Comparison: The Writer’s Knife

26 Aug

And here we have an example of someone with a knife (and a gun, technically). You DO recognize him, right?

Just so you know, I was thisclose to naming this post “The Writer’s Villain.”

In a post about villains, I would have then blathered on about how all the best villains have something redeemable about them.  That the best villains are not what they seem to be at first glance, but are usually much worse than they seem to be.  And, though they’re definitely dastardly, there’s probably one tiny endearing thing that makes them sympathetic.  Benjamin Linus and his daddy issues.  Voldemort and his intensely human fear of death and desire for power.  The guy pictured above, who I will refrain from giving spoilers about.  Blah blah blah.  Blather, blather.

But I’m not writing about villains today.

I’m writing about comparison, and the knife seemed a more precise analogy.  Think about it: a knife can be both a source of life and death, power or pain.  It can be used to carve weapons, sharpen other knives, cut rope or string or fabric to make shelter or clothing, kill and prepare food. Just as it’s useful for killing food to eat, however, it’s able to kill a human.  It can cut, slice, puncture, and then there’s pain.  Death.

It’s all in how you hold it, and it’s all in how you use it.

Same with comparison.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week about this.  Is it ever okay to compare yourself to other writers, or is that just a knife waiting to kill your work?  Or, is it a knife waiting to sharpen your work, carve it into something stronger, more powerful, better?  Or, is it neither—just a nagging weapon, a little too dangerous to touch and much better left to those who can handle it?

I think it’s all three.  Comparison can be useful to us as writers, but only if we know how to not let it kill us.

Over the next week or so, I’m going to write a miniseries about these things.  There will be three posts:

Why you should NEVER, EVER, EVER compare yourself to other writers,

Why you should TOTALLY compare yourself to other writers,


WHAT TO DO once you’ve not compared and compared yourself to other writers. (Turns out I may not write this one after all. The TOTALLY post covered it well enough, I think.)

No matter how hard we try to avoid it, the temptation to compare ourselves with others—both in writing and in life—isn’t going away any time soon.  We might as well learn how to wield it to our advantage.

And, PS: My qualifications for writing this look a lot like, “Girl compares herself.  Girl despairs.  Girl decides there’s value in the comparison.  Girl knows others have the tendency to compare themsleves, too, and maybe even despair—what she’s learning just might help someone else. Girl decides to throw opinions out there into Blogosphere. Girl proceeds to refer to herself as Girl, drink her coffee, and hope this miniseries sounds remotely helpful and/or interesting to someone other than merely herself.”


12 Responses to “Comparison: The Writer’s Knife”

  1. Carol Ann Hoel Thursday / 26 August 10 at 1:49 pm #

    I look forward to reading your posts relating to comparing. Thank you for sharing.

  2. J.C Thursday / 26 August 10 at 1:58 pm #

    Looking forward to reading!

  3. Agatha82 Thursday / 26 August 10 at 3:58 pm #

    I haven’t exactly “compared” myself to writers but I know which style of writing I like and I can see that I write in that similar style. Now if I can ever become half as successful as these other writers I shall be very happy. Looking forward to your upcoming posts.

  4. Kerryn Thursday / 26 August 10 at 4:33 pm #

    I love this idea and think you’re absolutely right. I look forward to those three posts!

  5. Linda Cassidy Lewis Thursday / 26 August 10 at 5:54 pm #

    As one who’s compared her writing and nearly killed it, I’m looking forward to reading all three posts.

    P.S. I wish I were young enough to refer to my self as Girl. 😀

  6. Merrilee Thursday / 26 August 10 at 6:34 pm #

    Oh I’m hanging out for these posts Kayla. They sound great!

  7. Leigh Kay Friday / 27 August 10 at 7:14 am #

    I think the comparison trap is enormously significant in our world – throughout all that we do. I have had my thoughts on comparison and its effects for quite some time. How you’ve introduced its imprint on the writing world is intriguing. I’m very interested to find out more about your ideas and the correlation. 🙂 Great topic!

  8. Kathleen Wall Friday / 27 August 10 at 11:30 pm #

    I haven’t been here in awhile. Your blog looks great!

    I look forward to your posts.

  9. Kayla Olson Sunday / 29 August 10 at 10:07 am #

    Hey, everybody, and thanks for the feedback! I’m excited about writing them, too. I plan to start tomorrow (Monday). It felt odd to start a series on a Friday or a weekend. 🙂


  1. Why You Should NEVER Compare Yourself. « Owl and Sparrow - Monday / 30 August 10

    […] Last week, I compared comparison to a knife.  Going along with today’s one-sided perspective, we will look at the ways said knife can be absolutely useless, and even harmful.  Next time, we’ll look at how amazing and helpful a knife can be. […]

  2. A Little Detour from the Plan… « Owl and Sparrow - Wednesday / 1 September 10

    […] telling you this because I had planned to do Part II of my comparison series (see here and here) this morning/afternoon.  Today has been wicked productive, so I’m going to keep on […]

  3. Why You Should TOTALLY Compare Yourself. « Owl and Sparrow - Friday / 17 September 10

    […] ourselves with other writers, and how we can use that tendency to our advantage.  You can click here to find the first post (“Comparison: The Writer’s Knife”) and here to find the […]

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