Uniqueness of the Writing Journey

If you picture your town or city, can you think of any two roads that are exactly the same?

Each street is lined with different houses and trees with entirely different families or businesses. Some roads may have potholes, others construction, a few rare ones are perfectly smooth. We'll find detours in some areas and high-speed freeways in others.

If we traveled every road in the United States or the world, would we ever find two that are identical? My guess is that we'd be searching a long time.

We writers are on a journey. A few of us are running at top speed, most of us are plodding steadily upward and onward, and then some are limping along but still persevering.

No matter where we're at on the writing path, we tend to have a common affliction: comparison-itis. This illness is usually one that comes and goes, but we all suffer from it at one point or another. Whether it puffs us up or puts us down, comparison-itis is a disease that can harm us if we don't work at fighting it off.

Is there an antidote for comparison-itis? I'm sure we could all think of plenty of cures, but the one I want to focus on this week is this: we're all on unique writing paths.

None of our roads are ever going to be identical. The journey that stretches out before each of us will be like no one else's.

I've been very open in my blog about my steps through querying, getting an agent, and venturing into the world of publishing houses. I love being able share this journey with like-minded writers.

And yet my experiences, are, well, mine. You may not have to write seven books over an accumulation of about eight years before you get an agent. You might not have to win a contest to move out of the slush pile. Your agent may attempt to sell your books differently than mine.

But that's the beauty of the writing journey. We can take encouragement from one another and maybe even learn a thing or two, but ultimately we have to remember that we each need to forge our own unique paths. There are no set formulas for attracting an agent and no perfect number of years we have to write or books we have to finish before being ready.

There are no two roads exactly alike.

Let's encourage one another with our uniquenesses today! What's your road been like? How many books have you written? How long have you been writing? What's something unique to your journey?


  1. I really appreciate this post. It is so true that our journeys are all unique. I think it's really easy to get caught up in all that others tell you are ways to get out there and get noticed when you're wanting to get published, etc. The fact is, there may be general concepts and ideas of ways to go about things, but we still are each different and what works for one person may not be what works for us.

    Thanks for sharing this post!

  2. Jody, this is exactly how I feel. We really need to be thankful for OUR journey, and not play the comparison game.

    Great post, Jody!!

  3. Let's see, I started writing three years ago, crafting literary flash fiction. Then I switched to fantasy, sometimes dark stuff, lengthening to short stories. Everything I've spit shined then submitted has been published, over half in what's considered semi-pro markets. I'm back to literary again, being a genre hopper.

    I think I'm holding my own.

  4. Such a great reminder! It's frustrating sometimes when you hear people say, "I tried to be published for twenty years before it actually happpened.... so be patient."

    I gasp and almost fall to my knees. TWENTY YEARS?!? But then I remind myself that I'm not then. God has a plan for me, and he knows that twenty years of this complete madness (I'm one of those sprinters you talked about...) would wear me out and probably put me in an early grave.

    I still don't know were I'm going to peak, where that next check-point is, but I keep going, and I'm relieved to know that it's MY journey, and God knows what I can take.

  5. Nice post, Jody. I love the writing/blogging community.

    Started off writing articles, parenting columns, inspirational, etc. Joined NAWW and facilitated a couple writing groups, then became a volunteer staff member of The Rose & Thorn Literary e-zine. Co-wrote three inspirational seasonal books, got into poetry, kept writing regional parenting pub articles and such. Now I have a women's fiction ms I need to finish revising, and Kathryn Magendie (Tender Graces) and I have taken over R&T as co-owners.

    It's been a strange but wonderful journey so far. One of the best aspects to me is meeting up with others along the path.

  6. I used to have three completed stories, until I decided to lengthen them into single titles. LOL
    I love that you encourage us to see the uniqueness to each journey. I really think that's a huge part of curing comparisonitus. Even for things like looks, talents, etc.
    We each have such a unique path. I like my path and most of the time I'm at peace with my own time frame and pace. Comparison only makes people discontent, I think. :-) Wonderful post Jody!

    Oh, a unique thing I think about my journey was that I finaled in the first contest I entered, and though the full of that manuscript was requested and then rejected, the whole experience gave me a boost that I'll hold on to for a long time. (lol, this was over a year ago and I'm still tasting the sweetness)

  7. This is a wonderful post! I often get comparitis myself. It's hard to look at authors such as Stephanie Meyer who wrote and published her very first book in less than a year. I like that most people out there have written numerous books before publication. Not that I wanted to have written numerous books first, but at least I'm not the only one who didn't seem to get anywhere with my first novel.

