Publishing is Not a Three-Legged Race

Beth Vogt

Guest Blogger: Beth K. Vogt  (@BethVogt)

I’ve been running a three-legged race along the writing road for the past few months. Let me explain … no, that will take too long. Let me sum up. (Sorry, couldn’t resist a bit of humor from The Princess Bride!)

My debut novel, Wish You Were Here, released May 1, turning it into a “real” book being read by “real” people. As expected, some readers like my book. Most of them, I’m happy to say. Others? Not so much.

During this time, I’ve watched other writers release their books. Guess what? Some readers like their books. Some readers don’t. But oh, how I laser in on how much more their books are liked than mine — or so I think. Yeah, that makes for a little behind-the-scenes tension.

Comparing your success to other writers’ success is crazy-making. It’s as if you’re attempting a virtual three-legged race with another writer – and they don’t even know you’ve strapped your leg to theirs.

Awkward.

And you’re heading for a fall. Guaranteed.

At the recent Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC), Alton Gansky, the director, talked about the dangers of comparison. He came up with two words to help writers avoid the trap: Stop It. Nothing like getting straight to the point, Al.

So now I’m focusing on declining invitations to run a three-legged race with other writers. The insane thing is, I’m usually the one grabbing the rope and dragging myself to the starting line. There’s no fun along the writing road when I get ensnared by comparison. I can’t celebrate my successes – or anyone else’s. Al had his two word solution for the problem. I’ve settled on four: Be Abel, not Cain.

Yes, I’m referring to the biblical Abel and Cain. You may recall Cain killed his brother because Abel was more successful than he was. (Genesis 4). The following quote expands the analogy:

“Seeing someone else’s success creates a tension in us. We ask ourselves, ‘Am I capable of that kind of success?’ There are two ways to resolve the tension: work hard enough to find out the answer to the question ‘Am I capable of my own success?’ – or make the success seem smaller, crush it, eliminate it, kill it. When someone achieves, we have two choices. We can be inspired by the example, or we can tear it down; we can emulate the person or we can diminish him. We can choose to be Abel, or choose to be Cain.”  ~Diane Faber Veitzer, author

Do I want to constantly weigh my success against other writers’ success? Do I want to take another writer’s success and shred it with my envious attitude?

No. I want to be Abel, not Cain. I want to concentrate on what I’m called to do — and then celebrate my successes and learn from my missteps. I also want to rejoice when another writer has reason to toss confetti.

How do you avoid the three-legged race of competition with another writer?

***

Wish You Were Here

Beth K. Vogt provides her readers with a happily-ever-after woven through with humor, reality, and God’s lavish grace. She’s a non-fiction author who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Beth has discovered that God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” She writes contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us.

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  1. Peter DeHaan says:

    I wise friend once said, no matter how good you become, there will always be someone better — more talented, successful, or something — than you, so don’t focus on them, just concentrate on doing your best — and that’s all that counts.

  2. Ann Bracken says:

    How do I avoid the three-legged race? By remembering that the only person Heavenly Father is going to compare me to is myself (how I’ve grown, overcome, turned weaknesses into strengths), and so I should do the same. Just because someone is farther along their path than me doesn’t mean the way is barred for me to continue on my own way (although, it would probably behoove me to study how they got there to make my way easier!).

    I’m so happy for you, Beth! Have fun storming the castle!

  3. Because we’re all created as unique individuals, it doesn’t make much sense to compare our abilities with someone else’s. I sometimes wish I could communicate more effectively, but I can’t be jealous of someone whose words bring them success. Instead, their successes inspire me to try harder.

    ::tossing confetti to help celebrate your success, Beth!:: 🙂

  4. Great post, Beth. I admit, I really do struggle with envy and jealousy. My angst basically revolves around other writers who have landed publishing deals – I end up thinking, “Why her and not me?” I’ve found the best weapon against envy is simple: offer congratulations. Something about extending a virtual high-give takes the wind right out of envy’s sails.

    • Of course, that’s supposed to be high-FIVE. Sorry!

      • Beth K. Vogt says:

        Michelle,
        I am the world’s worst typist — really, almost didn’t make it into Journalism 101 because of my lack of skill — so I overlook typos. (Except when I am wielding my red pen in my official capacity as The Evil Editor, or TEE, as my writing buddies call me. They assure me that nickname was given with love.)
        You’re idea of offering a virtual high-five is an excellent way to tame envy.

  5. Michelle Lim says:

    Beth, wonderful thoughts! It is so true that we each reach different readers. The comparison game is like assuming a parent has favorites… God doesn’t. Our gifts and talents are different. Thanks for the great reminder!

    P.S.= Your book is amazing!

