Stop. Look. Listen.

I like to keep an eye on the competition.

It’s not so much that I want to be better than someone else, it’s that I want to be better than I am. I’m competitive by nature, and I’ve found that just knowing what others are up to makes me rise to the occasion—regardless of what the occasion is.

Take learning to play the flute: I had weekly lessons during the school year, and I was mediocre at best. My instructor had the patience of a saint, listening to me not improve over a nine month period. She collected money from my parents and showed up each week. (Now I’m starting to understand where she found the patience of a saint!)

During one summer, I went to my best friend’s house. I arrived early, during her French horn lesson, and I listened to her play. So. Much. Better than I was. Surprisingly, that was the motivation I needed to practice. I spent the rest of the summer getting up to snuff, and when my instructor returned, she was shocked at the transformation. From then on, I was one of her star pupils. I even anchored the annual recital.

I find myself spying on the competition—watching them without telling them their being watched is spying, right?—and taking away that push to make myself better. I took away contests from one author, newsletter tips from another. Twitter tips from a third. Not because they gave me advice, but because I stalked them followed them and watched what they did.

What it comes down to is that some people do things better than I do, which makes me work harder to be the better than I am.

What about you? Ever spy on the competition to help raise your own bar of excellence?

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Author: Diane Vallere

Diane is the author of four mystery series. Like her character Samantha Kidd, she is a former fashion buyer; like her character Madison Night, she loves Doris Day movies, like her character Polyester Monroe, she lives in California; and like her character Margo Tamblyn, she has a thing for costumes. Find out more at http://dianevallere.com/.

9 thoughts on “Stop. Look. Listen.”

  1. Nice! I’m not sure the authors I spy on are competition, but more inspiration and I do pay close attention to what they do and how they do it, from how they write their books to how they interact in the public eye. So true!

  2. Fun! I definitely follow (in a virtual sense) the writers I admire, trying to learn. Finding that thing that inspires you to work harder is tough, sometimes, but worthwhile.

  3. I call them “competition” in the sense that we’re all competing for visibility and readers. I like to champion other writers because I know how much work it all is!

  4. If you defining reading, following other writers on Twitter/Facebook, and learning what they do “spying,” then yes. And I’m with you on calling other writers “competition.” We’re competing, but not, all at the same time.

  5. Learning from the best is definitely a great way to improve! My instructor always taught us in the martial arts that it’s not just “practice makes perfect,” but instead it’s “perfect practice makes perfect.”

  6. Most definitely! Spying/stalking/admiring other authors is the perfect way to learn, so when it’s your turn, you already know what works and what doesn’t.

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