by Megan Haskell
“Keep your eyes on your own page.”
“Only compare yourself to yourself.”
“Don’t compare your beginnings to someone else’s middle.”
Great motivation, right? They look really pretty on those social media posts with the sunset and forest stock photo backgrounds.
I know, it’s a made up word. But it’s a real disease. At least, it feels really real. As writers, especially indie authors, we’re constantly comparing ourselves and our books to the others in our genre. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the comparison trap when we see the big earners making six figures a year. (Even six figures a month!!) Amazon is designed to drive competition between authors. We’re ranked by sales numbers. We’re paid bonuses for the most pages read in a month in Kindle Unlimited. And now there’s software that can estimate how much your book earns per day based on those numbers! What happened to privacy and obscurity?
Trouble is, when you put your foot in that comparison noose, you find yourself upside down with all of your energy falling out of your pockets.
The Negative Path
As soon as you start to ask questions like, “Why can’t I do that?” or “What’s wrong with me?” or “What’s wrong with my books?” you begin to see your work as failure. It’s not. You just haven’t found your success yet.
But the farther you travel down the path of negativity, the worse it gets. Soon you’re spreading your bad mood like The Pout Pout Fish. Instead of “What’s wrong with me?” you’re saying, “They must have scammed the system.” Instead of asking, “Why can’t I do that?” you’re saying, “I give them six months before they burn out publishing that fast.” The spiral into negativity is fast and deep.
There is No One Right Path
The fact is, every writer is different. Every situation is different. There is no one right way to be a successful author. So if you want to keep your spirits bright, you have to let go of that comparisonitis.
Here are a few tips to help you keep your eyes on your own prize.
Define your own success.
What does success mean to you? How do you define it? Is it big money? Or do you write for the love of the craft? Do you want to win prestigious awards? Maybe you just want a flexible lifestyle that brings in a little extra cash for the family each month. Define your goals and revisit them as often as needed to remember what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Write them on a post-it and stick it to the bathroom mirror. Read it. Repeat it.
Baby steps make great strides.
Too often we compare ourselves to “successful” authors and become overwhelmed with strategy and tactics, failing to realize that their “success” was a journey. Even “overnight successes” don’t happen overnight.
Instead of trying to do everything at once, do one thing each day to make your books and your business better. Reach out to one new reviewer. Read a chapter of a book on writing craft, especially if there’s a specific topic you’re struggling with or feel you could improve. Find five extra minutes in your day to write. Push yourself to produce one hundred more words today than you did yesterday.
As my husband likes to quote his old football coach, “If you make a 1% improvement every day, you’ll be 100% better in 100 days.” (Yeah, I know the math doesn’t work. Shh. He was a football coach.)
Prioritize your life.
Sometimes we forget there are only 24 hours in a day. While we can maximize our time and work efficiently, there are still just 24 hours in a day. So, when you say yes to one thing, you usually have to say no to something else. By prioritizing your activities, your vision for your book business becomes clearer.
For example, my first priority is as a stay-at-home-mom. Being a stay-at-home-mom means I have to take care of myself so I can take care of my girls. Which means, I can’t stay up until 2am every night because I have to be awake to get the girls ready for school at 6:30am. Which means, if I get to 10pm and I’ve only managed to squeak in 500 words that day, that’s just going to have to do. I’m unwilling to sacrifice my sleep, health, and emotional stability (because no sleep = cranky volatile Meg) to get an extra thousand words in.
Applaud others’ successes.
This one can be hard sometimes, but positivity breeds positivity. When another author you know does well, cheer them on. Then study their success. What did they do that helped their book succeed? What can you emulate? Strive to learn, not tear down, and when it’s your turn, you’ll find the stands full of your own supporters ready and willing to boost your success.
Journey to Success
Looking to other authors for inspiration and guidance can be wonderful motivation. We should always strive to improve. But don’t worry about being better than someone else. Be better today than you were yesterday, and you’ll jolly-well find the success you’re looking for.
Legend has it, I was born with a book in my hands. Thirty-ish years later, I’m a stay-at-home-mom who prefers a good story over doing the dishes. Only now, I’m building my own fantasy worlds! I’m the Award-Winning author of the Amazon bestselling series,The Sanyare Chronicles, co-author of Aspiring to Author: A Guide for Your Publishing Career, and Program Director of O.C. Writers. You can find me on my website at www.meganhaskell.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
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