  6. Very entertaining and wise, as always, Beth. (: I can’t remember who said ‘Comparison is the killer of joy’, but I’ve held onto that for years now, and it helps in all aspects of life. Thanks for the timely reminder!

  7. Joanne Wiklund says:

    Beth: Great words to the core of things. Thanks, j.

  8. David Hauk says:

    Excellent reminder that applies in all areas of life. In 1 Corinthians 1:17 Paul says, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” It ties in with what he wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians when he lamented about his “thorn in the flesh”. He prayed for it to leave but God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul didn’t want to speak eloquently because if he did, then he would get the glory. And the cross of Christ would not be as powerful. If his speech is inarticulate then God will get the glory. That gives me great hope. I should not worry if my writing is not as eloquent or powerful as somebody else’s, but simply let God work through my weakness, my “poorer than another author’s writing,” so that God will get the glory God deserves.

  9. Tessa says:

    I definitely struggle with the 3-legged race. Mine tends to be with the number of Facebook followers someone has, since I just launched my own FB author page. I know that’s not good, but sometimes I just can’t help it.

    This served as a great reminder today. Thank you!

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Tessa,
      Yep, yep.
      FB followers.
      The number of comments on your blog post.
      Your Amazon ranking versus someone else’s.
      How many reviews you have (and the whole “star” thing.)
      Whether your doing a round of blog interviews or not …
      So many opportunities to strap your leg to another author’s and run the virtual race.

  10. Beth K. Vogt says:

    This may be stating the obvious, but I’m gonna go ahead and do it:
    No matter where we are in our faith journeys — even if we would say we aren’t on a faith journey — every writer is going to face the temptation to participate in the three-legged comparison race.
    We all have to figure out how to walk this writing road while avoiding the traps of comparison and competition. If we don’t, we’re gonna be a bunch of crazies out for a stroll.

    • Perhaps, if we do reject ourselves (LOVE that phrase), not crazies out for a stroll…

      …but zombies. on an afternoon promenade?

      I suspect that self-rejection is one of the biggest sins going, because it’s the rejection of ourselves as made in God’s image, and ultimately – rejection of God.

      Ah reckon He ain’t a ginna tek too kindly ah that-all.

  11. Zan Marie says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Beth. God created us each one with different ways to express His gift of creativity. To try and be like another writer would be a rejection of His unique creation.

  12. PRAYERS NEEDED!

    I just got word that my nephew Ross, who had surgery to reset a broken hand, had several seizures while coming out of anesthetic. He’s been casevac’d from Henry County Hospital in New Castle, IN, to Indy. They didn’t want to ground-transport him. He is currently responsive.

    I realize this is off-topic, and apologize for that, but I wanted to muster as much support as possible.

    When Ross was six, and Barbara and I were divorced, he prayed unceasingly that we would get back together. I owe him.

    Thanks.

  13. Marielena says:

    Yup. As someone(above)posted:
    “Compare and despair.” 🙁

  14. Amy Leigh Simpson says:

    Great advice, Beth! Whenever I start comparing myself to others and fall into that “er” trap (jealous of the inevitable other who is smarter, funnier, better in some way) I have to force myself to step back, consider all the unknown components of Gods plan. So oven when we look back we can see His purpose for all those failures, or shortcomings. Much more difficult to grasp in the moment when we feel we are losing the battle. But when we can force ourselves to consider hind sight I’m the present, we can surrender and trust that God has his reasons.

  15. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Well, aren’t we having fun storming the castle today? (Yes, more Princess Bride phraseology showing up!)

    I have to say y’all are:
    1. Brilliant
    2. Refreshingly honest
    3. A whole lot of fun to do life with

    Let’s keep the conversation going about how we avoid the 3-legged race of competition with another writer …
    🙂

    • What? Ohhhh, stay ON track! Ha, I thought you wanted us to yell SQUIRREL and chase rabbits down theological paths that lead to which genre is overdone.

      Beth, have you gotten a bead on what poor sweet Rachelle has to deal with? Somedays, it’s like herding cats and other days it’s like herding…smart, observant cats on too much caffiene.

      You’ve done extremely well and have proven yourself worthy of the guest post.

      • Beth K. Vogt says:

        LOL!
        I wasn’t implying anything about being off-track — really!
        I love all the conversations, even the ones veering in other directions.
        My “let’s keep the conversation going” comment was just that — cheering us on to keep talk.
        🙂
        Talk among yourselves.
        Or to yourself.
        Whatever.
        Keep talking.
        😉

  16. Donna Pyle says:

    Beth, for some reason your post created the image in my mind of you, Rachelle, and a faceless author running/stumbling in a 3-legged race toward a publishing house with Rachelle trying to remain calm and set the rhythm. Weird, right?

