By Susan Stoker
If you’re like me, you wake up in the morning, brush your teeth, grab some coffee, head to your writer space, turn on your computer, and open your favorite social media account. What might’ve started as a great day quickly turns depressing when you see all the posts by other authors celebrating their accomplishments.
“Great news! I just published my 70thbook!”
“OMG you guys! I just found out I won an award for best author of the century!”
“My latest release made a best sellers list!”
“My series was picked up by a TV producer!”
The list goes on and on. And suddenly your good mood has turned sour and all you can think is how much of a failure you are and how you might as well hang up your pen for good.
A wise friend once told me, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Think about that. It’s so true. Many times if you compare what you’ve done to someone else, you’re going to come up on the losing side. There will always be someone who is more successful/pretty/happy/exciting/outgoing/etc than you. That doesn’t make your accomplishments, however, any less amazing.
Social media is a place where people generally share good news only. You don’t read about how they haven’t showered in three days, or how they’ve cried themselves to sleep because their teenager told them they hated them, or how they’re in the middle of a divorce.
Maybe you sold five books in one day and you’re totally jazzed about it because the most you sold before was three…and that was to your spouse, mom, and sister-in-law. But then you see a post where an author is moaning about “only” selling fifty books that day and how depressed she is.
So cut yourself some slack and stop comparing yourself to others! Start looking at what you’ve accomplished and be proud of it. How many people have you heard say “I’ve always wanted to write a book”? Well, why haven’t they? Because it’s hard! And you’ve done it. You put yourself out there and hit that publish button. That’s something to celebrate for sure!
And remember, not all readers are on social media!
I admit that I’ve fallen prey to “comparisonitis” myself. I’ve read posts and seen pictures of beautiful authors and all the seemingly amazing things going on in their life, and gotten down on myself. It’s crazy. I’ve been lucky and worked hard to get where I am today and I should be proud of it.
One of the things that helps me to turn my thoughts around and stop the comparison game is to re-read some of the nice emails and messages that have been sent to me over the years. Knowing that my words have touched people to a point that they want to reach out and let me know is humbling. And yes, I have a document where I’ve kept these messages. There’s nothing wrong with re-visiting your high points when you’re feeling down.
The other thing I think about when I’m feeling down is some of the readers I’ve met. I was on a cruise with my husband one year and at dinner the first night we were chit chatting with our tablemates. When I told one woman I was an author, she asked me what I wrote. I told her and she stared at me with huge eyes. Then she said, “Oh my gosh, I’ve read your books and loved them! I can’t believe you’re sitting at my table!” I think we were both a little stunned and overwhelmed.
There was I, minding my own business on a vacation, and lo and behold I came across someone who had read (and enjoyed!) my books who wasn’t on social media at all.
I’ve traveled across the world to Australia and had several readers tell me how excited they were to meet me. Me!
I went to Antarctica on another vacation and brought a couple of my books to put in the ship’s library. One day when I was wandering around the ship, I saw a woman sitting in the library reading my book! I was in Antarctica and someone was reading my books. It was unreal!
I might not be an author that ever has her books in a bookstore. I might never be featured on Oprah’s Book Club. Or have my stories translated into eighty different languages. Or have my words made into a movie or TV series. But that doesn’t make me any “less successful” than anyone else.
I have to look at what I have accomplished, which is pretty darn amazing. I’ve made the New York Times bestseller list nine times in four years, the USA Today bestsellers list with every eligible book I’ve put out since January of 2016. I started my own publishing company to start my own fan fiction world where other authors use my characters in their stories. I’ve found my niche in the writing world and have incredibly loyal and amazing readers who seem to want to read anything I put out, which I am so thankful for.
I am who I am and I’m still learning to be okay with that. When I find myself getting morose over the things that I feel like I’ll never achieve, I shut off my computer and take a walk. Or play with my dogs. Or read a book.
Words will outlive us. Someday, years from now, my books might become public domain and millions of people will read them. Maybe someone who is struggling with a divorce and self-image might pick up a tattered copy of one of my books from their great-great grandmother’s attic and will get lost in my long-ago written words.
The worst thing you can do is compare yourself to others. There are people out there reading your books. You might never meet them, might never hear from them. But don’t let that stop you from reaching for your dreams. You might be hiking in the mountains of Bahrain and might stop for a lunch break and start chatting up a nice tourist couple. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find out that one of them has read your book and loved it.
Don’t compare your life to the pictures on Instagram. Don’t compare your worth as an author to the accomplishments of others. Be who you are and celebrate all of your successes…no matter what.
New York Times, USA Today, #1 Amazon Bestseller, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Susan Stoker has a heart as big as the state of Tennessee where she lives, but this all-American girl has also spent the last eighteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, Indiana, and Texas. She’s married to a retired Army man (and current firefighter/EMT) who now gets to follow her around the country.
She debuted her first series in 2014 and quickly followed that up with the SEAL of Protection Series, which solidified her love of writing and creating stories readers can get lost in.
Thanks for the Warm & Fuzzy. What you say is very true.
Best – DB Corey
Loved your post. It holds true for most things in life.
You are completely and utterly correct. I know that the targeted audience is for authors, but, like you said in your newsletter, it’s “applicable to everyone.” I tried my hand at writing via fan fiction over a decade ago so in a way I guess that makes me an author, but I still see the meaning in your words for all those that aren’t.
Comparing is an instinct. It’s as common as breathing and one has to make a conscious effort to halt it. That’s the case for me at least.
Your wise friend got it perfectly right: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s just like allowing someone else to steal your joy. One shouldn’t/wouldn’t let that happen so why let a thing like comparison do it?
Especially with social media involved. It’s so incredibly easy to not realize/forget that it’s very much a one sided story. You are not in the other person’s shoes, feeling what he/she does, and facing the same trials. I for one do not want to publicize my negative thoughts, hardships, or struggles. There is a reason that people value their privacy after all.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Wise words to remember and recall whenever comparisionitis strikes.
Thank you so very much for posting this, Susan! ^_^
So true! Great post!
What a wonderful uplifting post. Thanks Susan.
What a timely article! “Comparison is the thief of joy” is so true as I find myself not only struggling with this but letting it keep me away from my desk. Thank you for sharing your friend’s wise words.
Thank you so much…I have one nonfiction about working with orphans…All self published and felt bad about some things about it. Your post helped so much. I love your books…and love your sensitivity to the disabled, the homeless and those with PTSD. I pray as I read your books…Help me to see these people as Susan opens my eyes…and I pray that other eyes and hearts will be opened.