The Antidote to Comparison: How to Stop Judging Yourself By Other People's Work

Have you ever compared yourself to another writer? 

For years, I did it every time I read a book.

Whenever I came across a really powerful metaphor, or a great one-liner, I would think to myself, "Wow. How come my writing doesn't read like that?"

If the book I was reading was really good, I'd plunge into a confidence tailspin, and find myself unable to write a word for days. 

Does this sound familiar? I'll bet it does.

You see, the old paradigm of teaching—in any subject— relies on comparison to demonstrate "right" from "wrong," and "good" from "bad." We're told to "learn from the best," and strive to meet the standard they set. 

Pick up any book on the art of writing, and you'll find it chock full of examples from writers who "did it right" (often clients or colleagues of the book's author).  As a novice writer, I found those books to be more hindrance than help. While they contained plenty of good information, I couldn't see the forest for the trees, so to speak. I couldn't get over the fact that my writing (in my mind, anyway) didn't live up to the standard of the examples. More, these books didn't give me many tools to actually apply their knowledge to my writing. They simply told me to model my writing on someone else's—which, of course, put me further into comparison, and further out of touch with my authentic, creative voice. 

If comparing yourself to other writers leaves you feeling constricted, envious, and insecure, it's time to break the cycle. 

When you feel constricted, envious, or insecure, you're essentially telling your creative spirit, "I'm sorry, but you're not good enough to help me create what I want. I'm going to go hang out with someone else's muse for a while." Ouch!  Enough of that kind of rejection, and she might be reluctant to come out to play the next time you ask her. 

What turned things around for me was a mindset shift: I realized the antidote to jealousy and comparison was knowledge.

I was never going to write like my idols, because I'm me, and they're them! I couldn't become a great writer by molding myself into a second-rate version of someone else—but I could improve my craft by studying the basic rules of good writing, asking targeted questions, and watching how my writing evolved after I implemented what I'd learned. 

The more I studied, the more I realized that I could do what great writers do. Once I understood the structures and techniques they used to shore up their creations, I became confident that I could apply those same tools to my own work, in my own way. I no longer had to compare, because what I wanted wasn't out of reach. 

So, next time you're tempted to compare yourself to another writer, ask yourself, "What about this work do I really love, and how can I learn to create that?" Instead of getting bogged down in jealousy and futility, go on a quest to discover the techniques, knowledge, and support that will help you produce something just as great. Then, ask your creative spirit to come out to play with these shiny new toys, and see what magic unfolds! 

These days, I love my old books about writing, because they're chock full of knowledge. However, I'm selective when reading the "examples," because I know that old paradigm of teaching doesn't serve my highest good. I'm more interested in asking the right questions than being given the "right" answers. 

So remember: you don't need to write like anyone else to be successful. You only need to write like the best version of yourself, keep learning, and trust your creative spirit to lead you to the next step. 

Happy writing, everyone!


PS: My new book about writing, The Art of Inspiration: An Editor's Guide to Writing Powerful, Effective Inspirational and Personal Development Books, is now available on Amazon.com. In this book, I'll teach you the processes I use every day to help my clients create amazing books, and then show you how to get the most out of those processes by asking the right questions.  

I can't wait to share this with you! Keep your eyes peeled for more links and information!



Bryna Rene Haynes is the founder and President of The Heart of Writing. In over a decade as a writer, editor, ghostwriter, designer, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband and their little Moonbeam, Áine.