    But the mental image sticks – comparison causes us to stumble. And frustate our agent in the process. Or never get one. Or perhaps even get knocked out of the race for good. Thanks for your thought-provoking words today, my Friend. And CONGRATS again on your recent debut release! 🙂

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Donna,
      Not a weird image at all, my friend.
      Rachelle was instrumental in helping me untie that “comparison” rope from around my leg.
      That is one of the reasons I value her so highly as an agent: I can talk to her about all the stuff that is part of a writer’s life.
      And yes, my attitude could have easily tripped up my relationship with Rachelle, as well as other writers.
      Comparison is insidious — and the affects are not limited to just me, myself and I.

      And thanks for celebrating with me about Wish You Were before, during and after it’s debut. I’m having a blast!!

  17. Thought of another analogy for the three-legged race.

    If you break your leg, and someone who’s with you can’t carry you, she could splint your leg with her own, and the two of you can walk to safety as one.

    Come to think of it, it’s a pretty good description of my marriage.

  18. I truly loved this honest and refreshing post, Beth. It’s like looks or smarts–there will always be someone better-looking or smarter than you are. There will ALSO always be someone worse-looking and dumber than you. As my Grandma always told me, “Keep your head held high, and don’t take no stuff off of nobody.” In other words, be yourself, even with where you fit in the CBA.

  19. Oh Beth, I forgot…

    As you wish.

    😉

  20. Anne Marie says:

    I love that quote from Princess Bride, one of my favorite films! 🙂 Very good advice here especially since my own book will be coming out at the end of the year and I will have to make sure I don’t tie my leg to anyone. Definitely do not want to be Cain!

    God bless, Anne Marie 🙂

  21. Sorry I’m late to the party…little crazy around here. I really love this, Beth. A verse keeps coming to me lately–the one about not tiring of doing good.

    I love how you reminded us we are empowered and we have a choice.
    ~ Wendy

  22. Great advice, Beth. Perhaps I should print out a sign to hang by my desk, “Be Able, not Cain!”

  23. Sundi Jo says:

    I have to do this too when it comes to other speakers. I can easily find myself running the three-legged race. Thank you for the reminder to quit making it about me.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Sundi Jo (What an exquisite name!):
      Ah, the speaking platform … yep, yep, comparison shows up there too, doesn’t it?
      Sometimes you just want to trip that other speaker as they walk to the mic …
      GASP!
      I didn’t just type those words, did I?

      😉

  24. We’ve talked about this, Beth, and it’s one of the things I love most about you. You’ve encouraged me with reminders that God has a plan for me, and it won’t look like the plan he has for anyone else. So let’s celebrate the differences, so to speak. Let’s be happy for each other when someone else reaches a milestone. Ultimately, I try to hold onto the trust I have that, someday, it will be my day. But before that day comes, and even after it comes, I want to spend my time encouraging others, not being jealous of them.

  25. Love the post! A nice reminder.

    I’m an avid baseball fan, and recently watched the 1992 classic, A League of Their Own. Dottie (Geena Davis) is quitting the team because it’s too hard and Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) says — “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

    Words I’ve posted near my computer terminal.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Oooh, Vannetta,
      I am a quote aficionado … That quote is going to show up on my “In Others’ Words” blog one day ve-ery soon!
      Brilliant!

  26. How do I avoid the three-legged race? Well Buttercup, let me tell you. 🙂

    My answer links back to Rachelle’s post from yesterday regarding surrounding yourself with smart people. When I first tackled fiction, a colleague and fellow journalist asked me to join her critique group. I balked at the initial invite; the group has three multi-published authors – tad bit intimidating for a newbie like me.

    After a few meetings I was consumed with inadequacy. My little MS was clearly the ugly stepsister among the Cinderella WIP’s on our review table and I was ready to stick my tail between my legs and quit. But one of the women, an English professor with an incredible talent for, um…bluntness, said to me: “Be patient, be open to feedback – good or bad. It’s what makes you better. Comparing yourself to another writer is suicide, don’t do that – we need you here. You’re the only one makes good snacks.”

    Still makes me laugh.

  27. Angie says:

    What a great analogy, Beth! Can’t wait to read your novel!

  28. Comparison is the flip side of the sin of pride.

    When I’ve compared myself with people in my former field, and saw their rise seemingly accelerated by the speed of my fall, there has always been the implicit thought, a baby viper in my pocket –

    “I know him, and I know I’m better than he is.”

    It’s like taking a luxuriant bath in an Asian rice paddy – that warm glow you get is fresh shit.

    (Please pardon the vulgarity – I tried other words but none had the pungency.)

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Andrew,
      Several good points here.
      And I gotta admit, a baby viper in pocket is a lot more dangerous than a 3-legged race.