    I saw the BEST billboard yesterday day. There was a picture of Thomas Edison and next to it it said "After the 10,000 try there was light!" and under it, it said "Optimism".

    If we want it, it will happen. We just need to remember it is going to happen different for each of us!

    Love this post! Thanks Jody :)

  8. Jodi, I love your ability to encourage all of us! I am thankful to have found your blog when I did.

    My road, so far, has been a learning process. The biggest thing I've learned is that I love to write. Although I would love for someone to enjoy what I write some day, I know that at the end of the day I enjoy writing and I enjoy that writing has strengthened my faith.

  9. Hi Jody,
    I'm in love with the picture on this post and your words. I've always appreciated strong women who can stand in their own skin without constantly comparing their sagging skin to another woman's.

    You know exactly what I've written b/c you looked over my Web site! :D

    Thanks for another insightful post!
    ~ Wendy

  10. What an encouragement to remember each of us have a unique road to follow! My road has been one of steadily gleaning knowledge of the craft of writing, and incorporating it into my work. It's exciting to see my writing take a more defined shape, and I'm looking forward to seeing my work grow and develop.

  11. A big AMEN to your post!!!

    I've suffered from a bad case of "comparison-itis" this past year to the point of wanting to give up, but I can't you see because I've got this writing addiction that can't be satisfied.

    Been writing for as long as I could hold a pen in my hand and with the help of my mom, wrote a few sentences and found satisfaction and excitement in the written word. Won contests, receive writing awards, been in print and wrote a book (unpublished).

  12. I wrote 1 1/2 of a YA series before switching to adult fiction (romantic suspense). In that genre, I've completed two stories, but am reworking the second one. I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to the others. Redoing this one has shown me it might've been easier to scrap the whole thing and start over. We'll see.

    Lynnette Labelle

  13. Ah, comparison-itis is NO good! I try to flee from it anytime it comes a'knockin', not always successfully though. writing journey.

    I wrote my first novel when I was twenty-three (4 years ago). But I knew nothing about the craft of writing or the publishing industry. I submitted a few times (WAY too early). Then I sort of tucked it away in a drawer and became very passionate about teaching. I wrote my second story three years later (last summer), still knowing next to nothing about the craft of writing. I sent the first 15 pages into a crit service and learned LOADS. I used what I learned and revised/rehauled both my stories. Since then, Brogan was born. I wrote another book. I've read loads of craft books, got a crit partner, a mentor, and joined ACFW. Now I'm working on my 4th novel. Going to my first writer's conference in Sept and hope to start submitting my stuff. YIKES!!

  14. SO true. This was a problem I faced a lot when I was in an RWA chapter. I would see a writer come in and say she'd been writing for a year and just signed a three-book contract with HarperCollins. It made me feel like I must just not be talented enough. Of course, someone told me once that every writer goes through the same learning process...some do it BEFORE publication and some after, but it happens eventually. And often the writer who sells right away still has that's just later down the line, when her publisher drops her or her books aren't selling.

  15. What a great (and timely) post. I happen to be one of those "limping" writers at the moment {insert big grin} so it's important not to compare. Comparison-itis is a sure recipe for discouragement!

    Let's see, 5 books under my belt. Trying to jumpstart #6.

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  17. [Deleted my last attempt due to glaring typo -- sorry!]

    I come back to this whenever I begin straying: "Shine in your own light." We all have light to shine and each, uniquely. My journey included a rush when my two children's books were published in the same year (though sold in different years) and then a halt in the writing journey, just as I was breaking through, for the important job of child-raising. Stepping back at this juncture was hard in many ways, but it ended up opening other opportunities that might not have been possible otherwise. It also forced me to put the writing aspect of my life in perspective. Back to the light, though: the good news is, there truly is enough to go around. Keep shining Jody!

  18. I was first published (in a magazine...just a little article) between my sophomore and junior year of high school. Because that happened so effortlessly, I thought all of writing life would be like that. And it certainly hasn't been. I have been published on a small scale a number of times since then, but am still waiting for God's timing on a book!

