Are We Competing?

Truman Capote (From Wikimedia Commons)

Note: all statistics in this post are made up. Nothing refers to a real person (except when I talk about myself, Harper Lee, or Truman Capote.)

Sometimes when I look at my “numbers,” I get scared. Am I a good enough blogger? I have 86 blog followers, but she has 229. I have almost 800 followers on Twitter, but he has over 1000. I got 15 comments on my last post, but that blog got 74.

I get more scared when I think of publication: She’s twenty years younger than I am but has 4 books published, and I’ve had only one short story and some essays published. Wait, I try to reassure myself, I used to be a technical writer—do 400-page technical manuals count? He has an agent, and all I have is two unfinished WIPs sitting on my kitchen table.

Before my daughter left to go back to college, we sat down to watch Hey Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird—a documentary about Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird may be my daughter’s all-time favorite book, and we’d been waiting all summer for Hey Boo to come out on Netflix DVD. I was so happy it came before she left!

And it was a great movie—I think I may have actually liked it more than anyone else. Maybe because it talked so much about how Harper Lee wrote the book: her writing style, her writing life, her avoidance of the fame the book brought her, her fears and her insecurities. The fact that Harper Lee never has written another book since.

In an interview this year with the Daily Telegraph, one of her close friends said Lee told him she never wrote another book for two reasons:

“…one, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.”

But more than that, what struck me as the most interesting part of the movie was Harper Lee’s friendship with Truman Capote. I knew the two were friends, but I never realized they grew up next door to one another in Monroeville, Alabama. I also didn’t realize that the character Dill, in To Kill a Mockingbird, was inspired by Truman Capote. And further, Harper Lee inspired a character in Truman Capote’s novel Other Voices, Other Rooms.

Harper Lee receives the PresidentialMedal of Freedom
in 2007. I’m guessing Truman Capote would have
been jealous of this, too. (From Wikimedia Commons)
The two remained friends for many years—in fact Lee went with Capote to Kansas to help him research material for what would become In Cold Blood. But their friendship soured. In Hey Boo, Lee’s sister said after Lee won the Pulitzer Prize Capote was consumed with jealousy.

I’ve thought a lot about the movie: about writers’ friendships and competition and about publicity—something that I certainly hope to have some of (if one of those WIPs on the kitchen table is ever published) but the movie made me wonder: how much is too much?

Are we as writers competing on a daily basis—for blog readers? On Twitter for followers? For a spot in the limited marketplace? A share of the spotlight? And—like Truman Capote with Harper Lee—are we also competing against each other? Or could Truman Capote have been as insecure as I sometimes feel?

It’s a paradox because my favorite part, hands down, of blogging is the writer friends I’ve made, and I certainly root when each of my friends has a victory: lands an agent, publishes a short story, sees a debut novel in print. But deep down, am I envious? If I watched a writer friend win a Pulitzer Prize would I ever be so envious or so jealous, like Truman Capote, to end a friendship?

Really Truman? Isn’t there enough to go around?
How about you? Do you look at your “numbers”? Do you compare? Do you ever feel like you’re competing with other writers? For blog readers? For publication? For numbers in social media? What would it take? The Pulitzer Prize? Would you or have you ever ended a friendship because you were jealous about a writer friend’s success?



  1. E.J. Wesley says:

    Wonderful post! It took me a long while to get comfortable in my ‘blog skin’, so to speak. Early on I really felt a little self-concious about my follower numbers (lack thereof), etc. and worked hard to include thing on the blog that I ‘thought’ people wanted to read/see. It eventually became an exhausting effort, so I just said the heck with it.

    I decided that I would blog about what I wanted to blog about, I’d say what I actually thought about various things, and the people that wanted to read it would find me, and those that didin’t would leave. Funny thing is, my blog became more popular from that point, not less. I did lose a few followers, but gained a whole bunch more in their place.

    My elusive point is this: I’m not even sure we can accurately quantify what popular is, much less achieve it through any specific means (when it comes to blogging). As such, it makes little sense to dwell on what other bloggers are achieving.

    Just blog about the things that mean something to you, have a basic identity (do you blog about pets, writing, etc.) and let it fly. You’ll eventually hit a sweet spot for your blog, be it 300 followers or 3,000.