    • Andrew, there is a flip side to the bath in the rice paddy. Sometimes, DNA left behind by bovines can save a life.
      I rode a big horse at a full out, fearless gallop into a hornet’s nest, he reared and I jumped to miss being clotheslined by a tree. The same second I jumped, he landed. Therefore the velocity was increased and I was thrown over his shoulder. I flew through the air and landed forehead first. A herd of cattle had just been moved down the same path and left a three inch deep lake of viscous, slimey, fresh as the driven snow fertilizer. (You’re a scientist. You know what happened.) Instead of my skull, neck and spine compressing to the point of severing my spinal cord and breaking my neck, I slid along like a bobsled and came to a stop, covered in green manure.
      I am alive because of warm, liquid manure. I will never cast aspersions on cattle, ever again.
      But I am 2cms shorter.

      • Salvation can come where we least expect it!

        I did something similar, though not as drastic. I was thrown from a horse into a pile of manure.

        Just some cuts and bruises, but no one would come near me for a week.

        Does God have a sense of humor?

  29. Nice post! Wise words, indeed.

  30. Jillian Kent says:

    I really appreciate this post, Beth. I struggle with the comparison trap now and then. When it begins, and I always know it’s beginning when I want to go to Amazon and compare how my book is selling related to others. Not a good idea. I cling to Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God.For me that means, be still and write, be still and listen to what God is saying to me, be still and know that I am good enough in His eyes. Not always easy.

    I recently came across the same scripture in Robert Holden’s Success Intelligence. He also mentioned Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s words which provided wisdom. Hope it helps others who succumb to being human at times. 🙂

    “Let us labor for an inward stillness–
    An inward stillness and an inward healing.
    That perfect silence where the lips and heart
    Are still, and we no longer entertain
    Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
    But God alone speaks to us and we wait
    In singleness of heart that we may know
    His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
    That we may do His will and do that only.”

  31. Diane Yuhas says:

    Beth, that’s an excellent way to look at the temptation to compare our achievements with others. If our goal is to glorify God, then we must be act like Abel whose obedience revealed love for God rather than Cain whose offering revealed love of self.

  32. Roxanne Sherwood says:

    Wonderful post! I really appreciate Beth’s transparency and warning to be Abel, not Cain.

    I think we’ve all read something, a turn of a phrase maybe, and said, “Oh, I wish I’d written that!” I read a poem Robert Frost had written as a teenager. I doubt I’ll ever write that well. But God has given me a way of seeing the world and my own voice, so maybe I’ll reach an audience who don’t read Robert Frost. 😉

  33. Beth, it was wonderful today to discover that you were the guest blogger–and it’s an excellent blog.

    Yes, comparing oneself to another is a formula for failure–and anger and resentment and etc. I know that it is not a healthy thing and I try to avoid, but it is insidious. You talked about strapping your leg to another writer’s and they don’t even know that you’re doing it. So true, and sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it until we’ve run a bit down the path. The the only thing to do is stop and untie. One thing that has helped me avoid this is getting to know other writers as people. That way, when they succeed, I can be genuinely happy about their success. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you’re focused on someone else in a positive way. Being thankful helps too. Thankful for them and for the gifts that God has given me. And remembering that God loves me just as I am.

    Congratulations on your book! 🙂

  34. Christina says:

    Beth, thank you. Just, thank you.

    Christina

  35. Beth,

    Great post, though not for the first time I’ve read an entry and thought:
    .
    “Man, I wish I had that problem.”
    .
    Choosing the best agent, and Don’t be the Smartest person in the Room immediately come to mind.
    Today, fretting about whether my books are better received than author “x” seems surreal. Then again, there was a time when I told my wife if I could just make $42,000 a year, she could quit work and raise the kids. HA! Can you imagine? It seems no matter how much we have, we seem to use it all up and expect more.
    So although right now each success story I hear about is awesome, I will keep your wise words tucked away in my mind, just in case I get lucky enough to need them. It’s easy not to cast stones when there aren’t any to be found 🙂

  36. Great visual with this post, Beth! And well-said!

    I do read a lot of fiction and non fiction. I love a well-formed turn of phrase–either verbally by the character or especially through inner dialogue or body language. Along with a good story, it is what makes me reach for the author’s next book. I celebrate when I find a book I can get immersed in and thoroughly enjoy. But do I compare my style to that writer’s? Honestly? A bit. But I see my style as different or individual–not better or worse. We all have our own style–and finding it and understanding it is the key.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      “… I see my style as different or individual–not better or worse. We all have our own style–and finding it and understanding it is the key.”

      Very healthy attitude, this.
      Very healthy.

  37. Shauna says:

    Comparison in any area (writing and parenting are my biggies!) keeps me stumbling like a drunkard between arrogance and despair! Exhausting! I’m desperately trying to run the race marked out for ME–being faithful to what I’ve been gifted and called to do.