    I have completed 2 full length books (Bible studies) that I feel would be ready for a publisher and have probably 4 more that could be ready (from the college days) with much tweaking and maturity-editing.

    Since only God knows where my life is headed (and He's not divulging too much detail just yet!) I'm trying to recognize that this season of my life might be fashioned for writing, so I should take advantage while I can...guilt free!

    Thanks for this post. I have comparison-itis not only in writing, but in life itself.

  19. I love hearing all writer's "call" stories and writing journeys probably because they ARE so different.
    In fact, the more long and diffcult the journey, the more I admire the writer and am so happy for them in the end. :)

  20. Great post, Jody, as always! I think of myself as a walker on this writing journey. I am not sprinting, but taking my time to enjoy the view while I slowly make my way down the road. I've just started this journey and have heard so many stories like yours, I expect mine to be similar, with lots of manuscripts written before a chance at publication. I'm not in a hurry...just enjoying it all!

  21. Okay, I'll admit it, if my novel gets published, I'll be one of those annoying "got the first novel she wrote published" authors. But unlike Stephenie Meyer, it won't be quite so fast.

    My finished MS started out as a 2005 NaNoWriMo novel. I wrote 30K words in November 2005, and finished my last round of edits in April 2009, so that's a little under 3.5 years to write the thing (I took WAY too many breaks in the middle, and will never again leave a half-completed MS untended for so long).

    I've had that one story in my head for so long that it's hard to break free of those characters to write something new, but I'm working on it!

  22. I think reading different writing blogs really proves your point - every author has a different story and a different journey.

    My journey so far includes two finished novels and one feature length screenplay.

  23. What a great post.

    I think I've been on this writing journey since the 6th grade. I've written three novels and have lots and lots of unfinished novels (mostly from my jr. high, high schol, and college years). It's been a great journey and I'm looking forward to the rest of it!

  24. I have definitely done my share of comparing on this journey. It seems like it's been a long one sometimes and at others, I realize how quickly it's passed.

    I started my first novel when I was 12, finished it and wrote two more before having a very bad agent experience. When I became a Christian about four years ago, I started writing inspirational fiction (very different from what I'd ever written before). After many rejections, I was contacted by a small press and now have two books under contract. I just finished my 11th book over the weekend and I think I love writing more every day. I can't imagine not doing it.

    Thanks so much for the interesting topic today, Jody :)

  25. Jody, This is a really important reminder. Thank you so much for it. I admit that I compare myself all the time. I feel rushed whenever I find out a n author is younger than me. I feel like I need to push myself harder whenever I find out that an author got an agent before me. But, you're so right. It's our own journey, and since none of us are trying to write the exact same book, we can't assume that we should be on the same road.

  26. Comparison-itis doesn't end with The Call. It's at those times when I'm tempted to compare my journey with those of other writers, that I remember the words of Angela Hunt at the ACFW Conference last year. "We're all muddling in the middle." There will always be someone ahead of you on the road and someone behind you.

    So, I'm happy to be muddling in the middle with all of my writing friends. :)

  27. Thanks for the reminder. I am really bad about comparing myself to others. My journey has only just begun. Thanks for sharing yours. It has been very insightful!

  28. My writing road has been long and bumpy. I've written since I could take pen and paper. Because I love children's literature, I have written five children's novels. I even have a sequel burried in there someplace. The unique thing about me is that I love to do a lot of types of writing. I truly want my Christian writing to be read. Well, If I am a Christian, it's all Christian writing.
    Not to make comparisons, but I think your new blog look is gorgeous.

  29. Jody, I've interviewed over seventy romance writers and debut authors about their journeys, and each story is unique. God is into variety, and He has a different plan for each of us.

    I've completed five manuscripts, set another aside at 50K because the story wasn't working and am in the midst of a second major rewrite of one of my original stories. I've finaled in several contests and learned so much from the generous judges. I've attended five conferences where I learned even more. I don't know what lies ahead, but I'm enjoying my journey.

  30. This was so encouraging to read!!! Thanks so much for the reminder!

    Sometimes it can be so overwhelming, especially imagining the years, work, and hope reflected in the journey to publication. It's so easy to look at someone else and compare. But other people's journeys can help us out. As we learn from each other, as we walk together, it makes the celebration ahead of us that much greater.

    I've been writing since grade school; I think my first story was in third grade. I've written five novels (three which will never see the light of day) and dream so fiercely about the other two.