  2. Lisa Carter says:

    Dear Julia,

    First, I read your posts via Google Reader and thus haven’t been to your site in a while, but I *love* the new design!

    I know I go through periods where I worry about how well I’m doing in the blog/writing/translation world compared to others. But it saps so much energy that I try to pull myself out of that as quickly as possible.

    There is enough to go around: there are enough readers, followers, publishers, editors, genres, prizes, and so on for us each to find our place. I truly believe our own success will only be heightened if we can also savour other people’s accomplishments.

    Great, thoughtful post, as always, Julia. 😉

  3. Very interesting post! I think I know some competitive writers, but I’m mostly competing with the authors who got me into this business to begin with, including Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Edgar A. Poe, Thomas Wolfe, Dee Brown, J.D. Salinger, James Joyce. I truly believe I’ll never stop competing with these guys, and none of them had a blog!

  4. It’s very easy to get caught up in comparing numbers, but, like you, I’d say my favorite part of blogging has been the friendship & support from other writers. I’ve always been most comfortable in one-on-one situations, shying away from large groups, so to me, low numbers are fine (they’d better be, since mine are practically non-existant, lol). I’d rather have a few genuine relationships and be able to invest time for communication, comments, etc., rather than have tons of followers and not be able to know each one. (At least, for this part of my writing journey, that’s how I feel.)

    That said, comparing seems to be woven into our humanness. But even if I became jealous over someone else’s success, I have faith that it would be temporary, and that sooner or later, God would set me straight and remind me that he has a plan specifically for me, and that it will happen (or not) according to his timing.

    What a transparent post. You really made me think this morning. 🙂


  5. EJ, I think I know exactly what you mean about comfort in your “blog skin.” I’ve been blogging for 6 months and it’s definitely been enlightening. I completely agree that there’s no way to predict what readers want, we as writers are our own brand — and I certainly appreciate the support of good writer friends like you, EJ, while I find my way! Thank you!

    Lisa, Good to see you again! I’m so glad you love the new design; it’s great to get feedback! Maybe you’ve hit on something that we all go through cycles of worry — and I agree it always saps my energy! It is so much healthier and more productive to focus on successes, our own and others! Glad you enjoyed the post & thanks for the sweet compliments!

    Ramey, What an interesting point that I didn’t touch on (or really consider) that we as writers often do compete and compare ourselves to some of our writer heroes. I know exactly what you mean because there are authors that I too look at and think of as, if not my competition, then certainly a role model. Thank you for the insightful comment and for your visit to my blog — nice to meet you!

    Barb, The relationships really is what it’s all about — which is what really puzzled me about Harper Lee and Truman Capote! I wonder if it would’ve been easier if they had been Twitter/blog friends instead of neighbors? I wonder if writers in person are more or less competitive? Also, I know what you mean about groups vs. individuals — me too! One thing I *don’t* wonder is why I enjoy your comments, Barb — they always help me look at things from a new direction. 🙂

  6. Susan says:

    Yes, very thoughtful post, Julia. When I first started blogging, I was obsessed with the number of hits because I wanted people to read what I had so carefully taken the time to craft. For me it wasn’t competition with other bloggers; I just wanted to make connections, and I wasn’t making any, except for My Pajama Days who got me started on the blogging life in the first place. But gradually I gathered some readers and I began reading more of other people’s posts and commenting, and now I have a faithful group who follow me and whom I follow. I’m content with that. So I think the only person I’m in competition with is myself as I challenge me to put something out that is worth reading.

  7. I think we all compete on some level, but certainly the attitude we take toward it could be the difference between healthy and hazardous competition.

    The simple fact is, Harper Lee never wrote another book. She was happy with one. She didn’t look at somebody like Agatha Christie and think, I gotta have at least another 60-something stories in me.

    It’s a good idea to trust ourselves first, so we can have that healthy attitude when we look toward others.

  8. Here is my answer to that:

    I sometimes feel a little envy, but we’ve just got to accept that for what it is, and then let it go. No guilt. It’s a natural feeling of longing and it passes.
    There’s plenty for everyone. There’s also only one you, and only one me. Nobody can be you like you can. And nobody can be me like me. (Good thing too!):-)

    Nice post, Julia.

