Authors Dealing with – A Competitive Streak

A while ago I wrote a post called Authors Dealing with Doubt because it’s something close to my heart. I blog a lot about the emotional side of writing and, in all honesty, I don’t know if people find it helpful. Maybe people who come to my blog would prefer posts on how to get published or information on when the next book is coming out? Who knows.

What I do know, however, is that having a career as an author is more than just getting words down on the page. To thrive in this type of career you need to understand that it’s not an easy path to take, and that it can take a toll on you mentally and emotionally. Thus, I decided to turn that one post into a series “Authors dealing with…” to look at the different emotional and mental challenges of being a writer.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist or expert in this field. I’m simply one person who believes that talking about feelings is a positive thing. These are my opinions only.

Authors Dealing with…a competitive streak

I’ve recently discovered a game called Settlers of Catan. It’s a lot of fun, but playing board games with my husband and our friend (the three of us will happy play this for hours on end) can be a bit of a minefield. My husband is fiercely competitive and, while perhaps I’m not as forward about it, so am I.

Settlers

This competitive streak has both a negative and positive aspect. On the upside, the desire to win can fuel productivity and it can push you to work harder. But the downside is that a competitive streak can sometimes draw your focus and attention to the wrong things.

Here’s something to consider: there’s room for everyone.

Someone else’s success does not mean a set back for you. Sure, there are only a limited number of places on the best sellers lists or the finals for any writing competition. But focusing solely on competing with others is pointless. If you sat down to write each day while thinking about how to make your writing better than someone else’s writing would that make you feel creative? No. You want to better your writing for you (and for your readers) rather than to one-up another writer.

Competitive people need to have a goal. Normally, that goal is to be the best/beat out the competitors. When it comes to writing the idea of ‘winning’ isn’t that cut and dry, and will be different for everyone. The key to harnessing your competitive side for a positive outcome is in the goals you set.

Think about the goals you’ve set yourself as a writer:

  • Are all your goals focused purely on rankings? i.e. to be a #1 Amazon Best Seller, to win an award etc.
  • Do any of the goals rely on you competing with yourself? i.e. to secure an agent or publishing deal, to complete the first draft of your new project etc.

This is not to say one type of goal is better than another, but if you have all goals be int he first category you’re focusing a lot of winning by beating others. Sometimes this comes from a need for validation from others, since those rankings are not determined by you. It’s a good idea to have a mix of goals across the two categories so that some focus on your placement in the industry and other focus on your work in relation to you alone.

Some key things to remember if your competitive streak is getting you down or stealing your focus:

  • Other authors can be your allies rather than your competition, that choice is up to you
  • Competition is like chocolate, it’s good in small doses
  • Think about how you can compete with yourself, what’s your personal best and how can you beat it
  • You don’t need an NY Times Best Seller label to be successful, but you do need good books

This is such a huge topic, and I feel like this only scratches the surface but hopefully it’s food for thought. Is this series something you’d be interested in? Are there any other topics you’d like me to blog about? I am open to suggestion and debate, as always xx

Also, have you played Settlers of Catan?? Are you as addicted to it as I am?

2 Responses to “Authors Dealing with – A Competitive Streak”

  1. Amy Woods says:

    Stefanie,

    I for one love these posts. You’re absolutely right that there’s more to a writing career than getting words down. It’s as complex, wonderful, scary, and yes, competitive, as any other career. I love that your posts address some of the harder, less talked-about sides of this great job, and as always, your insight is so helpful.
    Congrats on Gracie’s release! I loved it. :-)

    -Amy Woods

    • Stefanie says:

      Thanks Amy! I’m glad you enjoyed the post (and The Rules According to Gracie!) Sometimes I feel like I’m alone in worrying about these things, but the more I speak to other writers the more I realise we all have the same feelings/fears. It’s nice to know you’re not alone :)

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