Are You a Good Writer? Comparison vs. Celebration

Unedited / Monday, March 25th, 2019

Are you a good writer?

This question has been going around the author community on Youtube, and let me just say — I hate it. 

The question itself irks me. It’s like a tee-shirt that shrunk in the dryer. It doesn’t fit right!  

You see, the only way to answer this question is to compare, whether it’s to yourself or to other people, and comparison can really easily become dangerous. Trust me on this. It can lead to throwing away an entire manuscript in a dramatic Becoming Jane moment and collapsing in tears over a perfectly placed day-bed. It can lead to shutting your laptop and avoiding your WIP for weeks, even months. It can even lead to you stopping writing all together, because you’ll “never be as good as that”. Just asking that question, “Are you a good writer?” causes feelings of “not enough” and self-doubt to surface. 

Of course, there are times and places where self-doubt can be useful, as can comparison. The trick is to use them each in a way that is beneficial to yourself, not detrimental, and to never pair your self-doubt or comparison with the words, “I am not enough”.

Comparison is the enemy of creativity. It not only squashes creativity, but it doesn’t belong with it. Creativity by nature is entirely unique to the person who is creating. Writing is the same way. No two people can tell the same story exactly the same way. Why? Because we notice different things. We chose different words, we bring out different perspectives. So when comparison becomes a label of “good” or “not good” (which, let’s be honest, it almost always does), it just becomes unnecessarily cruel to yourself. 

When I look at other authors, I see how I am different, and I see how I am similar. Without placing judgement on those differences or similarities, it becomes a celebration. It also becomes a learning tool. Some of the best writing classes I’ve taken studied the voice of authors who have very distinct styles, such as Stephen King and William Faulkner. How do they bring out their voice to tell their story? What makes their style unique? And then we would write our own story using their style. The comparison was used as a tool to expand my writing while also allowing enough room for me to tell my own story.

To me, telling a story in my own way, with my own voice, and in my own unique style means that I am a good writer. Being able to write honestly means I am a good writer. Of course, there will always be room for expansion, but if I stay true to myself and let my words be my own, I can be proud of the story I’ve written. It doesn’t matter that I am not Stephen King. I am not Jane Austen. I am not JK Rowling. I am myself, and I was never meant to be anyone else. And that, in itself, is worth celebrating!!!

Have you signed up for my next writer’s workshop, “What Keeps Us From Writing?” yet? I’ll be talking about how our perfectionism, fear of being judged, not having enough time, and just plain being overwhelmed with how hard it is to write a book keeps us from writing, so you can be confident enough to write in your own voice and be proud of your own words. Register before March 31 to receive it for free! 

Love to you!

Maggie Ann Ryan

Owner of Bodie & Ryan Co. on Instagram 

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