  9. Julia ~ I was sick for a few weeks and fell behind with my blog reading. I hope I’m not too horribly late in saying how much I LOVE your new blog header! That is so YOU. And talk about being jealous of another writer — I wish that was *my* blog header :~)

    Like you, I love cheering for my friends’ successes. I would rather focus on that than on my own perceived shortfalls in comparison to other writers. I’ve trained myself to avoid comparison as much as possible, but sometimes it sneaks in and grabs me. Yuck.

    Wow, Harper Lee really knew her own mind. I’m impressed that she didn’t feel she needed to force herself into a preconceived success mold based on following up on her first big success. (I can’t imagine enjoying all that publicity either.) How sad that she lost a friend because of her well-deserved success.

    You’ve made me want to see the movie. Thanks!

    ~ Milli

  10. Tricia says:

    I don’t know if I’d ever end a relationship over my friend’s successes. If we were writing the same genre, yet she get’s published, she get’s a huge advance, or maybe even the Pulitzer, I’d certainly be jealous, but I would not punish her for it.

    If, however, the fame went to her head, I could see us drifting apart.

    My writing partner just got an agent, a publisher, and a sweet advance, but for whatever reason, I am not jealous. Perhaps because she is one of the nicest people I know. I want good things for her.

  11. Susan, You sound like you have the healthiest of all attitudes — which is wonderful. I am definitely working toward that level of satisfaction with what I’m doing and being content with it. Instead, although I’m not sure I’d describe myself as obsessed with hits (and I’m not even concerned that people may not read what I write), it’s more about pushing myself to higher levels… which I think can sometimes lead to that feeling of competition with others.

    Shakirah, I think you’re so right about the attitude toward the competition; you’re so right that we should trust ourselves first! As for Harper Lee being satisfied she never wrote another book, in the movie her sister said she was always writing other things (she’s still alive so she may still be writing), so it’s unclear if she was happy with just the one or just how it happened. Honestly, after watching the movie (despite the quote I used in my post), I’m not so sure. Thanks for your comment and your visit to my blog!

    Cynthia, Agreed, I think that being okay with whatever you’re feeling is the best answer, and acknowledging the feelings then letting them pass. I love the “there’s only one you,” sentences, isn’t there a song: “There’s only one me”? (Just posted a link on Twitter…. it must be the writer theme song!! Too bad Capote didn’t have it!)

  12. Milli! So glad to see you! And I’m so glad you love the header (don’t be jealous, I’ll go write your name in the sand and take a pic for you!! 🙂 TRAINING!! That’s so true about training ourselves to avoid the comparisons. I’ve noticed a lot of progress in my kids’ generation toward working together rather than competing — very healthy! Also, it’s pretty counterproductive to making progress with MY writing when I’m so busy comparing! You should see the movie; I’ll be really curious to hear what you think. I definitely do not think she was necessarily comfortable with the success nor the lack of a second book, perhaps.

    Tricia, I also doubt I’d ever end a relationship over a friend’s success; but I agree that I could see a drift if her fame went to her head. Huge congratulations to your writing partner — how lucky for her she has a good friend like you — and how lucky for you to have such a good friend like her! Thank you so much for your comment and for your visit to my blog!

  13. Did you ever see In Cold Blood? There’s a scene where Truman is just so horrible to Harper, after she’s won the Pulitzer. It’s a shame that (after all they’d been through, and after all the support she gave him throughout his career) he couldn’t return the favor.

    To be very honest I’ve experienced a bit of both. I had a writing friend who I hadn’t seen in years, and when we got together all he could talk about was his new novel and how he was self-publishing and promoting. I was so happy for him, but when he finally (about an hour later) asked me how my writing was going, and I told him I was applying to MFA programs, he responded, “Oh, you’ll never get into that one.”

    It was so shocking to experience such negativity from a friend I’d thought was part of my writing community, that I would never want to make someone feel that way. And I try to be very conscious of my own emotions, because I’d be lying if I said that, on a day when I’m feeling discouraged, it doesn’t hurt a little to hear about others’ successes. On those days though, I’m still genuinely happy for them, even though in the back of my mind I’d love to be in a similar place. The point is to not let the negativity get to us. It’s normal to want something; it’s harmful to want to take it from someone else.

    The good thing is those bad days are rare. When the negative feelings pass, it makes way for the positive ones (and those always last).