    Comparison is a confidence killer!!

  38. Beth, you’re speaking some transparency this morning. 🙂 Love what you have to say. I think we all tend to compare at one time or another because we’re human.

    I think “word solutions” are a great way to snap us out of our doldrums. Everyone has unique strengths because we’re created in God’s image.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Cynthia,
      You are so right.
      I want to celebrate others’ unique strengths — not go hunting for their unique weaknesses. (‘Cause we’ve all got them too!)

  39. Joe Pote says:

    How do I avoid comparing myself with other writers?

    Hmmm…

    Thus far, that just has not really been an issue. Not to say I’m not potentially vulnerable at some point…but not so far.

    I’ve written one book, a non-fiction Christian book. I’m not a pastor. I have no seminary degree. At the time I wrote the book, my platform was my Sunday school class of about a dozen people.

    Yes, I have years of experience in studying the Bible, but no formal training. No credentials for anyone to notice or tag me as an expert.

    So, mostly, I’m just amazed whenever God does use my writing to encourage someone else!

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Me too!

      😉

      Anybody else?

      • Joe Pote says:

        You’re also amazed whenever God uses my writing to encourage someone else? 😉

      • I started out writing a conventional secular novel. Partway through, some thing, or Someone else took over and it turned into a Christian story, and in the process I turned into a Christian.

        Now that was totally unexpected! I had never read a Christian novel, outside C.S. Lewis’ ‘Space’ trilogy.

        The two-and-a-half novels I’ve written since have followed that pattern. I can’t imagine writing anything else. The phrase ‘secular world’ really has no meaning, as I believe that God does exist, and this is His world.

        There is no secular world. Only the illusion of one, like a make-believe world created by children.

        And now, under the Shadow from illness, career gone – I’m happy. I know that God is there, and that if I depend on Him he’ll see me through. I may not see the path, but He does.

        That’s what I want to bring to the people who read my books. Just that He’s there

  40. Jim says:

    Contentment is destroyed by comparison

  41. Ginger says:

    The first thing I thought when I read your analogy–Be Able, not Cain–was that God was pleased with Able, but Cain was rebuked for his attitude.

    It’s hard not to compare myself with others–it always has been. I’m average–average height, average hair, average eyes, average grades(ages ago when I had grades).

    One day I realized I could spend my life running the 3-legged race, getting nowhere, or I could BE average because that’s how God made me. I’m not perfect and still struggle with the comparison game, but I try with all that is within me to “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn”, instead of being frustrated at someone else’s success or rejoicing over their mishaps.

    So congrats, Beth, on “Wish You Were Here”. May your words touch those who need to be touched, even the ones who “think” they didn’t like it. 🙂

  42. God grant me worthy competition – worthy foes. I want to be part of a group that furthers excellence (iron sharpening iron). That being the case, I aim to actively cheer the successes of others in my field. But, I want it to be sincere praise, not false. What good does it do me if I am constantly comparing myself and thinking, “They are not as good as I am”? I will become vain. What good does it do me if I compare myself and despair? “I will never be good enough to succeed.” Then I become bitter (alluding to Desiderata).

    Haven’t ever liked three-legged races. When you are not well-matched-when you are unequally yoked it tears at your ankle and leaves you lame. But, oh, the joy of running with the wind with like minded competitors.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      “But, oh, the joy of running with the wind with like minded competitors.”

      🙂

      Cherry,
      I like the way you think.

    • I have a couple of marathon running friends. They love the races, but are nowhere near the times that win. When I was younger, what they did made no sense. Why be in a race you have no shot at winning? What a difference years of experience bring to understanding.

      • Indeed. I used to run 10-K’s. I rejoiced when I broke 30 minutes–not because I won the race, but because I reached a goal I’d set for myself. Also ran a marathon once, and rejoiced when I crossed the finish line. You know that “wall” thing? I always thought that was about being really tired, but it’s not. It’s actually when your body decides to say “*expletive* you, I’m shutting down.” I think running one marathon says something about your stick-to-it-ness and your character, while running more than one says something about your intelligence. But that’s just me.

  43. Succinct, honest and valuable post. I always appreciate writing that’s well-done (not medium rare), though some require a little steak sauce. Seriously as I’m discovering some writing that most takes my breath away, it models excellence for me ti help me move forward. Sure we all encounter jealousy or envy sometimes. Some story lines may achieve success more readily than others–but we each also have to decide what we’re called (and qualified) to write.

