“I want to write, but everyone’s writing is better than mine, so why should I bother?”
“I have this fan fiction/novel/short story all written, but I don’t want to share it with anyone because I know it’s terrible.”
“I started to write something, but I can’t keep going because it’s just so bad that it feels pointless.”
I hear variations of these statements all the time, whether from students or readers or friends. Heck, I say variations of these statements all the time myself.
And when I think about what to say to people who say this to me, who ask me what to do about it, two things occur to me:
(1) When we tell this to other people, often what we’re looking for is simple: validation. A refutation of our statement. When we say “everyone’s writing is better than mine,” we often want the person we’re talking to to say, “no, don’t be silly, your writing is great!“
And we deserve that validation, that support, that encouragement to keep going even when we get down on ourselves, even when things feel bleak. We all deserve that, whether it’s about writing or anything else in life.
But that leads me to my second thought:
(2) Who are we competing with, anyway? Yes, there are people in the world who write so much better than we do. There are people in the world who don’t write as well as we do, or who don’t write at all. That’s okay! There’s always going to be difference in writing styles and opinions of what makes something "good,” anyway.
Not to mention: there are books published by big five presses that are just so bad!!! Especially when they’re put up against so many works of fan fiction that people, often young people, toil over for hours and hours and hours, with no financial reward and no recognition from publishing houses.
Because here’s the thing: whether you’re a highly successful published author or you write fan fiction in the dead of night, or you just dream of one day getting your ideas out on paper, you’re going to think other people’s writing is better than yours. And that’s good! It helps us learn, it makes reading pleasurable, and it gives us something to strive for.
For me, this dilemma takes me to the gym.
When I watch people lifting more than me, banging out pull ups and variations thereof that I am nowhere near being able to do, I have to keep one thing in my mind: yet, yet, yet, yet.
I can’t lift that much yet.
I can’t do those pull ups yet.
It doesn’t mean I should stop working out because people are at different stages of their training than I am, because I admire other people’s power and strength. It means that I can learn new things from watching how other people train; I can incorporate different techniques into my own regiments; and it means I can make more specific goals based on what I want for myself.
Because everyone wants different things for themselves, in writing and in gymming (and, you know… in life).
I’m good in the gym. I work hard, I play hard, and I’m devoted to my own personal goals.
I’m (and this is harder for me to say) good at writing. I work hard, I play hard, and I’m devoted to my own personal goals.
Significantly, I’m gentle with myself on both fronts. Self-care and recovery are just as important to my gym and writing routines as my actual training and writing times are.
So, everyone’s writing might be better than mine. And some days, that makes me internalize things like “I’m terrible” and therefore “I’m worthless,” and whooooo, there goes my depression spiral.
But what’s important for me – and might be for you, too! – is to try and remember that we’re all, always, practicing. We’re all, always, growing.
The world needs your voice. If it’s not where you want it to be yet, surround yourself with people who support you, who validate you: who remind you that it’s okay to not be everything you want to be right now, because you’ll get there. Keep going. Keep writing, keep training. Keep loving yourself.
You’ve got this! And you know what? So do I.
Even when your writing is better than mine.