  14. Nancy Kelley says:

    Oh, Julia–it’s like you just saw into my brain… my sad, sad little brain. 🙁

    I don’t feel overly competitive regarding the publishing process. Since I’m self-pubbing, I am in control of my own destiny. I can cheer for authors getting agents or book deals without wishing it was me. I might be a tad competitive regarding sales, but since we don’t really know how much anyone else makes, that’s really all in my head. (Sad little brain, remember?)

    However, blogging… Oh, I do feel the envy there occasionally! Why do posts I’ve slaved over not get any comments, when other people can toss up a cute picture and a quip and end up with a page long comment thread?

    I need to let it go. We’re all in the same boat… or at least on the same journey. I’m sailing the SS Indie Jane across the Straits of Publication, and you may be on SS Wordsxo in the middle of the Query Sea–but it’s all the same ocean.

    And now that my analogies have degraded to that state, I will quit.

  15. Natalia, No, I’ve never seen In Cold Blood, but from “Hey Boo” I can imagine how horrible he must’ve been. I wonder (from the movie and her comments about not wanting to ever go through that “pressure and publicity”) if he’s part of the reason she never wrote another book, or at least had another published! Terrible. Similar to your “friend’s” comments. How sad for him to while celebrating his own achievements not celebrate yours. Still, I’m with you. There are those days, and I focus on the positive as much as possible — reminds me of your lovely comment about the other friend who gave you the message in the bottle — it’s never been that bad! I can see that many tradeoffs I’ve made (stay home with kids, volunteer work for community issues, different kinds of writing) has all formed who I am, and that’s a pretty wonderful thing. You are a wise wise woman, Natalia!! Glad to have you as my writing friend!

    Nancy, HAHAHA!! The better question is, how can we be brain twins? 😀 Yes, I’ve had those same questions in my mind about blogs that do well vs. don’t do well…. very hard to fathom. (Hilarious description, nonetheless!) I’ve certainly envied your incredible drive at times — your a workhorse! But as you say, must let it go because we’re on our different voyages on the same journey. I LOVE THAT ANALOGY!! Signing off from the SS Wordsxo in the Query Sea 🙂

  16. I look at my numbers, and I often get jealous. But then I think about who gets the higher numbers, or who published before me, and I try to understand the why. Maybe they are incredible writers. Or maybe they simply had more focus and gumption than I had. When I compare and get jealous, I freeze up. I may never achieve the numbers other people have. I may never get the book publishing deal that I dream of. But, as long as i keep producing work that I am proud of, I think it is okay. Of course, sometimes thinking this way doesn’t help. For example, when I notice someone gets the numbers who, in my opinion, isn’t a very good writer. Or when WordPress Freshly Presses an post that I find mediocre at best. But, I shake it off and go forward, because I will never achieve my goals by worrying about how much better everyone else is doing.

  17. Sometimes I feel a competition with time . . . like in the example you mentioned of someone younger having more published or an agent. I know it’s not a race, but I still worry about running out of time.

  18. Pet says:

    Very interesting Post. I do not feel competing with anyone there, nor I write anything seeking approval of potential reader, but I do mind not being read. Who wouldn’t?
    I guess we are all like little children, willing to be liked, even loved.

  19. Lynn Benoit says:

    Nice post. Yes, I compare! I figure, how else do you determine what works best? Happily, what seems to truly work best is being yourself and doing what you do, well. How can you be jealous of somebody else, if you remember that?!

  20. Girl Parker says:

    What a great post, Julia. I’m reminded of a blog post I read once. I believe, but don’t quote me, that Joshilyn Jackson wrote it. The gist was, “I’m not in competition with other writers. But if I want MY spot on the bookshelf, I gotta fight for it.” I like that. It’s more focusing on what we have to give and our own work.

    Do I look at my numbers? Sure. But in my opinion, Capote was a fool. Offer what you’ve got and make it your best. He already had a spot on the bookshelf and he threw it away.

  21. CMSmith says:

    You do such a nice job with your posts. Last time I counted you had a lot more comments than me. (Only kidding, although I’m pretty sure it’s the truth.) I still like you.

    I used to look at my blog stats daily. Now that I’m not blogging every day anymore my stats have taken a hit. If I keep cutting out posts, eventually my stats will drop to zero and then I can give it up.

