I want you to picture me wearing a black turtleneck for this newsletter, k? Channeling all the Sinead O’Connor vibes.
Ugh. Sorry. I’m old. That joke probably landed for about 15% of you.
Whatevs, let’s move on!
Today, I wanna talk about the problem with comparing ourselves to other writers. Because it is, indeed, a problem. And there are things you can do about it.
You’d be surprised at the number of emails I get from people that say:
“Hey there. I’m not a great writer, but I want to write more like X person. Can you help?”
“I want to submit a guest post to X site, but I don’t think my writing is good enough. What do I do?”
“I can write 100 blog posts a month, but the quality of writing sucks on all of them. HALP.”
All valid concerns. All fixable.
Here’s what I’d recommend to any person facing these feelings:
1. Don’t compare yourself to another writer.
You’re you, and that’s all you can be. Sorry ‘bout it. Embrace your you-ness and accept that you can’t magically replicate the writing voice or style of someone else.
Plus: The writers you admire probably have years of experience and practice that have helped them write the way they do. And they’ve worked hard to hone that craft. To get to that level, you have to put in the work.
2. Start doin’ the work.
Good writers practice writing. A LOT. They read a lot. They make notes on what they like in the things they read. They ask for feedback from other writers they respect (and openly accept/act on the edits they’re given.) They never settle on a first draft of anything. They write for the love of writing (even when they’re not getting paid for it.) Just like anything else, diligent focus and a deliberate effort toward improvement are the only ways to get better.
Do you think anyone ever learned to play the piano just by reading sheet music and listening to great piano players? I really doubt it. They had to put fingers to keys and clunk away. The same thing happens when your fingers hit your keyboard and you practice writing. It might be choppy and slow at first, but after a while, your fingers will fly and words will flow more freely, like music.
3. Follow the formula.
Your favorite writers probably have a certain writing cadence or flair that you can recognize anywhere. Reverse engineer that ‘ish. Break down what makes it so signature and what works well about it.
How do they structure their writing? What makes it reader-friendly?
What’s their lexicon like? What words do they use that are outside the norm?
How do they work in personality? Pop culture references? GIFs? Sarcasm?
Really sit down and pick apart the writing that you like best and get to the bottom of what makes it great. Then institute similar practices in your own writing. You can’t BE another writer, but you can certainly emulate the characteristics you admire (without totally ripping another person off.)
Confidence in your writing takes time. It’s not easy. But it’s doable.
Do you still have questions about how to be a better writer (and how to stop comparing yourself to others?) Tweet me @Kaleighf.
This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.