No Comparison

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I love going to writer’s conferences. I love teaching workshops, and meeting other writers, and hearing their war stories, and getting and giving advice. Anytime I am offered a chance to teach at one, I take it. If I could, I’d teach at every conference in the country.

And yet there’s a moment at these gatherings, usually when I’m alone in my hotel room at the end of the day, when I’m briefly overcome by hopelessness and despair. The reason for this is always precisely the same: I’ve compared myself to other writers. I compared myself to the writer who’s getting six figure advances, or the writer whose book was optioned by Paramount, or the writer who just signed a four-book deal. This cause and effect is as predictable as fire boiling water. Not once in my life have I compared myself to someone else and been left feeling anything but empty and half-dead. I’m still breathing, all right, but I wouldn’t call it living.

That I keep doing it is a little bothersome. It’s as if I touched a hot burner one day and then woke up the next day and thought, “I wonder what will happen if I touch that hot burner again?” The difference is that unlike the pain from being burned, the pain of comparison doesn’t happen all at once. Instead, it seeps into you like a poison until you’re lying on your bed asking, “Who am I?”

Which is precisely the question that brought the comparison on in the first place. Comparison often comes disguised as something practical like how another person promoted him or herself or built their platform. It’s a rouse. The insidious implication behind all comparison is that somehow I’d be happier if I were someone else, if I was living life as this other person is living it. I can’t have someone’s six-figure deal unless I’ve written their book, and I can’t write their book unless I’ve lived their life.

It’s a kind of suicide, this comparison, and why I keep touching that hot burner. It’s one way of asking, “Do you want to live your life or not?” The answer is always the same, and before long I am out of bed thinking about the next day’s workshop, or remembering a story someone told me. Just like that it’s good to be alive again. It’s murder trying to be someone else. I stink at it no matter how hard I try. Being myself is still the only thing that has ever come naturally to me. When I let myself, it’s easy, and I soon forget I’m doing anything other than living.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.

William Kenower2 Comments