    I think we are all competing for readers at some level. (But at least you and I aren’t writing YA sci-fi) Yikes. Crowded market.

    I’m sitting here laughing.

    Don’t stop blogging. I like reading your posts. This was a good one.

  22. Really good topic, and one I think about. I knew a little about the Lee-Capote friendship, but didn’t realize they lived so close to each other!

    Ever since I was little, I trained myself to be supportive of folks who succeeded even when I felt down. Partly that’s just upbringing and part of my belief system (not wanting to encourage negativity, etc.)

    When friends of mine have good news to report, I always love to boost the signal; it makes me happy, too.

    What always bothered me was when close friends of mine wouldn’t be supportive when I had successes.

    Because of that, I always try to strike a balance between modesty and as crass as it sounds, “building my brand” so that folks can trust me with their work.

    At the end of the day, I’m with you: there’s plenty to go around. My success does not equal your failure.

  23. Lisa, I hear what you’re saying — and I do the same thing — I look for the rationale of why. And I too, like you, am paralyzed if I give it TOO much thought! I know what you mean that sometimes it’s not as easy as others to just shake it off; as a Blogger vs. WordPress, I really covet the Freshly Pressed! I remember a tennis coach my son once had (when my son was solely focused on winning) who said: “Focus on the love of the game and the wins will come.” It reminds me of the last sentence of your comment — that we’ll never achieve our goals by worrying how much better everyone else is doing! Thanks for the comment during your busy moving time! 🙂

    Nina, There is the time element — I spend way too much time thinking about that. As you say, it’s not a race, but time is finite nonetheless. So sometimes I feel like I’m competing, too. Glad you understand!

    Pet, I think you’re right, we all at a certain inside (maybe even inner child level) seek that approval and the desire to be liked and loved. And for those of us who create, often in such a solo world, it is sometimes all the more meaningful to be acknowledged and read! Thanks for dropping by again!

    Lynn, Glad you enjoyed the post… and I like your straightforwardness because it really is like positioning yourself in a market — how can we ever know what works best if we don’t look at results and the numbers do speak in many ways. Of course, as you say, if we’re true to ourselves and use that as the measurement, then it’s hard to be jealous of others… thanks so much for your visit to my blog and for your comment!

  24. Girl Parker, Glad you enjoyed the post! That’s a great quote — a good reminder that all of us need to really kick it up a notch to reach our dreams. But as you say, it’s more about what we do for ourselves. I like that! No question Capote was a fool. He could’ve had it all: the success and the long-term friendship with a kindred spirit. And he gave it up. Thanks so much for your comment and your visit to my blog!

    Christine, I love your sense of humor! And I’m pretty sure you get a lot more comments than I do… I still like you too 🙂 I know exactly what you mean about stats dropping with the decrease in daily blogging; mine did the same thing. Still, how can I get more WIP time and catch up with my buds Harper and Truman if I don’t do more writing? Thanks for your always-support, friend, I love your posts, too!

    Mahesh, Isn’t the story about Capote and Lee unbelievable? Two great minds right next door to one another? I almost wondered: who was their teacher? Was their a mentor? Amazing story! I am so impressed by supportive people like you — and I really believe that ultimately by bringing others up we bring ourselves up too. Unfortunately, as evidenced by your and Natalia’s comments, it’s not always so with everyone! I love the way you think, Mahesh, and am so happy you came by to visit again and to comment on my blog!

  25. Ann says:

    Julia – you really REALLY delved deep on this one! I admire you for opening yourself up….

    It’s easy to get caught up in the “numbers” game. Every once in a while I wonder if I’m doing something wrong….or what can I DO to have more readers. But the comparison is by my own yardstick – not someone else’s.

    Then I think about WHY I blog. I started to give myself some accountability regarding maintaining my health. The other reason is a genuine WANT to share my recipes….THAT is the true success to measure myself by.

    I also read something that stuck with me – really stuck with me – before I pressed “enter” on my first post. I wish I could tell you where I saw it! It was something like this:

    Someone wrote a blog, coincidentally, about blogging. He said it’s better to have 50 bloggers who are genuinely interested in your every post than 1500 subscribers who skim your blog….if that’s the case – you’ve reached more people!

