as a scourge but as a spur, you can do the one thing that all writers must do: work harder.

Envy ("invidia") is one of the Catholic church's Seven Deadly Sins. Its opposite virtue is kindness. If you find yourself feeling envious, perhaps the best thing is to be kind to yourself. We are all on different paths.

What do you do to combat "writer's envy?" I'd love to hear your strategies.


  1. Good advice! We often think ourselves less this, that or the other than other folks.

  2. We are always comparing ourselves to others, in this, in that. Humans are basically self-conscious, social, worried about surviving, competing, being loved, being appreciated. We shouldn't do it? How can we help not being human?

    Better to remember that nobody else is living our lives.

  3. Thanks for your comments, jabblog and rosaria.
    rosaria, I love your last line! It is a great and important thing to remember.

  4. hmm...yes...I have had that twinge
    I guess the answer lies in
    coming to the knowledge that only you can bring what you bring
    Find out what that is
    and write

  5. Now you don't have to work harder, all managers tell you to work smarter.

    I took their advice and resigned and worked for myself.

    I am working on a post modernist book at this moment, modelled on John Cage. It contains no words but I am putting a lot of thought into it whilst drinking my bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

  6. "Only you can bring what you bring." That's it exactly, suz.

    DanPloy, you never fail to make me laugh. And, work smarter is way smarter than work harder. Thanks for the insight.

  7. Insightful post, and pertinent to everyone, not just writers. Anne Lamott devoted many pages to this topic in her wonderful writing memoir "Bird by Bird." We are all on our own path, as you pointed out, and and things tend to come in cycles. The person we envy today may be the one to envy us tomorrow.

    Also--a writer that I envy is obviously doing something right and can probably teach me something. I've been known to say very directly, "Congratulations! I'm so envious of your success. Good for you! Do you have any pointers for me?" Most writers are generous and open, and more than willing to share their path to success.

  8. Excellent points, Lisa. And very honest of you.


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