When You Start Comparing Yourself To Other Writers

dontcompareThe reality of pursuing anything you’re super passionate about is the jealousy that can pervade you. Writing is no exception.

When you start comparing yourself to other writers, their books or book deals you’re going down a dark path. Here are my tips to avoid jealousy when it creeps in.


1. Remember they started somewhere too. You might be seeing them at a different point in their career. I love this quote from Jon Acuff because it’s SO TRUE. If you’re at the beginning and you are comparing yourself to someone in the middle of their career–there is no comparison! Apples and oranges.

2. It should spur you on to think ‘If they can do it, so can I!’ Don’t let jealousy stop you from trying. When you see other writers getting deals it shouldn’t make you think ‘Why them and not me!’ It should be making you think ‘Agents are still signing clients and editors are still buying books! The industry is thriving!’

3. Instead of turning inward with negativity, turn outward and support them. Writers that help build each other up have lasting literary friendships. You’ll notice the writers on their blogs and on Twitter that are constantly supporting each other. Not only is it good for the soul, it’s good for self promotion. Because when it comes time to promote your book your writer friends will have your back because you had theirs.

4. Step away from Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Never before have we been inundated with constant reference points for comparison. 50 years ago there was no online water cooler to see everyone’s success thrown in your face. It’s hard to see other people having what you want. That’s why you have to stay away from Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the like when you’re writing so it doesn’t seep in.

5. Focus on what you CAN control and get back to your desk. The only antidote for comparison is focusing on what you can control, not what you can’t. You can only control your own writing and that growth. Negativity eats away at success because it makes you question yourself when you never did before.

6. Learn from everything. What is it that you’re comparing yourself to? Is it pointing to a weakness in your writing? Ask yourself what it is particularly that you want that someone else has and how that can help you grow as a writer.

It’s inevitable that the self doubt creeps in when comparison is everywhere. I suggest unplugging–take internet breaks!–and posting that Jon Acuff quote on a cork board above your desk. Comparison doesn’t mean you’re a lesser writer, it means the tools are out there if you grasp them.


Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

25 thoughts on “When You Start Comparing Yourself To Other Writers

    1. I am working on reading (writers I admire) for technique and strategies. This blog was a good reminder to not get bogged down in comparison, but to focus on improving. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thank you for this much-needed post, Carly. The self-doubt goblin has been bugging me lately and it’s putting a crimp on my productivity. Thanks for putting things back into perspective! :)


  2. Thanks for this article, we all need reminding sometimes! I’ve also found that the writing community is always willing to help each other. And anyway, we can never have too many books so if someone else is getting published, that’s another good story out in the world.


  3. I have to get “lost” in my stories. It’s like watching a movie in my head, but I get to rewind and rewrite how I want things to be whenever I like. It’s great until I come back to reality while on Twitter or some other platform. I see lines of people waiting for their copy of a book that’s not mine to be signed. It brings me down sometimes, but I refuse to live out my life looking over the fence to see what the neighbors are doing all the time. This is not reality TV.


  4. Thanks for the encouragement :) I’m very competitive and I write on a writing website and I’m constantly flooded by those who are more successful than me ;c Especially my friend -.- But this is what I’ve been doing lately, thanks!


  5. Wow, this helps so much. When I was first writing, Twitter and FB etc did not exist and so I didn’t have that anxiety to deal with. Now I do try to unplug. Writing is what matters, and yes I CAN CONTROL THAT. Thanks, Carly


  6. It’s one of the best posts I have read about the issue of jealousy which a writer so naturally experience. I think writers are narcissistic in many ways. And jealousy is a second nature to them. But when Carly Watters explains the ill-logic of this jealousy, it feels, wow, at least someone understands… may be its curable.


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