    How cool is that? I – for one – hang on your every word…

  26. I don’t feel competitive as much as I feel inspired. Other’s successes inspire me more than anything. We are all so unique that to compare myself to someone else is unfair to myself.

    Great post and now I want to watch Hey Boo!

  27. What a great bit of insight about the Lee-Capote relationship; I, too, want to watch the movie now!

    You know, I think I might have been more “jealous” when I was very new to the writing scene. But somewhere along the line, I decided that “getting there first” wasn’t what mattered. Doing the best job that I can is what is most important – and it will take however long it takes, as life ebbs and flows. A well-published author told me that she believes you have so much more to say when you hit 40 or beyond -and that writing is enriched that way. I think I agree.

    I agree with Hallie, too, that I’m more inspired by others’ successes than I ever was jealous. It gives me that boost and realization that, “Hey … If she can do this, I can too. I know I can!” I love supporting other authors. The only thing I get jealous about is when I don’t have the time to devote to my WIP. A lot of people say, “you have to make the time,” and I agree. We can all make excuses. But I simply am not one of those folks who can function on less than 7 hours of sleep. I simply can’t.And my mind turns to MUSH at about 10 p.m. And when you work from 6 a.m. till 9:30 p.m. on WRITING – albeit not fiction – it’s sometimes so hard to WANT to type another word. Such a catch-22 … so happy for the paying freelance work, so sad for the lack of WIP time. There’s gotta be an answer somewhere – and it lies in being more productive with my freelance time. Just gotta figure it out!

    Thanks for a great post and being such a supportive force! (By the way – I rarely look at my stats. Maybe it’s cuz I hate numbers so much. ha ha)

  28. Ann, You are a wonderful blogger with the wonderful support and loyal readers to show it! And I’m assuming that’s because you’re so passionate about what you’re doing and it shows! Which makes it all the more special that we’ve connected and have the same attitude about loyal followers. Thanks as always for your lovely support!

    Hallie, Again, like Ann, you’re inspiration shows in your blog! I’m not surprised that you feel inspired by others’ successes — you’ve said it on your blog and you are a unique and talented blogger in your own right. There’s absolutely no need to compete or compare! And I think you would be very interested in Hey Boo! 🙂

    Melissa, I think you’d find the movie fascinating — such a commentary about American literature, relationships, and American history. Quite interesting! As you say, life and time available ebbs and flows — and I know you and I have talked about this: the grass is often greener. But as you say, getting ther first isn’t what matters, and maybe if Truman had taken that to heart, he too would’ve gotten the accolade he so desired. Who knows. One thing’s for certain: he would’ve retained a good friend which perhaps would have been a far dearer prize, as all of us kitchen table writers are finding!

  29. Lisa Ahn says:

    I definitely struggle with comparisons! I check numbers and wonder what I can do to raise mine. I’m impatient too, which never helps. It’s that little nagging voice in the back of my head that says I’m not getting anywhere, and never will. Ugh. I hate that voice.
    On my better days, I remember that I write because I love it and that my blog, still very new, is an extension of my writing and a bit of an experiment. Where am I rushing to anyway? I can only tell my stories, my way. Who else can do that? It isn’t a race, but a parallel journey.
    Nathan Bransford just put up a great post about how there are no overnight successes, and he mentions Stephanie Meyers. A lot of people get freaked out by the fact that Twilight was her first book, she wrote it in 3 months, and got an agent pretty quickly. Yes, on some level, I wish my path could be easier. But that’s not my book, not my story. In that sense, Meyers has got nothing on me! Or you. Keep writing, Julia. Whatever your numbers are or aren’t you make a difference in people’s lives, including mine!

  30. Lisa, Thank you so much for your comment! “Whatever your numbers are or aren’t you make a difference in people’s lives, including mine.” — You made my night with that! Because I hate the fact that (like you) I do have a little voice, most of the time very little, but it’s there. So to hear that someone else, especially another writer whose opinion I trust, approves of my work is HUGE. Thank you for undertanding and making my path a little better — and I love that you call it a parallel path, not a race!

