It seems like it would be easy to know if you’re an unhappy writer, right? But it’s a little trickier than just asking yourself how you feel. A lot of writers who are deeply unhappy with themselves, their writing, and their writing lives overall, actually don’t even know how unhappy they are. They’ve been unhappy for so long that it just kind of feels normal to them now.
This was me for a long time.
For many years I didn’t write at all. I was definitely unhappy, but I didn’t actually know how unhappy I truly was, because I had never known anything different. Sure, a long time ago, when I was a kid, writing had felt fun to me. But by the time I hit my late teenage years it had become hard and painful. Every time it felt like an uphill battle.
Comparison syndrome is an issue that hits writers harder than most, and it sneaks up on you when you’re least expecting it. It’s that feeling of discovering something about another author that instantly makes you envious, while at the same time sending you into a shame spiral.
Maybe the other author is younger than you, and has had more success. Maybe they just published their fifth book in a series, while you’re still struggling to get even halfway through the first draft of your first novel. It might be as simple as seeing how many followers they have on social media, while you don’t yet have a working website. Whatever kind of success they’re having, you see it, and it makes you feel awful. It makes you feel small, and insignificant, and kind of stupid.
That’s comparison syndrome, and if you are a writer who suffers from toxic procrastination and/or crippling perfectionism, then you most likely feel it on a regular basis.