The other day, I diagnosed a friend with OWS (Other Writer Syndrome). She was telling me that she used to think she would write a book, until she read the writing of someone else and grew discouraged. My friend is suffering from a common ailment, and one I know well.
OWS does not discriminate. It can hit a beginning writer (most common), but the most experienced of writers can also experience the discomfort and irritability that indicate OWS.
My first case of OWS appeared after I attended my first writer’s conference. Instead of being encouraged by the smashing success of others, I felt smashed by it. I thought they were so good. And I was so bad. They were so published. I was so not. Their future was bright. Mine loomed ahead, empty of opportunity. My most recent battle with OWS was earlier today when I spoke with a writer-friend who just seems so much more together than I am.
My first bout of OWS curled me up into a fragile little writer ball for about a week. This last one only took about 10 minutes to work through. What I’ve learned in the years between the two cases is to turn that icky, yucky feeling of comparing yourself to others and finding yourself wanting, into inspiration to do better. This internal somersault is more difficult for those of us who are more Eeyore than Tigger, but it’s still possible to control OWS symptoms. Here’s how.
1. Be thankful for what you have and who you are.
2. Use the success of others as proof that it can be done! And you can do it too!
3. Find a mentor, maybe it’s the person who first gave you OWS to begin with?
4. Don’t give up. Unfurl yourself from the fetal position, stand up straight, and keep on writing.