It can be seen as a standard interview question: who do you picture when you think about what success looks like? For me, one of the people that pop into my mind first is Hugh Howey. For those who haven’t already googled Hugh, here’s a quick byte on who he is:
Hugh is the bestselling author of the Silo series, Wool, Shift, and Dust as well as many other stories. He is a hugely successful self-published writer who at one point was reportedly banking well into 6 figures a month in royalties. Not only is he a successful writer, but he is a humble guy who also is good at his craft. That’s correct, talent that mirrors the success. It almost seems unfortunately rare.
He makes it look easy, as I assure you, it is not.
I’ve been writing for much of my life and now have 8 works for sale. One fewer than the number when Hugh started gaining the momentum he needed. I wrote about this topic not too long ago in fact. About “Learning the Slow Game.” Here I am diving more into my constant need to compare myself to others as a measure of how well I am doing.
A standard name I use when comparing me to another in writing? You guessed it. Hugh.
Speaking generally, the act of comparison is a useful tool. It gives you a sense of where you stand in relation to something. If you would like to be a baseball player, then you might want to compare your skills to someone of MLB talent in order to ascertain where you are in relation to that level. Pending that being an MLB level player is your goal of course.
In writing, comparing myself to Hugh seems a natural fit, being that much of my interests in writing circulate around science fiction and dystopian fiction. Topics he excels in. He was, and still is, an independent, self-published writer. As am I.
It is worthwhile in that case to break down his career to analyze the factors that led to his success. Then I can adopt the various tricks that he used to get over that hill of making a living as a writer pending factors in my own life will work with those pieces of information. To see what works and what doesn’t in my venture.
But that is it. Go no further, Jeremy!
Yet, I find that when I open books and read, I begin to compare my own style to the other writer, my own situation to theirs. I find myself distraught over the difficulty I have in getting my feet off the ground in marketing my books to a level of success equal to author X. This isn’t a comparison in where I see a plot twist and go, “hmmm… I like what he/she did there.” I see what I failed to do in another story. A plot point I didn’t think of myself. A story I didn’t imagine myself.
What the hell is the point of doing that, Jeremy?!
The point is that there is no point.
The title of this blog post should have read: Curse you, Jeremy Kester! Because it ain’t Hugh’s or any other author’s fault.
Hugh Howey is a good writer. That doesn’t mean that I am not. I don’t write like him, nor should I. Similarities or not, I shouldn’t dwell on all of these petty details. Our life’s circumstances are ENTIRELY different. Our end life goals are ENTIRELY different. As are most writers’ goals with my own. Making a life from writing is about the only similarity worth the comparison. But being that genres diverge, styles, lives, experiences, long term life goals, relationships, political views, all differ, why should I waste the time or energy to compare, to feel distraught or disappointed by not being like someone else.
While Hugh [or insert popular, successful writer here] smashes through successes, I have to start being warry of letting my mind solidify on the obsession of making deeper comparisons. I need to just write. Develop my own voice. Maybe someday I will get to where I want to go. Even in getting there, I am sure that there will always be someone better than me. More successful than me. A better writer than me. I just can’t dwell on that.