  31. JM Merchant says:

    Hi Julia
    A very thought provoking post as usual.
    Certainly I know I use my blog stats to feel validated as a writer, I don’t feel that I’ve been in the game long enough (although the same length of time as you) to be competing. At the month my blog on has 5 followers and most of my read counts come from Facebook. I certainly feel as though I’m having trouble breaking into the community, and perhaps that’s because my blog is more of a diary than anything more profound and so not many people find it interesting. It’s quite rare for me to get comments on my blog so I don’t know what people think of it.
    Since I’ve been working with Milli I’ve felt more validated as a writer but I know that’s because I have access to her followers and her masses of enthusiasm.

    As has been said, we all hit our stride eventually and competing becomes less important, I just know I’m miles away from mine yet.

    Thanks again for an awesome post.
    Jo x

  32. Rachel Small says:

    Great post, Julia. It can be so difficult not to compare. But like you said, my favourite part of freelancing is the people I’ve met and engaging with writers and editors. I find the more I get to know someone, the easier it becomes to stop comparing and share in their success. Thank you for posting this!

  33. Jo, Thank you for your kind compliment. It’s hard not to look at the numbers for me too… I’m sorry it feels hard to break into the community — I’m so happy to have met you and read your post at Milli’s about New Zealand! You are a welcome addition to my writing community! As you say, we all hit our stride eventually, and it’s a process for all of us — you’re welcome for the post and I look forward to reading more of your writing, too! xo Julia

    Rachel, Glad you enjoyed the post, and — agreed — it’s tough not to compare! Sharing in the successes of you and other writers I meet is not only my favorite part, but also so encouraging as a writer, don’t you think? Plus, I’ve never known so many amazing supportive writers existed before I started blogging, so thank goodness for that, even if it does give me pause at times! Thanks so much for the comment & visit! 🙂

  34. Ado says:

    Okay, more that we have in common: this whole post was “Me too! Me too!” – Did we already realize that we were both tech writers in our past? Wow. Also the fiction writing thing – I have spent a lifetime working on my craft (first love is literary fiction, as opposed to blogging). I have helped mentor authors who have literally skyrocketed – Brad and Jen bought the film rights to one, another used his to buy a brownstone in NY etc. – I’ve watched writers skyrocket and I’ve only just “nearly” got there – it’s hard. You just keep plugging away, writing. Biggest thing is to keep the insecurities at bay. I hate the stat checking shit. We are not our numbers. I love Up Popped a Fox – her philosphy: I am not here to be popular. I am not here to get stats. I’m here for my writing and to connect w. my readers, even if it’s just a small number.
    When I read that I said, hallelujah, that’s me too.
    I have never been a writer in competition with other writers. Despite the fact that my help has helped other writers to get what “I want” – I’m glad for them. I continue to help other writers, secretly hoping one day the karmic boomerang will shoot back over to me – yet aware that I’m getting older, too (that Stevie Nick’s song…) It’s all in there – just keep writing about it like you did in this post. (-:

  35. Ado, I had NO idea you were a tech writer, too! Incredible: Jen and Brad bought the film rights…. I might’ve gone all Truman Capote over that 🙂 Seriously, as you say, keeping insecurities at bay is the big thing. Although we are not our numbers, sometimes I get hung up in thinking other bloggers *are* their numbers! And believe me (we’ve talked about this) I’m horribly aware of the getting older thing. As for keeping on writing — always & blogging was HANDS DOWN the best decision I’ve ever made because it has connected me to writers like you. Thanks for your wonderful comment! 🙂

  36. Wow, this strikes many chords. First, I love that Harper Lee didn’t write another book in part because she didn’t “have anything else to say.” I personally think it’s a shame that the tag “career” has been placed on writing, often compelling writers to churn out stories for the sake of the next contract and/or advance rather than the sake of the story itself. Sadly, too many examples come to mind of second and/or third books by authors that just fall flat and seem so uninspired. A book requires a long investment in time and energy, and sometimes one book is all an author has in him/herself. Aruhndati Roy, who won the Booker Award about 12 years ago with The God of Small Things, has also never written another book and similarly to Lee, said she’ll write one she has one to write. I have infinite respect for this.

    As far as jealousy and competition, uggh. I’m not the competitive type but I feel like I’m very sensitive to other peoples’ competitiveness, and it bugs the crap out of me. It even puts me on the defensive to the point where I feel I’m actually becoming…competitive. I try to block it all out, but sometimes that one little boastful comment from the wrong person just makes me seethe. In the end, though, my own bottom line is to strive for the satisfaction of feeling that I’m doing my personal best.

