This summer new neighbors moved next door. They have three little boys—one who is almost 4 and twins who are 16 months. When I look at this family, I have major déjà vu. Approximately ten years ago, I was in the same situation with my oldest being 4 and my twins almost 2 (except my twins are girls).
As my neighbors chase after all their little ones, I get sweaty just watching. I remember how much work it was at that stage. My twins (now almost 12), adore their miniature counterparts and rush over to play with the boys whenever they’re outside. So I’m hoping we can bless our neighbors and lighten the load for them at times.
However, one evening, as I was sitting on my back porch watching the children play, I began to compare our “toys” to theirs. Our young neighbors have a big swingset-fort combination with all of the latest gadgets. The wood is stained a deep reddish color and the slide is bright yellow. Everything about it is solid. And their trampoline is sturdy, the canvas tight, and the colors vibrant.
Then I looked at our swingset and trampoline and felt a pang of jealousy. Our trampoline is faded and frayed, and our swingset is barely hanging together with its weathered boards, dirt-streaked slide, and rusty chains.
As I nursed my wish for bigger and better “toys” for my children, I realized how foolish I was. Why was I comparing? After five children and ten years of loving use, our backyard toys are worn out, and rightly so. The toys have brought us plenty of joy and memories. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Comparison is an enemy. And for writers it can be one of the most deadly.
Recently I chatted with a fellow author about how things were going with her publication experience. Once again, I found myself comparing. I began to look with envy at her writing journey and all that she was doing, and discontentment crept in. Before I knew it, I was unsettled, unhappy, and even slightly depressed.
As I chatted with my agent, Rachelle Gardner, about the comparison, she shared something she'd recently read: “Comparing is the enemy of joy. It's painful and unskillful to compare, no matter what conclusion we draw. Comparison creates agitation in the mind. Whether you come out ahead in the comparison, or behind, or equal—comparison itself is the problem.”
How do we stay content with our own writing journeys and resist the temptation to compare with others? I’m not really sure I have all the answers. As you can see, I recently failed twice at avoiding the comparison trap! But, as I wrestled through my comparison issues, here are three things I realized:
1. Each of our writing journeys will be completely and uniquely different.
We’re all individuals with differing writing styles, voices, personalities, goals, and values. Thus it stands to reason that each of us will have varied publishing experiences.
No one else is going to have a journey exactly like mine, and I can’t expect to imitate someone else. We have to be open to where our journeys will take us—even if the path looks different from others.
2. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
Usually we put on our best face for others to see and keep our problems private. As open and vulnerable as I am on this blog, I still only share my deepest heartaches with a trusted few. And we’re wise to do so.
However, that means when we look at what others are doing, we often only see their positives. While everything might appear wonderful, that the grass is tall and beautiful and perfect on their side of the fence, the reality is that there are always weeds and bugs in every yard.
3. Remember to count our blessings.
When we think we’re coming up short compared to others, that’s a good time to take stock of what we have. If we look hard enough we can find things to be thankful for. In fact, sometimes it’s helpful to remember that there are plenty of others in this world with so much less.
My writing journey definitely has its unique struggles. But whenever I’m tempted to compare, I need to count all the many blessings my journey has brought so far.
What about you? Do you ever compare your writing journey to those of other writers? Does it leave you feeling agitated or discontent? How do you work through the dissatisfaction that comparison brings?