For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

October 23, 2015

What's in this heart-to-heart?


Recent Goings On

In case you missed it, I'm auctioning off a critique + Truthwitch ARC + 15-minute Skype chat in an attempt to raise money for UNICEF! More details here!
And in totally unrelated news, I'm hooked on the Kdrama She Was Pretty. Silly standards of beauty aside, it's SO fun and SO sweet. And as much as I adpre the romance (oh, Choi Siwon! Your dimples could kill me!), I really, really love the friendship between our two leading ladies.

So basically, I highly recommend this show. (Watch it here!)

For the Mislanders:

Truthwitch Winner

I don't have a whole lot to share this week beyond a giant THANK YOU to everyone who helped spread the word about the UK Truthwitch cover last week!

And also, I want to thank everyone who came to my Grand Rapids Comic-Con presentation + signing last weekend. I had so, so, SOOOO much fun -- and that's entirely thanks to all of you. ♡

NOW! Let's announce our winner for the UK Truthwitch ARC!

Olivia Page!

Oh, and in case you missed it, there's another ARC giveaway going on (it's international!) as part of the #MySeaFox coloring contest! Check out #MySeaFox Madame Chompsalot here.

For the Daydreamers:

How to Stop Comparing (or at least how to TRY)

I want to preface this newsletter section with a thank you.

The outpouring of emails  I received after the last newsletter -- some to say thank you, but many to simply share your own stories -- was nothing short of incredible. You all have been through so much and yet have still pulled yourself up and kept going.

You're a huge source of inspiration to me. All of you. And I truly mean that.

And it's all those emails and messages that prompted today's post on comparison -- because you all reminded me that there's so much more to our lives than what we share outwardly online.

You know what I'm talking about when I say comparison. It's that misery-inducing thing that happens when you look at someone else's good fortune and think, Why is his life so great? Why doesn't that stuff ever happen to me? I work so hard!

It also happens in the reverse way: Oh, poor her. I feel bad, but you know she doesn't work hard enough! It's her own fault.

Comparison isn't one of the nicer aspects of humanity, and unfortunately, the Internet Age has made it much more likely to happen.

But why? Why do we do this? Why do we call prey to feelings of inadequacy or, on the flip side, feelings of superiority? And how can we stop it?

Reasons for Comparison
  1. We all want to be above average.
  2. We beat ourselves up when we're not above average, and then we tend to put ourselves above others as a way to "self-medicate."

Let's start with reason #1: We all want to be above average. For better or worse, we all have instilled in us a deep need (I mean deeeeeep need) to be better than everyone else around us. Not just in one facet of live, either, but in ALL facets.

We're taught that we must be special, and to be special we must outperform/outshine/out-whatever all of the people around us.

But think about this for a minute. We can't ALL be above average. Trust me on this: it's mathematically impossible. So WHY do we beat ourselves up so mercilessly when we don't perform in that 99th percentile? Why does being "just average" actually equate to being "worthless?"

Let me give you an example that happened to me. Recently, I was super excited about some good news I got: Truthwitch received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. This was top-shelf AWESOMESAUCE for me -- I'd never gotten a star before!

Fast forward to a few days later when a fellow author (a nice person, who didn't mean anything rude. He just didn't think before he spoke.) said to me: "Oh, your first star? Cool. You know they really don't mean much. I've gotten a few stars now, and whoopty-do!"

These words instantly sank into my brain, and my brain instantly said, You suck! That star means nothing! Other authors have >1 star, and even they aren't special. So you must be way, way, WAY below special with your single, solo star.

In other words, I was actively beating myself up for not being the best.

Now: I will say that I caught myself spiraling downward pretty fast. And because I've been actively working on Not Comparing for a while, I was able to stop the reaction dead in its tracks.

But had this been Sooz-of-a-year-ago? I would've probably felt super depressed, and then a few minutes later, I would've tried to "self-medicate" by finding other areas I could feel superior in. For example: Well, I might not have gotten a ton of starred reviews, but at least I have more followers on Twitter than he does. 

I'm not proud that I would've thought things like (or that I definitely still do, despite my best attempts not to). But I know you all do the same -- it's reason #2 for the Comparison Game. We all SELF-MEDICATE with feelings of false superiority, and those little bursts of "I'm Better" briefly improve our self-esteem.

Seriously: just pay attention to your thoughts for a day and see how often pseudo-superior words cross your mind. And they don't have to be obviously superficial sentences. It could be, "Well, he might have a better career, but at least I get to spend more time with my family."

