#writingcraft: The Comparison Ruse

It was back in 2013 when I decided to try to write a novel for the first time. Even then, I knew my skills were patchy, still are for that matter. Nevertheless, I wrote just under 60,000 words for my first draft that year.

What got me through it?

At the time, I didn’t know enough to let anyone else’s skill level bother me. I figured the first draft of the first novel that anyone would write would be chalked full of mistakes. In other words, I didn’t feel alone with my writing deficiencies.

Since then I’ve been reading numerous blogs and articles about writing. With each post and/or page I read, I’ve been trying to soak up the knowledge, hoping it will get past my defective short-term memory and continue to the long-term memory banks in my noggin. Some of it has stuck while other parts haven’t. Along with the comprehension I’ve been able to adhere to my brain, I, also, acquired the habit of comparing my abilities as a writer with those who have written the posts and articles I’ve been poring over. It couldn’t be helped. I noticed the vocabulary they used and how they arranged their posts or articles by paragraphs. Soon I was able to pick up the points of their styles of writing as well, always finding my own writing coming up short.

When I went back to review my own work… Well, let’s just say I felt like gagging. The differences far outweighed the similarities, and not in any good way either. I was asking myself, “How could you possibly think you have what it takes to do anything in this craft?”

Now then, how many posts have I read telling me not to compare myself with other writers? I think the count is up to five, or maybe it’s seven. [I could have exaggerated here to make my point but I wanted to be totally honest.]

I wasn’t able to stop myself from this compulsion until one day two weeks ago I made the decision to take a free writing course offered by Open University in Milton Keynes, England. Somehow, just taking a course to better my skills has stopped me from the obsession of comparison ruse. I don’t worry about how wonderful someone else writes anymore. I’m too busy learning how to write the way I want to. I’ve learned — or maybe I’ve been reminded — I have the basic skills needed for this scribble journey. I just need to embellish them and take on a few more.

What I think all my comparing frenzy was trying to tell me was I needed a slightly more conventional way of learning. Way back when, when I was growing up, I loved school. I know not everyone is like this, having a hard time waiting for that day when they have a diploma. While those students were wishing it was all over, I was having a hard time waiting for the current classes to begin that day. I seemed to always be in a learning mode.

Learning from writers’ blogs and articles have been interesting but I usually feel that the posts/articles are just scratching the surface of the topic. I want to get down in there to the nitty-gritty of the subject.

Believe it or not, these free courses are doing that; at least they get closer to the brass tacks I’m looking to learn. A member of Scribophile asked me, one day when I was in one of the forums, why I’m not taken the courses that require payment. I told him I didn’t have the money. He replied saying I would find the money if I wanted to learn. Well, each to his own, I guess. I wonder if this other member has any idea what it’s like to be poor. I’ll pay for a course IF I think the free one isn’t giving me what I desperately need. So far though, I’m learning things the I had forgotten about and other things I didn’t know before. And all the while, I’m not having to tighten my belt.

My confidence is building as I read each class lecture and do the exercises at the end. I’m even feeling a little brazen when working on my WiP, which is something I thought I’d never feel.

§

What do you do to get your self-confidence in gear and get out of the comparison ruse?

“Don’t always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers. “I will not Reason and Compare,” said Blake; “my business is to Create.” Besides, since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable. ”
Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

 

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9 Replies to “#writingcraft: The Comparison Ruse”

  1. I like the general message in here, and I was going to try to offer some supportive comment. Then I read the part about “…find the money if I wanted to learn.” When people say stuff like that, I get angry. People don’t understand what a dumbass comment that is. My daughter had to drop out of a gym when they raised the prices, the instructor told her “maybe you could skip a few restaurant meals each month” as if she dines out on a regular basis.

    OK, mini-rant over. I think the part I really wanted to focus on is “I’m too busy learning how to write the way I want to.” I think that’s the most important thing. You have a writing style (as evidenced by many of your recent posts) that is easy to read and holds my (for what it’s worth) interest. Building on that, is the key.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You can rant all you want, Dan. I see people using credit cards as if there aren’t any consequences to it and expect others to do the same. This is why so many lawyers are making money. They’re helping people with bankruptcy cases. Those of us who think it’s a good idea to live within our budgets aren’t lining the lawyer’s pockets.

      You say I have a style. I don’t see it. Maybe I’m too close to it, so could you tell me what my style it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know if I can give it a name, but you posts this spring (at least) have been more conversational and seem as if they represent your natural voice, or way of thinking. I find that your writing carries me from one thought to another without effort, without jolting interruptions in flow and there’s a level of interest that almost compels me to keep reading. I tend to judge most writing by that very simple question: “do I want to continue reading this?” With your posts, the answer is “yes, yes I do.”

        As for keeping the lawyers busy, I’ve know too many people in that boat. I also think that the attitude that “there must be something wrong with you if you can’t afford this…” is pervasive and underlies many of the problems we have in society.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you for such a positive opinion about my writing. Maybe it has to do with this feeling of serenity I’ve found in my general life.

          As for what you state in your second paragraph… BRAVO! I completely agree.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I think your time perusing was well spent. You have provided yourself with a wide swath of ‘how to write’ and can pick what works best for your communication style.

    About free: I always veer for free when recommending to my students. There is so much out there that doesn’t require tons of money, it’s just smart to start there. His comment, about finding the money if you need it, is factually not true. He doesn’t know anything about you and your situation, Glynis. Pretty weird he would take that tone in a writers forum.

    Hmm…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jacqui, personally I think the guy has probably had one book published and has let his ego go through the ceiling. Don’t worry about how he has made me feel. As I told a mutual friend, Shari, I’m a tough old bird. He may have to worry about how I feel though because he may get “an ear full” one of these days.

      I would recommend OpenLearn to anyone who is in the mood to improve themselves.

      Like

  3. I’ve never read the Ueland quote before and find it a positive way to look at yourself and see your successes. There is so much free information available, it makes no sense to pay for anything before learning all of that first. I suspect your big complainer really wanted to know why you hadn’t paid for HIS course. Aside from the non-professional blogs like mine, there are many written by professional writers that offer tons of really useful guidance about how to write as well as the writers’ forums you’ve already discovered. Best of all is your comment that you’re feeling “a little brazen when working on my WiP.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This brazening feeling I have acquired is part of the newly found serenity I’ve had since I finally got over that nasty bug I had in February. I know that sounds strange because when I think about serenity, calming breezes and quietude come to mind, which certainly doesn’t sound very brazen to me. Yet, I feel more unrestrained while I write these days.

      Liked by 1 person

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