Comparison gets you nowhere, and talent is only as deep as you're willing to dig.

Let's start there, then. 

I'm a flawed human with not enough time to over analyze my faults, and my insecurities are in the thousands. I'm a worrier with some extreme anxiety to match. I'm hyper and I laugh a lot, I'm loud and obnoxious, and I obsess greatly over things I'm passionate about. I tend to react quickly and sometimes, not always, feel bad about that later. These traits of mine have become much easier to control as I've aged. I remove myself from potentially "anxiety ridden" situations, and I have practiced saying no. I also take breaths instead of tossing out words, and sometimes I even walk away and just remind myself that "to each their own".

For a long time, I would look at other people and wish I could be like them. I often compared myself to them. Why doesn't my hair look like theirs? Why am I not as physically fit? Why don't I make that much money? Why can't I live in a house that big? Yada, yada.

Those comparisons and thoughts left me feeling pretty worthless and I was so busy worrying about why I couldn't be like "them" that I forgot how exciting it was to be me. During that point in my life, my thoughts leaked into my writing. I started comparing myself to other authors and writers. I'd say things like, why do they have more fans than me? Why are they so well received and I'm not? Why are their stories more captivating than mine? Why can't I have a million followers on social media? Yada, yada.

At some point I realized how unhealthy my thoughts were, not only when it came to writing comparisons, but also life comparisons. Because we are all insecure, we all have these thoughts from time to time, but I was hoping I could combat them and get back into the part of myself that was confident but not cocky, happy and humble. It's a work in progress, but it's something I'm incredibly passionate about.

The first thing I had to do, was decide to shut up. Seriously. I had to tell myself to shut up, and quit focusing on everyone around me. If I spent half the amount of time comparing myself to others, as I did actually DOING something productive, I'd have fifteen books written and a multitude of freezer meals already made. That's how much time I waste worrying about things that don't matter. Okay...maybe I'm exaggerating, but you get the point. I was wasting too much time. 

Once I decided to shut up, I started working on me, because if you want to grow then you have to start with your roots. I started focusing on what I could do to better myself. How can I save money to make my dreams come true later? How can I eat better to attain physical fitness that is healthy for me and my family? How can I push kindness on those around me without seeming fake? How can I better my relationships with others? Once I started asking those questions, I found that life was a little more pleasant. I started doing things for me and focusing on my traits. It's not something you can just wake up and do. You have to train yourself every day, and I slip most days. I find myself comparing or being judgmental and I tell myself to shut up and pull back. Focus on me and whether or not my thoughts are helping or destroying me. 

Implementing these thoughts into my writing has been slightly more difficult, but it is something that has happened, slowly but surely. The self-publishing and contemporary romance genre have flooded the market of literature, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you're a self published, contemporary romance author, or soon to be one, congratulations. You're one of a million and you'll probably get down on yourself pretty hard, before you actually believe in yourself at all. This industry makes it very easy to compare yourself to others, and there will be a time where you will stumble upon some poorly written novel packed with sex and alpha males, and you will question why it has one thousand reviews on Goodreads and five stars, when something you poured your heart and soul into for five years has twenty reviews. We've all thought this, trust me, I have. But at some point I realized that comparing myself to other writers and their successes and stories,isn't going to help me. If anything, it's just going to make me feel like I suck. 

So I am training myself to realize that there's room for everyone. What works for one writer, whether it's harlequin fantasies, or murder mysteries, may not work for me. And that's okay. Just because I'm an independent writer, doesn't mean I have to conform to the contemporary romance genre. I can independently write whatever I want. And as long as I'm writing what I believe in, or what speaks to me, then I'm doing the right thing. The minute I use comparisons to change my work or style, is the minute I fail. (Because there is no market for someone who writes a story to be someone, or to gain a following.) Readers see through that. You have to write from the deepest, ugliest, saddest, parts of you. And you have to stop wondering why you're not gifted with the same respect as a New York Time's Bestseller. Trust me, they worked their ass off to get where they are, and I would assume that they compared and doubted themselves at one time, too. But they probably figured out what I know now - comparison gets you nowhere.

So in writing, as well as in life, you must do two things; give yourself some damn credit, and quit worrying about what anyone else has that you don't. Once you greet the talented, kind, hardworking, and confident person you want to be, you'll find that the person you're supposed to become, was there all along. You have to be willing to dig. Diamonds don't form on the surface of a fresh cut lawn, they are carved in crevices of heat and pressure. The phrase isn't a "diamond a dozen" for good reason. Diamonds are expensive, precious things that shouldn't be given freely. You should have to work hard to obtain something so pure, or unique. If everyone was as good as the next person, nothing would be precious or hold any value. No one would work harder or be inspired. 

So I'm working on digging right now, and although I have only found some minor gold flecks and precious gems, I'm not going to stop. I'm going to dig myself as deep as I can, plant my roots, and grow. Not just in writing, but in life. When I make it to the fruit bearing part of my life, we'll talk, but for now, I think I'm going to grab my shovel.


XOX, Hayley

Published by Hayley Stumbo