    It's nice to meet you, Jody! I really enjoy your blog and look forward to following it!

  31. It's funny, we must be thinking alike today because I wrote next week's posts this morning on this very topic. There isn't a predictable path for any of us. Each of us is surprised by our writing journey.

    Thanks for sharing yours with us. It's inspiring knowing others are persevering and making it.

  32. The number one thing a writer must have going for her is patience. Patience factors in on every level of the process, from inception to completion, to publication and beyond. Sigh.

  33. I like too that we are all on our own path. Mine is an up and down one but forward hopefully. I have three completed books and one halfway done that I doubt I will ever finish--but who knows.
    I didn't know my journey would go this way but am glad it did and am glad I am meeting you on the road too!

  34. Great post and a wonderful reminder not to compare to others. I'm still a babe when it comes to writing. Started in 2007 with Nano and haven't stopped since. Discovered a new joy in writing at the late age of 48. I have two wips and completely rewriting the first one right now. I'm not even thinking about the publishing end at this point. Trying to enjoy the process mainly. Read a great quote today:

    "if you write for long enough and often enough, it becomes in the end as natural a function as breathing or eating. - Fay Weldon"

    I'm getting there.

  35. Hi Jody -

    Your point about each of our journeys being unique is well taken. While there are some basics every writer follows, that's where the similarities end.

    I've finished one manuscript, and have two others started.

    Susan :)

  36. Hmmm... I have written heaps of articles, one memoir and another WIP about 1/3 of the way through. So far only my articles have been published. That is really how I started writing. I sold an article and thought, huh, maybe I can write! The memoir grew out of a really hard time last year and the second book kind of starts where that one leaves off. So far I haven't queried the book. I know it isn't ready. But I am working with an author later this year to develop it further.
    Great post. It is interesting how very different all our paths are.

  37. It is so easy to compare yourself with others! I try to remind myself that I am unique on a daily basis, sometimes my kids remind of that but they say weird! LOL:)

    I've written some short stories, and have about three versions of a novel. One a historical, one a contemporary, and one more inspirational. My problem is I keep questioning my "voice". I also write a family column in our newspaper. I just really need to settle myself into one area, but am finding that hard to path I suppose:)

  38. Beautiful post, Jody. Like all of us are unique, our paths are truly unique as well. I really do enjoy reading about your journey, so thank you for sharing it! I have been writing since I was 10. I have written 3 complete novels in that time. I'm a bit slow, but proud of it. I love what I've accomplished, and I look forward to my own unique journey ahead. Thanks for sharing!

  39. It's so true - every journey is different. And, I have my own personal motto that goes along with this: "If we were all the same, life would be boring."

    Love this post. Thanks for sharing it.

  40. An excellent reminder for all of us, Jodi. Thanks. I forget sometimes that because of my God-created uniqueness I am not like anyone else. I don't write like anyone else. How God uses my writing won't be like how he uses anyone else's writing. So why should I expect my journey to be anything but unique? Comparison-itis is born of envy which doesn't become us as Christians.

    I'm on my fourth ms in nine years. The first was a family memoir which I don't intend to publish and the other three are novels. As a freelancer I'm grateful there is a market for my non-fiction but I'm under no illusion that my novels will be successful. I just keep writing (and revising) and trying to improve them, holding tight to the belief that God has a plan for my efforts and he'll let me know what it is in his good time.

  41. Jody:
    Thanks for setting us free, girl! I appreciate you.

    My journey has lasted all my life. I wrote my first book when I was eight-- don't hold your breath for that one to be published!
    I've published many articles, poems, and columns over the last 28 years, in Christian and secular markets. Currently I am working on two books which I hope to have published. If not, that's okay--- the working on them is growing me up as a writer and a person.

    You are so sweet to always ask about us!
    Love, Jen

  42. I love this Jody! Being yourself and enjoying & focusing on your own journey is priceless. Encouraging others on their journey without feeling the need to compare is even more priceless, if that's even possible! I mostly try to focus on my road... slow and winding at the moment because it's new and unfamiliar. Well I've written off & on for a long time, but not with a specific goal in mind.

  43. WOW!!! Amazing post!!!! I just have to say...I LOVE your new profile pic!!!

  44. Thank you for saying it so well. It's true that we are all on separate paths, and it bears remembering.


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