Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Insecure Writers Support Group: Comparing

It's time for the monthly meet-up for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Click right here and sign up if it sounds like something for you.

Last month, I re-read Gary D. Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars, aloud with my daughter this second time through. This month we finished Gary D. Schmidt's Okay for Now (my second time through that one too). A few days ago I turned the last page of Gary D. Schmidt's newest book, What Came From the Stars.

Clearly Gary D. Schmidt is a word magician. He takes things like Shakespeare's plays, the Vietnam War, John James Audubon's bird art, bully big brothers, post-traumatic stress disorder, child abuse, or a parent's death -- he takes these things, sews them together with words, and writes nearly perfect stories.

And when I'm reading his stories, I compare them to mine.

And then I remember I can't compare anyone's stories to my own. Because my stories are mine, and anyone else's stories are theirs. I can learn from those whose writing I admire. I can chart ways those writers build their stories. I can enhance my own writing from what I absorb.

But compare? No. No writer should go there.

20 comments:

  1. I know we shouldn't go there too, but sometimes it's hard not to. Such a good idea to just focus on learning from ones you really enjoy.

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  2. Comparing...it's like going to the mirror and wanting to see someone else's reflection. You you can be you, and only you can write the stories you write.

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  3. It's so hard not to compare ourselves to other writers when we read something that wows us. I do it all the time. The trick is to use that to help make our stories stronger. :)

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  4. Same goes for any type of artwork. I see my students comparing themselves all the time and have to remind them things like "Hey, you're great with clay and others aren't." Same goes with how we write - every author has their own style gifts and strengths.

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  5. I agree. No writer should go there, but it's hard not to slip and do that every once in a while. In fact, I found myself doing that just last week for a day. Thankfully, I stopped myself, and got back to work.
    Each of us has a unique style and voice, and the world is a better place when we each share our gifts.

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  6. I know. It's hard to admire other good writers, isn't it. But you're handling it just right. Read, enjoy, learn--then write the stories you can write and do it in your own way.

    Happy Insecure Wed.

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  7. There are definitely writers who make me feel that way, but I try to channel their ability and hope some of it will seep into my own.

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  8. Sounds interesting- I'll have to check out those books. But I agree with you on finding your own way. Still, in a way, having those writers we admire is like having a mentor, and there's nothing wrong with gleaning from the masters.

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  9. Barbara, I once commented to a writer friend that I thought I was a terrible writer. She said, "Of course you're a terrible writer. Look who you're comparing yourself to." She was referring to all the Newbery winning authors I usually read. I have since learned to glean from them and not compare, as you have said.

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  10. I agree, we all write differently. But, I sometimes find myself reading wonderful stories and saying, "Oh, I wish I could write like that." However, we just need to improve the way we write.

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  11. Comparison is a big no-no and yet it's so tempting to fall into that trap. Glad you caught yourself.

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  12. Well, I'm extremely guilty of this. :(
    I'm glad you are able to keep yourself away from it though. :)

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  13. I'm so guilty of this too! Even worse, I only compare my favorite books to my own writing. Have a great weekend Barbara!

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  14. I compare a lot. It's hard not to.
    I don't think it's a total waste of time, though, as long as you don't let it make you feel bad about your writing.

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  15. Sometimes, we need to compare in the sense of trying to figure out if we're ready to be submitting. Not to particular books, but to published work as a body, asking ourselves honestly if ours has a place there.

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  16. It's so hard not to compare, but i think you're right, we do ourselves a favor by admiring other authors and learning from them. I've never read a book that didn't teach me something.

    BTW thanks for stopping by my blog with warm wishes. Your crit I won a few months ago was very helpful--during such a transitional stage of the story. I've changed so much since then, so thanks for your wonderful suggestions and awesome feedback. You'd be an excellent editor to have. :)

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  17. It is so hard not to compare! I wish I had a compare switch I could just turn off.

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  18. Thinking back, I don't really compare my writing to other books much. I guess I know there is a difference between the two and it'd be comparing apples to oranges.

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  19. I completely agree. It's not good to fall into the trap of comparing, even though it's something I often find myself doing, both as a writer and as an artist. It truly is an unhealthy mindset! No one can ever get better at their craft if they keep obsessing over things like that...

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  20. I have not read his latest yet, but will be.

    And boy howdy I hear you on not comparing. It's hard not to. I like Lydia's turn off switch idea!

    Happy New Year to you and your family and thanks so much for sharing this.

    p.s. a tad behind in the blog reading I am

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