I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: Comparing yourself to other writers is usually a terrible idea.
Especially if you’re new to this whole writing thing. It’s tempting to look at my blog, for example, and wonder how quickly you can “catch up.” (Not very — I’m on year 9, y’all.)
There are some possible advantages to looking at and even studying other writers’ accomplishments.
Here the benefits and drawbacks of doing this.
Pro: You might learn something
Looking at others’ work can teach you a lot about where you’re excelling and falling short as a writer. It’s sometimes good to pay attention to what others are doing well and poorly.
Con: Just because one writer does something a certain way doesn’t mean you should
There’s nothing wrong with “celebrity” writing advice. People take advice from famous artists all the time — and for good reason. Something they did ended up working out for them, so there has to be some kind of secret to their success that could apply to you.
But you should never take one writer’s advice as law. What works for one person might not work for you — and that’s OK. It’s certainly no reason to give up.
Pro: You might set some new goals
Someone might look at my blog and aspire to grow it as much as I have in the near decade (!) I’ve been keeping it alive. That’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Con: It’s not easy to set realistic goals when looking at others’ accomplishments
Aspiring writers do run into trouble, though, when they look at a blog like mine and assume they can more than triple their follower base in less than two years. That is, generally, not the timeline most bloggers follow. It creates unrealistic expectations — and that’s bad!
Don’t look at someone else’s success and automatically assume you can get there in a short amount of time. Consider all the steps they took to get to where they are. You can only take one of those steps at time, or you’re going to fall down and hurt yourself.
Pro: You might solidify your dream
Looking at other writers and their accomplishments can give you a sense of longing — but specified. “Wow, she wrote a whole book series about that? I want to do that too!”
Con: Having a dream doesn’t mean you’ll never feel discouraged
I think a lot of aspiring writers dive into this whole ordeal thinking just because their dream is to “become a writer,” they’ll somehow have an easier time reaching their goals and full potential. Unfortunately, they’re wrong — and that can cost you your dream.
Every writer with a dream struggles. Everybody gets discouraged and feels like quitting sometimes. Don’t expect this ride to be easy. You can do it — just prepare yourself and take things slow.
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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.