It’s great to be competitive. Unless you’re trying to compete with another writer.
Trust me … I’m as competitive as they come. Not much good comes from continuing down that road.
A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, I suppose.
But, like many other writing-related things, if you let it stop you from writing the things you want to write — or at all — it becomes a problem in serious need of solving.
We dive into the writing game with high expectations and role models so far along the path we’re trying to make our way down that we often lose all sense of where we are right here, right now. We start comparing our endeavors to what we THINK we should be doing at the present moment — when in reality, there’s no rule that says it must be so.
I remember being in college and finding out that Veronica Roth started writing the first draft of Divergent when she was just a year older than me. I’m not going to lie, I got kind of upset. And momentarily vowed that I would follow that same path, because DIVERGENT.
It works the same way when you’re working alongside other writers at your same level. When I started my first job as a staff writer for a publication, I found it extremely difficult not to look at my co-workers’ stats and silently create a strategy that would somehow get me ahead of them.
Writing doesn’t work like that, and you know it. You can’t look at where someone else is at, or where they have been, and let yourself think you somehow have to outdo them. Every writer is following a different path zigzagging toward the same general goal. No one else is allowed on your path. And you are not allowed on anyone else’s.
Stop monitoring their progress. It takes your eyes off the road and tempts you to keep writing for all the wrong reasons.
You are in no rush. And you are under zero obligation to do anything the way or at the rate someone else has done it. The only writer you ever have to compete with in this game is yourself.
Yes, technically, publishing does involve some competition. But again, we’re not talking about that. If you’re totally stressed out because you think you have to “beat” anyone else, and it’s interfering with your ability to write, then stop worrying about competing. That’s what we’re getting at here.
It’s already hard enough writing the first draft of anything on your own. Don’t distract yourself with unnecessary stressors, like whether or not that writer you follow on Twitter is writing more things than you. It doesn’t matter. Only you, and your work, matters.
And yes, it matters. Remember that. If you think you can do better than what you’ve already done, set out to improve, to break personal records, to do the best you can. That should be the only competition you need to stay motivated and get your work done.
Good luck — and happy writing!
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.