Personal Best

I’m not overly competitive but I am talented at comparison. And I’ve heard comparison is the thief of joy. It’s true.

I look at other writers and wish I could be where they are in their careers. I forget they had to work for it, too. I forget they were once new authors. I forget the Lord hands us all different stories. But I still admire them for their success, creativity, and influence. Who of us doesn’t want to write something that matters?

These authors fall in the category of “hero” to me – people who identified their dream and calling and continue to see it through. I once heard it said that we should look to our heroes for inspiration and then set out to surpass them. Have you identified your hero lately? I’m talking about a person in your life, your profession, or your history that encourages, inspires, or challenges you to be better.

Better yet, I challenge you to look at beating someone a little closer to home.Kariss manuscripts

In high school, my band director told us that we should only purpose to beat one competitor…ourselves. If we continued to improve every time we stepped on the field, we could hold our heads up.

I took that to heart. I trained my fingers to fly over the keys until I could play the music in my sleep. I trained my lungs to handle running while playing in various weather conditions. I trained my muscles to walk backwards, forwards, and sideways without ever turning my torso from the sidelines. I trained my mind to keep pushing when I was tired and encouraged those around me rather than complaining. And every day, I was better than my previous day’s best.

The same is true in writing. I can’t compete with these other writers I admire. The truth is the Lord has given us different platforms and different voices. But I can learn from their journeys, their successes, their failures. Then I make my own mistakes and score my own victories and learn from those.

The first time I handed Shaken off to my editor, I emailed my mentor in a panic. I could almost hear her laughing over her emailed reply. “Oh, Kariss. You are a writer. Your second book will be better than your first book. Your third better than your second. Be proud of what you accomplished on this one, then move on.” She said it so well. The competition is against myself and yesterday’s personal best.

Kariss - band 1

“Give it all ya got but don’t give it more than you have,” my band director would tell us. There was something to his football field logic. Work hard. Push myself to the limit. But don’t overextend. It won’t happen all at once. But that’s the beauty of the journey. I just work to be better than yesterday.

Satisfaction today comes from knowing I met the demands of the day with my best. Contentment tomorrow means embracing the day before and diligently working to improve. I best pursue my dreams when I focus on who the Lord has made me to be and what He has purposed for me to do in my short time on earth. There’s no room for comparison in that kind of life.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

What is one area you can work to improve so that six months from now, you are better than you were yesterday?

Avoiding the Comparison Trap

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Each one should test their own actions.
Then they can take pride in themselves alone,
without comparing themselves to someone else.  Galatians 6:4

Nothing stops the flow of creativity more than comparing myself to others.  Usually I’m comparing my insides to their outsides. My rough draft to their finished book. My internal  mess to their polished perfection.

Comparing makes me insecure. I look at the work of others and all my doubts surface. In my mind, questions arise about my abilities. Inspiration is lost and work stops.

 “Don’t always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers.  Besides, since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable. ” Brenda Ueland

God has created me and He knows me. He has given me the ability to write. I want to be confident in my work.

Comparing makes me ungrateful.  I can be pleased and thankful for my work – then I walk into a bookstore and begin to compare.  I no longer appreciate the unique words that God has given just to me. I am no longer content with what I have.

 “Comparison is the death of joy.”  Mark Twain

God has blessed me with the gift of writing.  I want to rejoice in that.

Comparing makes me judgmental. I can find myself looking for the weaknesses of others to bolster my own pride. I need to watch out for any thought that starts with, “Well, at least I didn’t . . .”  Each of us has a unique calling to write. We should always examine ourselves, not others.

 “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” Marcus Aurelius

God has given me colleagues in writing. I want to rejoice with them.

Comparing pulls me off course.  I can lose heart and focus when I am concerned about what others are doing instead of the work that God gave me to do.  When I am too busy watching others, I am not working.

 “Peter must have thought, “Who am I compared to Mr. Faithfulness (John)?” But Jesus clarified the issue. John was responsible for John. Peter was responsible for Peter. And each had only one command to heed: “Follow Me.” (John 21:20-22)” Charles Swindoll

God has called me to write. I want to be productive in my work.

How can we avoid the comparison trap?  I must keep the focus on God and what He has for me to do today. Then I can appreciate my work, be grateful, celebrate the work of others, and stay on track.  Simple! Or is it?

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12: 1-2

How about you? Do you compare?

Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers
WritingSisters.com