I'm sure you can see how toxic (and prevalent) this behavior is. And I'm sure you can see how the Interwebs -- where we ONLY share the best possible news -- has turned comparison into a national pastime.

So how do we stop this?

How to Stop (Or Try to Stop) Comparison
  1. Stop bullying yourself.
  2. Find the shared humanity.
First and foremost, we have GOT to stop glorifying self-flagellation and self-criticism. I am so, so, SO guilty of this (as my literary agent and film agent have told me a thousand freaking times). I tell myself I'm worthless, I'm lazy, I'm a Grade-A-POS, and much, much worse.

But let's be honest -- would I EVER talk to someone else the way that I talk to myself? HELL NO. And if I ever heard someone speaking that way to another person, I would 10000% step in and defend.

It's like the Radiohead song "Just": You do it to yourself, you do. And that's what really hurts.

I'm not saying that you should tell yourself you're beautiful and perfect. In fact, if you do that, you might get end up arrogant and vain, which is just as bad as critical.

No, what I'm saying is to stop bullying yourself. When you make a mistake, acknowledge the mistake...and then comfort yourself just like you would your best friend: "Aw, man. That sucks. I'm sorry. But you're only human! And I'm sure you'll get it right next time -- you just gotta work a bit harder."

Or, in the case of my starred review sadness, my inner BFF stepped in and said: "Yo! DUDE. You got a freaking star, which means the reviewer loved your book -- like really loved. That's pretty f**kin' awesome, no matter what. And Your last book got no stars -- so clearly you're improving as a writer! You should CELEBRATE that triumph!"

Now, it might start off that these are just words you tell yourself. They take a long, long, LONG time to sink in. But the more you pay attention to the bullying in your head and the more you intervene on your victim-self's behalf, the less you'll the negative stuff will happen.

And of course, there's one more piece of this puzzle. It's the most important piece, and that is remembering we're all the same.

Okay, here's an example: you know that feeling you get when you meet someone who's in the same fandom as you? Like, every time I meet a fellow Dragon Age fan, my first words are: "AAAAAAH!" followed by "WHO ARE YOU ROMANCING?!"

Then a fast-as-light conversation ensues with lots of smiling and laughing and happy-happy-happy connectedness. You love what I love! We have something awesome in common, and I automatically care about you!

Now imagine if you could feel that way about everyone you meet.

I'm going to let that sink in for a minute because, for me, that one thought was life-changing. What if I could find something that connects me to every single person I meet?

Maybe the guy next to me on the bus also does martial arts. Or the gal I buy dog food from is also in Ravenclaw. Or the quiet girl who lives down the street also binge dances to K-pop in her kitchen. Or hell, maybe that grumpy barista I see every Sunday also enjoys birding in his spare time.

Sometimes, though, we aren't connected by something happy and exciting. Sometimes we feel that deep sense of union through a shared understanding of something difficult. Last weekend, I met a guy whose dog had just passed away. Having lost dogs before, I knew how deeply that wound could cut, and I instantly felt a raw, honest connection to this poor man.

Everyone out there (except for maybe psychopaths!) has something to which you can relate. I don't care where that person lives, what that person's history is, or how vastly, wildly different he/she may seem.

I'm human. You're human. End of story.

And isn't that pretty freaking cool?

Now, consider how this might affect the comparison game. You stop seeing others as competition but instead as part of your tribe. You remember that for all a person's outward success, you don't know what's happening behind-the-scenes.

Not only does shared humanity soften the hurt when I'm not above average, but it also keeps me from slipping into the self-medication of superiority.

"Yo! DUDE. You got a freaking star, and that's awesome! But you shouldn't be upset with this author for what he said. He's got his own shit to deal with, and for all you know, that shit might be brutal. And on top of that, he loves Fallout as much as you do, so he can't be all bad!"

So here's my challenge for you all: First, I want you to cut yourself some slack. When the Inner Bully leaves you with a black eye, let your Inner BFF come out to ice the wound and pep talk you for the future.

And the next time you meet someone -- a frenemy, an enemy, a total stranger -- find what connects you as humans. Explore (and embrace) all that you have in common.

Not only will you find you compare yourself less, but you might just find you're a bit happier too.

Upcoming Events:


NCTE ALAN Worskshop
November 21-23, 2015
Signing Truthwitch 12PM, 11/21
Panel on Fantasy 2PM, 11/23

Link Roundup:

As always, here are some links to wrap up your Friday!

photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2015
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St., Suite 410
New York, NY 10018

I'm a misfit, a daydreamer, a fangirl, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.