NOTE: I met Annia Napier, a young writer in Rapid City, around Christmas of 2020 after her aunt reached out to me, asking if she could pay for her niece to receive a writing coach session from me. Annia, then 15, had completed the draft of one novel and was cranking away on the second. But apart from her supportive family, she didn’t have anyone with whom she could really talk writing and explore the often evasive mysteries of the creative process.
Fast-forward to the present, and I have a working relationship with a young writer who is as hungry to learn about writing as she is persistent in her charge to continually get better. In Annia, I see myself as a teenager. I recognize the determination and uncertainty, the dogged desire to succeed and the importance of receiving persistent encouragement from the adults in her midst.
Were it not for the few adults who believed in me and my passion as a teenager, I never would have pursued writing as a career. It would have been too easy to throw in the towel, convince myself that I wasn’t good enough to succeed, tell myself that no one cared about what I wrote, anyway.
Annia’s creative energy, curiosities about life and incredible self-motivation are refreshing and inspirational. In this month’s blog post, she explores the pesky comparison game and that age-old question: Is my writing good enough?
Thank you for reading!
Comparison is something that we all struggle with. Whether you realize it or not, you compare yourself to others every day. How do you stack up—in ability, in looks, in how much you have, in your work?
I’ve struggled with comparison in many parts of my life, but there’s one area that I wrestle with the most—my writing. Sometimes I hold my unfinished work up against projects completed by much more experienced people – people like Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games.
When I compare myself to these great successes, I wonder, is my work good enough?
I compare movies to movies and books to books because I’m interested in discovering what makes a story good or bad. What draws people to various stories? Why are some people interested in one story and others are interested in a completely different story?
And who, I have to ask myself, am I writing for? Certainly I can’t be writing for everybody. In the comparison game, I have to accept that some people will love the stories I write and some people won’t, and that’s okay. I didn’t start writing for everyone in the first place, and I have to remind myself of that. I started writing because I loved it, not because I hoped other people would.
But, I also want to share my work with others, and I want people to enjoy it. If they don’t, then what’s the point? (Kate’s online course, “Why I Write,” encourages us all to think critically about why writing is important to us, why we must do it.) Well, I’ve summed it up to this. If many people hate my work but one person absolutely loves it, then my writing is worth it. If my work moves one person or changes one life, it has a purpose. That purpose is not just to please. It is not just to astonish or entertain; it is to change. That’s what I strive for. That’s why I write. I want to be real with my stories to create real change—in fiction, that is.
I’ve compared my ideas to others’ ideas and compared my experiences to others’ experiences, trying to figure out what makes a story “good.”
I’ve found that movie reviews have helped me improve, because they help me to think critically about what makes a good story. But reviews can also cast a shadow, sending me back to that persistent question, Is my work good enough?
I am a young writer – still in my teens – and I want to use that to my advantage. The older I get, the longer my writing projects take. But that’s not a bad thing. I think they take longer because I’m getting better. I’m realizing more and more what makes a good story and how to make my stories stand out from all the noise. I want to create something that no one has ever seen before. I don’t want to be cliche.
Yet sometimes, others’ creative projects bring out the jealousy in me. What if I’m not as good, not as creative, not as persistent as they are? What if my work will never turn out as good because someone else’s is always better? What if I’m not saying anything new?
But there is a flip side. Where would my inspiration come from if it weren’t for those phenomenal stories? If I really think about it, there will always be someone better. There will always be a writer better than me. There will always be a story better than mine.
But “better” is a relative term. As creatives, we have to accept that we’re different. We have to believe that we have something unique to share with the world. One story can be told a thousand different ways—because we’re all different.
And that itself is a gift. Because if we were all the same, can you imagine how bland our world would be?
We need each other—and we need stories across all realms of space and time—to encourage and lift up and entertain and challenge. We need stories to fuel each other’s creativity, to inspire change.
Because really, that’s what life is—a mishmash of stories, memories, what-ifs, an explosion of color and possibility.
Life shouldn’t be about constant comparison. It shouldn’t be a game of who is better than who. Rather, let’s celebrate who we are as unique human beings—creative people with a collective, amazing kaleidoscope of ideas and ways to make our mark in our own corners of the world.
As I heard someone once say, “Don’t compare your seed to a tree.”
*Do you compare your creative work to others’? How often do you bump up against that question, “Is my writing good enough?“