Killjoys can, unfortunately, take multiple forms for authors. They don’t even necessarily have to be human.
One of the biggest killjoys for me is the comparison game. Every so often, I look at what other authors–or sometimes even other creative types–are doing. How much success they’ve found. How they’re writing several books a year, or how they got a big opportunity when they were my age and now they’re doing really well for themselves.
Sometimes, comparing my work to others spurs me to work harder. But most of the time, playing the comparison game is deadly to my happiness and my productivity.
I recently got out of a couple-weeks-long slump of the comparison game. This always seems to hit me harder when I’m editing, as I tend to look at other authors’ work and forget that they, too, probably had these ups and downs as they edited their work. It didn’t just come out of their brain that pretty.
Other authors have different things that kill the joy of writing. For some, it might be the pressure of actually finishing their work. For others, it might be that they had a bad experience in a critique group and it soured them on sharing their work. I’ve also struggled with getting so caught up in the ‘rules’ of writing that it sucked all the enjoyment straight out of it.
This time, I was jolted out of the slump by going to a movie with my husband and son. It was family day at our local movie theater, and the first time we’ve taken Toby to a movie when he’d actually be old enough to enjoy it. (When he was really, really little, we used to go to movies and he’d sleep all the way through them.)
The movie was Big Hero 6. Not only did I think it was an adorable, fun movie, but watching the look on Toby’s face as he ate Cheerios and laughed at the robot Baymax provided a much needed mood boost. It reminded me how happy I am with where my life is and how blessed I am.
This mood boost translated over to my writing as well. I was able to get past comparing my story to other stories and just work on making my book the best it could be. (For clarification, I’m not talking about the level of writing or editing–writers should always strive to bring the technical aspect of their books up to the next level.) My story is uniquely mine, and I can’t force it to be like other stories. It might be handy to know, from a reader’s aspect, what other types of books are similar to mine–but I need to do that later, not as I’m working on it.
I’m sure I’ll run into this killjoy again, as I seem to be prone to comparing myself to others. Hopefully I’ll remember what I learned this time and not allow it to pull me into a slump.
What kinds of writerly killjoys have you run into? How do you deal with them?