Do you compare your writing to others, both published and unpublished?
I think it's impossible to not compare, at least at some level.
But is comparing a bad thing or a good thing?
I know there are a number of bad reasons to compare... like, it can discourage you about your own writing, or it can frustrate you to see a book in print that (comparatively) isn't all that well written.
Also, it's not like comparing an apple to an apple, there's no way to find a story where every aspect can directly be compared to your own.
If you take the bad comparisons too far, I think a writer's own voice can become stunted if they try to emulate another writer's work that they consider *better* than their own. Or, they will become bitter about the entire process/business and quit writing.
But what are the good aspects of comparing one's literary work to others?
I think it's the only true way to determine where your limits are.
If you're writing in a vacuum, you'll have no sense whether what you're working on is good, bad, overwritten, sparse, poorly paced, etc. You'll never know where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
Comparing is the only true way to better understand your own writing, and (hopefully), set the baseline from which to lay out new goals, figure out where you can improve, and not just take your strengths for granted.
What do I mean by that last bit?
Well, I think it's part of giving back, especially in the online community and within your own writing groups.
Understanding your own strengths is a great way to help others when they are weak in those areas. If queries come really easily to you, it's a wonderful thing to be able to lend a hand to someone who tears out their hair, but you won't be any help at all if you don't understand why you can write good queries.
We learn best from each other, and I think that's an awesome thing.
Analyzing your strengths is just as important as analyzing your weaknesses. And any strength can still be improved upon.
Personally, I know I compare my writing to my writing group/CP's more than I compare to published work. I think this is because I know them, I know their processes, and I can often recognize the intention/force that drives their storytelling.
With a published author, I get none of that behind-the-scenes information.
One big thing I totally envy about the other members of my writing group is they always seem to have so much more plot than I do! (yes, BOTH of you...)
As a pantser, one worry that always hangs close is that I'm going to run out of plot. Somehow, things always seem to work out in the end, but when I've written to the point where I don't know anything else... oh yeah, that's when the voice of doubt starts whispering...
Like right now... as I'm trying to write the night that Jackson died... and have gotten as far as Triss & the MC walking in the door. I (obviously) know how it ends... but my word count is just under 40,000 words at this point. Even if that night takes 10,000 words to tell, that's still a very slim story.
So yes, right now I'm comparing, envying, analyzing my weaknesses, and striving to improve.
Oh! And I've just started to train my body to run in the Vibram five-fingers! This is exciting 'cause, as a teenager, I was told by a very famous sports doctor* that I was not allowed to run, ever (or use a bicycle) because I have zero cartilage in my knees.
BUT, the Vibrams? So far, I can run/jog/walk my dog for an hour without being crippled in pain afterwards, so, YEAH!
...my stamina sucks though :p
*He took care of professional athletes, including a couple of the Vancouver Canucks... don't ask me how in the world I ended up getting to see a specialist of that caliber... I think my family doctor must have had good blackmail on the guy ;)