  44. I started going down that same path upon publishing my debut novel, Six Bits, this past December. I quickly came to the conclusion that, especially those of us who engage in ficiton, we are all just trying to tell a story, with the hopes we do a good enough job that audiences embrace it. If a certain novel is successful, I now research why, and try to apply that to my current projects. Others’ success is a tremendous learning experience, as is others’ failures. I keep my perspective squared on how I can apply those wins and losses in my own quest for success.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      I’ve also learned that others’ definition of success may be different than mine. I need to know what I mean by success — and then determine how I am going to achieve it. And how I am going to handle the days when I don’t.

  45. Sarah Thomas says:

    We talked about comparison in Bible study this week. (She’s better at prayer than I am, he takes more joy in the Lord than I do.) We agreed that all that kind of think does is make us too tired to try. So we agreed to stop the comparison game (easeier said than done!).

    Check out this article by Cheryl Jarvis about waiting six months to read the reviews of her non-fiction book. It gave me a whole new perpsective!

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/52827-reviewing-the-reviews.html

  46. Leah Good says:

    Great post. (Awesome front cover too.)

    A writing community I am involved with does a great job at keeping people from comparing stories and being jealous. Every August there is a contest. All summer there is a “Summer Workshop” to critique other’s novels. The last few weeks, everyone is working hard and hoping desperately to win, but they are also working like mad men to critique other’s stories. When the contest comes around, everyone is able to cheer for the winner because everyone is invested in everyone else.

  47. Nice metaphor. There are all sorts of different reasons people get into writing, I think. Actually, I know–I remember RG’s post a while ago on the topic and the cornucopia of responses.

    The “mercenary” writers of the group, those of us who are in this for the business of writing, should be benchmarking–comparing our goals and our progress to that of others–because it’s the only way to make sure our expectations for ourselves are reasonable. In your metaphor, then, we’re standing at all the races we can make (that we’re not ourselves running in) watching, timing, measuring, learning. That’s good. Strapping ourselves in with other runners, though? That’s bad. “Crazy-making” is apt; I could easy go crazy considering the gajillions of copies that badly-written books about sparkly vampires and, more recently, executives who practice bondage with interns, have sold. Not gonna do it, though.

    -TOSK

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Hhhhm … I see a potential blog post about “mercenary” writers …
      And yes, I need to be improving my craft. Which requires a certain amount of healthy “this is where I am and this is where I need to be” comparison. But more of that focus should be on where I was and where I want to be …

      • Hopefully a positive blog about “mercenary” writers? I’ve taken to calling myself an authorpreneur, but sometimes it seems people would be happier if I said I do sex for money than me doing writing for the financial end of it. I’ve done a fair amount of writing about being an authorpreneur over at my own blog.

        That said–I suspect we’re saying the same thing. It boils down to the “where you want to be” issue. The writing itself is a very subjective thing, tough to form objective measures around.

    • That’s actually my next book. “Sparkly Zombies in Bondage.”

  48. Wonderful post, Beth! 🙂 I try hard not to compare. I like the words “stop it”. lol
    If I ever feel jealous of someone, the thing I’ve found that helps me the most is to pray blessings and stuff for them. Hard to be jealous of someone you’re praying good things for. lol

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Jessica,
      I burst out laughing when Alton said, “Stop it.”
      He was so in-your-face right — and funny, too.

      And yes, focusing on the other person — praying for them, applauding them, emailing them and saying, “I am so, so happy for you” — takes the focus off you and all that negative emotion.
      Abel, not Cain.

  49. Sue Harrison says:

    I think you’re totally right, Beth. The quickest way to convince yourself that you’re not a writer is to allow the gremlins of comparison to eat your brain. When envy gobbles me up, I find the only solution is to pray. God knows how to bolster my self-esteem to the point that I can write again.

    I do keep a couple of great novels on my desk so I can begin my writing day by reading a couple paragraphs. That’s a perfect way to set high standards for myself. The novels currently on my desk are A Passage to India by George Eliot and Peace Like A River.

  50. My arms are too short to box with God, but my brain still questions Him.
    This issue is still a major (yeah, yeah, whatever) struggle for me. I’m going to follow the comments bigtime today and see if I can’t snap out of it!

    • No, boxing with God is not a good idea. Questioning Him, however, is okay. He can deal with it. Look at Job, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses…They all all questioned Him, sometimes rather loudly. Not only can God deal with it, He seems to be quite okay with it. Job’s friends all (ostensibly) took God’s and condemned Job, yet in the end, God said Job was the only one who had the right attitude. And then there was Peter, with his bursting right out with a statement before my brain’s in gear personality–and he was Jesus’ favorite (unless you ask John aka “Son of Thunder.” Yup. Questioning God is not such a bad thing as long as you remember the following three things:
      A) listen to God’s response
      B) remember that, in the end, God is always right and
      C) God rarely responds with an explanation. My experience is that He lets me vent (sometimes smiling with gentle amusement while I do it) and then just says, “TRUST.”

