As a freelance writer, I’ve found it incredibly easy at times to fall into the trap of comparing myself and my accomplishments to those of other writers. When this happens, inevitably, I place myself on a lower rung of the Freelance Success Ladder. Recently, for example, after reading that a new writer had raked up 3,000 bylines in just three years, I thought: “OMG, Wendy! What have you been doing all these years?” I’ve only had 245 pieces published in the last 39 years so, of course, down the ladder I slid.
On a good day, I can rescue my tanking self-esteem by reminding myself that the Internet, with its profusion of online writing opportunities, wasn’t even around in the Dark Ages when I started out. Back then, writer/editor snail mail correspondence was predictably a lengthy process, requiring great patience. Today’s email, on the other hand, has been a boon to more timely pitching and follow-up discussions. I also might remind myself that, during a large chunk of my writing career, I taught piano lessons part-time, and raised a family (not to make excuses, mind you—just keeping things in perspective).
Having discussed this comparison issue often enough with other writers, I think I can safely say that every writer’s self-image takes a nosedive now and then. Creativity ebbs and flows and we’re usually most vulnerable to playing the ‘Who’s Who in Writing’ game when our creative juices are temporarily on hiatus. The trick is to shake off that self-defeating “L-word” (LOSER) as quickly as possible by reminding ourselves that creativity is meant to ebb and flow.
It’s like the space between a period and the subsequent sentence or the break between two musical phrases. It’s the reason vacations are generally thought to be therapeutic. If the pauses weren’t in place, there’d be no room for a quiet breath. Pauses encourage contrast and discernment. Best of all, an ebb in writing energy is almost always followed by a resurgence in creative flow. So, while caught in the in-between drought, be kind and don’t judge yourself too harshly.
Comparing yourself to another writer for the purpose of improving one’s motivation or skills can be highly educational. But, if the comparison smacks in any way of jealousy, rivalry, or ‘poor me,’ back off immediately and redirect your time and energy into your craft instead. Be inspired by the work of others—study it analytically to strengthen your own writing prowess—but steer clear of the comparison game. It’ll only bring you down.
That being said, when you do find yourself making petty, self-sabotaging comparisons to other writers, I’ll give you the same advice I give myself: STOP IT! Reining in negative thinking isn’t always easy to do, but comparing one writer to another is like comparing apples and oranges. You may both be writers (just as apples and oranges are both fruit), but no two writers are identical in life experiences, writing skills, philosophy, voice, hobbies, special interests, preferred formats, creative content, genres, platforms—the list is endless. All writers plot their own career paths, and navigate them as best they can, endeavoring to learn new things every step of the way. There may not be one tried and true way to achieve writing success but you can certainly stall the process by making counterproductive comparisons.
To be a successful freelance writer, you’ve got to believe in the strength and potential of your skills, and trust that your persistence and hard work will pay off. Given the boundless pool of writing ideas, venues, and opportunities available today, ditch that ‘lower-rung-of-the-ladder’ thinking once and for all. Just focus on moving onward and upward. Be grateful for the privilege of pursuing your passion. Find inspiration in the successes of others. Be happy for them. And, above all, hold tight to the conviction that your time will come. Your writing hopes and dreams will materialize.
Don’t Stress Me Out! I’ll Write About You! By C. Hope Clark
Advice for All Writers: Enter Writing Competitions! by Stevi-Lee Alver
Win Assignments to Cover Breaking News By John K. Borchardt
2019 marks Wendy Haugh’s 40th year as a published freelance writer. Happily, the thrill of writing never gets old—even as she does. Learn more at https://www.wendyhobdayhaugh.com.
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