  37. Sharon, If Harper Lee wrote one book because that’s all she wanted to, then I agree that it’s better than ok. From the movie I got the distinct impression she got scared off because of the intensity of the publicity — still, we all make decisions for our own reasons. I was impressed with her for so many reasons, so I trust that she made a good decision for whatever reason she had, and I respect that too. As for the jealousy and competition, you really hit the nail on the head with your comment — I feel like I’m really sensitive to it as well which prompted this post; it’s really hard sometimes to block out the boastful comments. Speaking of comments: thank you for your insightful comment! And for your visit to my blog as well!

  38. Looks like I’m Comment #38 on this post. 🙂

    Glad I happened upon this via Nina Badzin on Twitter. From time to time, I think about numbers…obsess about numbers…have nightmares about numbers. But most of the time, I manage to banish them from my noggin & focus on the important stuff, you know, like writing and obsessing about other stuff.

    Happy to see I’m not alone. Great conversation!

  39. Kristin, Judging from the conversation, I think we’re far from alone in this, but I know what you mean about banishing the numbers — otherwise it is SO hard to focus on the writing while still leaving time to obsess about other stuff (there’s so much! 🙂 Thanks so much for joining the conversation and checking out my blog (thanks Nina!). Great to meet you!

  40. Great to meet you, too, Julia! All this number talk reminds me of the competition I had with my older sister growing up–who was taller, whose feet were bigger, whose fingers were longer, who could keep her Nestle Crunch bar the longest without eating it, who could give the silent treatment for a longer period of time (me!), and so on. Guess competitiveness is human nature…but oy, it’s good to keep it in check.

  41. Kristin, Those older siblings! I wish I’d had an older or younger sister (only brothers here), but it sounds like you two had some interesting competitions. I’ve watched that in my own two kids who even once had a competition (on a long car trip) to see who could make me mad first. It was pretty funny, and they definitely passed the time! Glad to bring back some good memories of your childhood and the reminder that it is human nature…

  42. I can get competitive with other writers and bloggers sometimes. (I can get really competitive with Scrabble and Boggle too, so I guess this isn’t saying much.) I try really hard to push those feelings aside when they pop up. But sometimes I think a little bit of competition is good. It pushes me to be better.

    Very interesting (and sad) story about Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Thanks for sharing!

  43. Jen, I like to say I’m not competitive with Scrabble or Boggle — but deep down I know it’s not true. I’m like you that I try to push the feelings down, and maybe I need to think more like you that a little competition is good and pushes me to be better. Thank you for the insightful and helpful comment!

  44. Mary says:

    First, thanks for so much interesting info about Harper Lee. A friend of mine is a great niece (or some kind of relative) of Lee’s; I love that tiny feeling of “knowing” about an author. For some reason, that make a work I already enjoyed and admired even better?

    About author envy: If the writer is a close friend, I feel only regret (rather than jealousy) that I did not think of such a workable idea. If the writer is a mere acquaintance, then Envy raises it’s ugly head. My joy for another’s success seems to hinge on the relationship.

  45. Mary, I know what you mean about enjoying and admiring an author even more — certainly how I felt after watching “Hey Boo.” Harper Lee is an amazing and fascinating woman and writer. It is interesting that the kind of relationship we have with someone may help determine how we feel about their successes; it’s something I work to contain since it always slows me down! Thanks so much for your comment and for your visit to my blog! Nice to meet you!

  46. Your post asks the kind of question that forces us to look deep into our souls.We can react in two ways to the successes of fellow writers:
    1. Feel envious and even consider ending the friendship with this person whom you might think is less deserving of success than you are.

    2. Remind yourself that rubbing shoulders with successful people can often increase your possibilities of success—probably because you start work harder.
    I prefer #2
    And Oh yes, I might someday ask that person to write a comment for my published book.

  47. Hi Nancy, I like the way you’ve presented this — pointing out that we really do have choice in how we react to something. Truman Capote picked not just the low path for friendship sake but also perhaps the path which would cause him to be judged a little more harshly with time…. as for the comment for a published book, THAT never occurred to me, and is an excellent point!! Thank you so much for your insightful comment and for your visit to my blog; nice to meet you!