      This isn’t meant to be a sermon (sorry if it sounds like one). It’s meant to be encouragement from one friend to another, from a friend who used to think it was a sin to feel angry at God. Then I realized, “Hey, He knows everything so He KNOWS I’m upset with Him.” It’s a way to stay in relationship with Him and to keep the relationship honest.

      • Beth K. Vogt says:

        Jennifer & Christine,
        I appreciate the insights you’ve added to the conversation. That’s one of the things I love about Rachelle’s blog — and the chance to be a part of it: the various conversations that take off throughout the day.
        🙂

      • Sorry, that was supposed to be “took God’s side…”

      • Let’s see–three points, introduction, conclusion, Biblical illustration…Yep, it’s a sermon. That’s OK, though, I’ve received some great encouragement from sermons. 😉

      • That’s the key, isn’t it? An honest relationship. I remember reading about a SUnday School teacher asked a question and a little child put up her hand “I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’m sure it’s Jesus”.
        Are we too consumed with sounding “right” that we are afraid to tell the truth?

      • marion says:

        Yea, Christine!
        The protag. of my WIP is Moses. Not stained-glass-window Moses. Angry and confused by a crazy messed-up confusing childhood. Not sure who he is and where he belongs. Banging his head against a wall of rock in the Pharaoh’s mines in Sinai. Herding Yithro’s sheep in Midian, feeling inclined to herd himself off the edge of a cliff. Oh, yes, and then there’s his marriage to Zipporah….

        • Sounds like a great book, Marion! 🙂

        • Thanks for asking, Marion! I have two WIPs. I have been working on the first one for years and hope to start sending queries out on it in the near future. I’m calling it a psychological mystery. That’s the best I can do to describe the genre. It’s about a friendship between two guys, one of whom was an abused child and who has serious psychological issues. It’s the dynamics of their friendship and how his illness affects the relationship. In its core, it’s about love, hurt and forgiveness. There are two mysteries running through the novel, an obvious one and a more subtle one. Obviously I can’t say much about those.

          The other novel is a YA fantasy about a teenage fairy who lives in a society where young girls traditionally do what their mothers did. So if my mother was a water sprite, I will become a water sprite. If she was a tree spirit, I will guard trees. The main character is the daughter of a banshee (banshees, in their origin, were fairies, not ghosts). She has no desire to be a banshee like her mother. She is enthralled with dragons and despite societal convention and her mother’s disapproval, she decides to set off on a dangerous journey to seek out Riordan, the Dragon King, and become a Dragon Learner. The story is about the journey, the consequences and her growth.

          Again, thanks for asking, Marion. 🙂

    • Jacob wrestled with God. We all do at various points in our lives. All He expects is that we stay in the ring. It’s hard on the hips though.

  51. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for this post Beth. This is a beautiful reminder. I think we can trust God’s craftsmanship when he made us all absolutely unique. He will establish the work of our hands accordingly. Now to remember that on a daily basis is a little harder!

  52. carol brill says:

    I think it was in John Izzo’s book, The 5 Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die that I read the quote “Comparison is the Theif of Joy”

  53. Natalie says:

    I can’t agree that not reading fiction is the answer, if you want to write fiction. Seeing how others do it, good and bad, helps you learn. Would you try to build a house without ever looking at another house, just in case they were better than your first try (or second, or tenth)? No! You’d look at lots of other houses, analyse how they were constructed, the shape, the materials, what looked good and whose roof leaked.
    Or that’s my opinion, anyway.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Natalie,
      A lot of people would agree with you.
      But then again … others may choose not to read their genre … or to limit it …

      Tricksy, eh?

  54. JC Emery says:

    I don’t have this down just yet. I am in constant struggle with myself and the green-eyed monster. This wasn’t such an issue until I developed writing friends. It was a blessing to have people to talk about my work to and to encourage me along my path. I loved cheering my friends on in their successes and comforting them in their failures. Finally, I had a group of friends who understood me. They understood my work, and they understood how very hard it is to do what we do.

    But somewhere along the way I became a jealous monster. The more “this” mattered to me, the more of a bear I became. I fully believe the only reason I still have friends is because none of us are above this particular issue. We can all cheer one another on to each other’s faces, but inside we’re torn up at their success because whether we’re at the same stage as them, or not, internally, their success means our failure.

