The Olympics are about dreams, hard work, and changing the records of human history—what’s not to love? But as we talk about competition and how it fuels our writing at The Debutante Ball this week, I find myself a bit on the outskirts of this discussion. Let’s use a track and field analogy—a sport I love and coached for years. (I know, I know, that’s the Summer Games, but let’s go with it.)
When I crossed that finish line after running the mile, I never cared where I finished in the pack. It was far more important to me that I break my own best record. I always raced against myself, pushed myself to FINISH with all the grit, gut, and gumption I could muster. Sometimes this meant vomiting when I crossed the finish line, or at the very least, having my legs collapse beneath me. This translated into my coaching style as well—FOCUS ON YOURSELF, I used to tell my athletes. If you’re busy going as hard as you can, you will beat others and sometimes you won’t, but you will ALWAYS be proud of the effort you put forward that day.
Ultimately, I’m not very competitive. I don’t like contests unless I’m judging. I don’t compare myself to all of my writer friends and where they are. Sure, at times I marvel at someone else’s amazing book contract or starred review, or I wish my name was on that NYT bestseller list—and I hope to be there one day—but I don’t see my writing career as a “me versus them”. The only person I compete with is MYSELF and in that competition, I am FIERCE and UNYIELDING. Because the constant comparison to others is futile and exhausting, and at the end of the day, it very rarely makes you feel good about yourself.
So the writing Olympics? Yeah, I would suck at that big time. I’m writing because I love it and making it about competition with others drains all the joy out of it.
Are the aspects of your life where you are competitive and are where you aren’t?
11 Replies to “Why I Would Suck at the Writing Olympics”
You know why I love this? Because I feel like it’s entirely too easy to get sucked into a me versus you mentality in the publishing world. “You got a book deal, how come I don’t have a book deal?” “You’ve sold x number of copies, why isn’t anyone buying mine?” “I won this contest, let me rub it in your face…” Okay, no one actually says that out loud (I hope…), but it is sometimes difficult not to be jealous of another writer’s success when that’s really what we want for ourselves.
You point out that by not making it a contest against others, but a challenge for ourselves, it actually opens the door to a much more healthy scenario – we all get there together. “I’ve learned this, let me teach you.” “You understand that, will you show me?” It leaves the jealousy at the door and opens up the dialogue for support, professionalism, and mutual growth.
Thanks, Leesa. It absolutely does. There will always be better writers with bigger contracts who are more famous and more beautiful with more yachts. I can’t get caught up in that mess or I would be seriously depressed. I sympathize with those who are roiling in jealousy all the time because they must be miserable pretty regularly. In my view, ain’t nobody got time for that. MUST GET WORDS ON PAPER! 🙂
Yes! This ^
I’m similar to you in this respect. I’m competitive about a lot of things, but writing is challenging enough for me that I compete only against myself.
Same here, Susan. I get competitive about other randomness, but yeah, writing is definitely challenging enough!
Yes, yes, and yes! I think it’s pointless to compare ourselves to others because no matter what, it’ll always be an unfair comparison: we see only others’ accomplishments and big highlights, but we see 100% of our own struggles, moments of doubt, despair, etc… So when we think someone has it better than us, we’re likely not even seeing the whole picture.
So true, Natalia. I’d love to hear about Neil Gaiman’s or Stephen King’s struggles with plot and characters, etc. I think it would make us peons feel a bit better. lol
“I’m writing because I love it and making it about competition with others drains all the joy out of it.”
I do the competition-with-myself thing a bit — with my last story I wanted to do better about concision, for example, and I was pleased when it came out shorter than expected — but that’s about it.
Great minds think alike, Anthony! 🙂 The industry has offers enough hardship as it is. No need to add more competition to the mix.
This is why we are such close friends. I’m exactly this way when it comes to life, and to writing. I love to rejoice with other writers as they have success, and to push myself to constantly improve my own writing so that I can be successful in my own right. Helping others helps us all, and if we focus on improving ourselves and helping others too, the gold medal effort is reachable for everyone.
Well-said, my friend. I truly believe that helping others allows us to grow as well. P.S. I don’t know where I would be without you!
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