Comparison kills… or does it?

February 7, 2021

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve been comparing my writing with other writers for years. I’ve compared my style, voice, dialogue, settings, plot, characters, twists and climax with just about every book I’ve ever written. Of course, it needs to be the same genre, but not always. When I wrote historical fiction, I only read historical fiction and compared their research to mine. How authentic were their descriptions and timing? How true were their settings and did I need to include aspects of theirs in mine?

Now I read thrillers and seek out the culprit, look for red herrings and judge how suspenseful they are.

Then when I started uni and had literary greats shoved in my face, I just started comparing my writing style to theirs. How many metaphors did they use? Was their language elevated or simple like Hemingway? What made these “greats” so great? The lack of dialogue tags in The Road and how Cormac broke all the grammar rules. The simplicity of Ian McEwan’s stories and just the rhythm of his writing. The long sentences that prompt a deep breath before reading them aloud. Helen Garner and her natural insight into domesticated life. I could go on and on. They just do something unique that pulls me in. I’m in awe and cannot help but want to mimic them.

People say comparison kills the creative spark. Just concentrate on yourself and what you’re doing. But there’s no green-eyed monster here. I just can’t help myself. Now my comparison has moved from writing, to what deal an author got, how they gained representation. And I’ve recently discussed this with an author who said they do the same. I want to know what about that author earned them such a high advance, or a movie deal or a position on the bestsellers list? Then I go and buy their books to pick apart and taste their writing, searching for hidden insights. My eyes roam across their sentences and sometimes they linger there, indulging in the phrase.

But is this a bad thing? Not necessarily.

Why comparison doesn’t have to kill the spark, or damage your ego: Comparison can stimulate your appreciation for another’s craft. In fact, comparing our writing, studying similar texts and genres only heightens the desire to keep producing. That’s why we’re taught to study literature at uni: to read novels that are better than yours and learn from them. Compare and create, compare and create. Repeat.

Appreciate how awesome creative humans are: The truth is, I love writers. All of them. Like any creative person, they’re just so clever. And the comparison that comes with reading, analysing and judging another is simply done because I’m so excited by their intelligence.

Why I compare: Other writers make my writing stronger and inspire me to write. They motivate me to be better within my own writing. Without comparing my work with other writers, I wouldn’t have known how to write a synopsis, pitch, opening line etc etc. Learning from other writers and their own experiences have helped me to produce successful writing that’s got me noticed.

So, that’s why I won’t stop comparing. It certainly doesn’t kill my spark! As Tony Robbins always says: Modelling you work/self on anyone who has succeeded is the quickest path to your own success.

Thanks for stopping by,

Holly

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