    And Beth, you’re absolutely right. The only way to keep this pesky emotion in check is to disallow it to take over. Now, I allow myself to recognize it’s there, and I remind myself that I’m at a different stage, or in a different place– and that is perfectly okay. Jealousy is natural, but when it begins to overtake us is when it becomes an issue. I resolve to always be there and to support another author’s successes and to never be the negative nancy, no matter how jealous I am.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      JC,
      You are absolutely right. Every writer struggles with comparison & competition with other writers. Every writer has to decide how to deal with it.
      You are choosing to be an Abel, not a Cain.
      It’s a deliberate c-h-o-i-c-e, an act of the will.
      It’s grabbing the can of confetti when another writer succeeds, twisting off the lid, and tossing the stuff because we know we should — instead of sulking in a corner and thinking, “That should have been me.”
      Sure, the thought may cross your mind, but you don’t park your brain there.

  55. One of my favorite authors is guest posting today! I think the first time I “met” you was when you wrote your last guest post for Rachelle about hitching your wagon to the stars.

    Comparing ourselves with others is a dangerous trap to fall into. It strips us of our strength and blinds us to the gifts and blessings God has given to us. When I start comparing myself to others I realize that I can only be good at being me. I’d fail miserably at being someone else. It’s hard to not compare other people’s successes with our own – but it’s vital if we’re ever going to be effective in what we’re called to do.

    • Beth K. Vogt says:

      Gabrielle,
      Since “meeting” you here the last time, it’s been fun seeing you getting connected with other writers I know. I especially enjoyed hearing your proposal story over at author Keli Gwyn’s blog yesterday! And I hope to do a face to face meeting one day soon!

    • What a shame it would be
      If a flower was a tree

  56. Laureen Guenther says:

    Thank you! I needed that!

    And isn’t Alton Gansky a great writing instructor/speaker? I heard him at the Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship spring conference in Calgary, Alberta, a few years ago. Throughout the whole weekend, he said EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Sounds like he did the same for you.

  57. Good post, Beth!

    I don’t compare myself to other writers, but only because I almost drove myself crazy comparing myself to other pastors. My first church had nineteen people in a town of thirty-five. Hmm, why didn’t I get a massive church like John Maxwell did? It’s easy to grow when you start big…blah, blah, blah. I made myself crazy with comparisons.

    One day, I felt so convicted by my pulpit envy that I went for a long walk on the gravel of self pity. I wandered all the way to Leavenworth, KS and stopped when I saw the prison. It dawned on my that my envy had me as locked up as any prisoner behind those walls.

    It was revealed to me why I would remain in smaller churches. I’m a musician, preacher, actor, puppeteer, director and teacher. Big church pastors are primarily preachers and administrators. They excel at that because they are gifted to do so. We can no more change our gifts than the color of our eyes. Small churches need jack-of-all-trade types. I was exactly where I belonged. Whenever someone asks me why I’m not in a big church like someone else my age, I simply say, “They’re a better fit than me.” That doesn’t mean I don’t improve myself. On the contrary, I improve to better serve where I am.

    Serenity came when I realized I neither created the other pastors nor myself. Therefore, comparing success is a useless exercise in delusional vanity.

  58. marion says:

    For several years, I read almost no fiction, because of lack of focus–physical (needed stronger glasses) and mental. I think it helped me find my own style and not someone-else’s.

  59. Beth K. Vogt says:

    I don’t consider that lame at all, Andrew. Actually, I consider that your own bit of brilliance.
    You evaluated the potential problem, figured out a solution and took action.
    Bravo.

  60. I may have the all-time lamest way to avoid comparing myself with other writers of fiction…

    I don’t read fiction.

    I used to devour novels, but when I started writing I made a conscious decision to leave that behind. I didn’t want to ape another’s style, another’s style, and I didn’t want to wittingly or unwittingly borrow plot devices.

    I do read a lot – mainly memoir, and history, and both Alibris and Amazon love to see me log onto their sites. But the last novel I read was one of Arthur C. Clarke’s SF masterpieces, back in 2008. And I don’t write SF.

    • DC Spell says:

      Hilariously enough, I’m always considered a snob because I’m probably the writer who reads the least out there! I don’t like accidentally emulating other’s style, so I stay away from fiction, too! I do have a huuuuuuuge problem with comparision. My pastor had an incredible series of sermons called “The Comarision Trap”. I’m working on not being so immature about competition. I have a long way to go.

      • Neil Larkins says:

        I think I could be in a three-legged race with you or anyone on the writer who reads the least bit. I too don’t want to unwittingly borrow a plot or mimic a trend. But what can we do? We’re told to read other stuff, get a sense of what good writing is. Or not. Or really, yes! I find myself reading more published authors blogs and agents blogs…and then sobering up, drying out and reading nothing for long periods. Confusing for sure.

        • Beth K. Vogt says:

          Good point, Neil — how to balance the recommendation that we read, read, read so that we become better writers without becoming crazed-by-comparison writers.

          I don’t read as much as I used to either. But it’s not so much to avoid comparison/competition. It’s more about time. I can read or I can write. And the deadline is always demanding that I write.

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