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:
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.”