Handling Other Writers' Success
Hi everyone! I am so happy to be back, after my two-month hiatus. I was off doing lots of personal things, and during that time I did NO writing whatsoever. Within the last two weeks, however, I’ve dived back into my rewrite/revision of WHAT LIES ABOVE, and I am so excited to be back in the WLA world. I missed it so much!
SOME HOUSEKEEPING BUSINESS:
If you missed my announcement today, I have now changed my blogging schedule up a little bit. In addition to Quills & Coffee, I also have a YouTube channel, and in order to balance both, I have decided to post a new blog every Wednesday and a new video every Saturday. While my blog posts here on Quills & Coffee are strictly tips, tools, and encouragement for writers (so, basically, all things writing-related), my YouTube channel covers some light writing advice, updates on my WLA publication journey, and bookish videos (tags, challenges, hauls, event/conference vlogs, etc.). It is very eclectic, but all still bookish related, so I invite you all to come over and visit me there too. If you are after more strict writing advice, stick around here, because I will still be posting every Wednesday.
Alright, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into today’s topic: dealing with fellow writers’ success. This can be incredibly difficult, and we as writers can often bottle up our emotions in this area because we pretend we don’t feel them. Or, we recognize the emotion, but we feel guilty and try to silence it. Instead, let’s bring it out in the open and address what causes it, and how to deal with it. What is the “it” I am referring to? Well, my friends, let me tell you…
I know. It’s a dreaded word. It makes us squirm. We never want to be perceived as being jealous people, especially not towards our fellow writers. This, I think, is why we try to ignore the emotion and push it away. But jealousy is a very real part of the writing journey, and at some point, we have/will probably all experience it.
Today I am going to be strictly talking about social-media-related jealousy. This can include YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or any other viral platform. I will do a separate post in the future about literary envy itself --- when we read another writer/author’s work and grow jealous of their talent, success, etc. But for today, let’s stick to social media.
With NaNoWriMo starting today, there is going to be A LOT of tweets/posts/updates in the next month regarding progress. Some people will probably be celebrating how many words they are pumping out each day, and as we draw to the end of the month, there will be “winners” doing the happy dance all across the world. And you know what? They worked hard!! Let them dance! But for the rest of us on-lookers, maybe we didn’t reach our goal on that day. Or maybe we didn’t get to 50,000 in November. It is going to be a struggle to stay positive. A struggle to congratulate others.
So let’s get real, everyone, and talk about the uncomfortable, squirmy topic of jealousy.
First of all, a note about NaNoWriMo – I placed the word “winners” in quotations because I don’t really like to view those who didn’t reach their goal as losers. I am not saying that everyone is equal and there is no such thing as competition. But, the idea behind NaNoWriMo is not to compete against other writers. It is really to challenge yourself. It is to see if you can reach your own personal goal in one month. Even if you only write 20,000 words, that is 20,000 more than you had on October 31st. Progress is progress, so be proud of yourself for your hard work.
Alright, moving into an even wider arena, let’s look at some common scenarios that could cause jealousy (by the way, all these images are examples I screen-shotted from fake social media posts that I created myself for the purpose of this example, hence the red line under "misspelled" words; the posts aren't real, but they represent real messages I have seen in the past)…
The super productive writing session
The full/partial request status
The “I just signed with an agent” announcement
The “six agents liked my Twitter pitch” celebration
The “EVERYBODY, I’M GETTING PUBLISHED!!!” Happy Dance
Now, is there anything wrong with the above things? Inherently, no. There is nothing wrong with sharing exciting news about your journey. After all, the writing community is supposed to be a place of support and encouragement. We support each other through our struggles and celebrate through our successes.
But, sometimes, even when you honestly, genuinely want to be supportive, it’s still hard. It’s hard to be in the query trenches and then see a post that someone just signed with an agent. It’s like a blow to the gut. You start to knock yourself down, and doubt starts whispering that you will never find representation… never get published. The only people who will ever see your writing is your Mom and your dog. It’s easy for our imaginations to get the best of us. We are writers after all! :)
I think there definitely is a fine line between posting a celebratory Tweet/post/picture/etc. and plain gloating, but that is probably a topic for a different day. Suffice it to say that you need to be aware of how often you are posting your celebratory posts. Are you also sharing ones that are honest? Ones that reflect your fears? Your failures?
Imagine an author who is getting published, who encourages you to hang in there and persevere, because your time will come. It’s easy to subconsciously respond, “Well, that’s easy for you to say, because your past that now. You’ve made it.”
I said this before in a video on my channel, but I want to reiterate --- that is NOT how things work in the writing world. An author hasn’t “made it” just because they signed with an agent, or got a book deal. Their journey isn’t over. In fact, it has really just begun, in a sense. They are simply at a different stage than you. They are still climbing their mountain, like every other writer. Sure, they might be at a peak, but you don’t just stay on a peak your entire life. You want to keep exploring. You eventually have to come down, so you can climb to new heights and have new adventures.
Realize that authors who encourage others to persevere aren’t saying it from a place of superiority. They’re saying it from a place of understanding. They were where you are. They know what that feeling is like.
This is the key concept to understand when it comes to jealousy. We are all following our own unique path, and that is beautiful. BUT, we are journeying together, in a similar direction.
Guys, I understand what it’s like to be in the dark depths of the query trenches. I understand what it’s like to be an inch from burning everything with fire and walking away. I know what it’s like to realize a project can’t be salvaged and have to start with a blank page, on a new project, which is a seemingly enormous and frightening task. I know what it’s like to have agents ask for partials, then fulls, and then reject me for a variety of reasons. And while we’re on the topic of rejection, I know what that’s like. I’ve been rejected over 40 times for WHAT LIES ABOVE alone, spent three years on this manuscript, queried it twice, and am still reworking it. I know what it’s like to cling to a project because you have faith in it. Because you are passionate about it. Because you believe in it.
So when I post a tweet like this one…
...where I am seemingly on cloud nine, and have everything together, and am pumping out 1,500 new words plus thousands of words edited…
I also can look back and say, I was there in the dark query trenches. I was there when I almost gave up on WHAT LIES ABOVE. I was there when an agent offered me representation, and I turned them down. I know the heartbreak, the pain, the tears, the failure, the rejection, the doubt, the jealousy.
And other writers do too.
In the end, I really encourage you to remember that, when you see another writer who is celebrating something, and you feel like everything is going right for everyone else BUT you, keep pushing through. Even when the jealousy rears its head, remember that those same writers who are celebrating now have, at some point, wanted to give up.
That author who just signed with an agent, might have written six manuscripts before this one received an offer. That writer who just wrote 5,000 words today, might have spent the last two months staring at a blinking cursor, producing nothing. That reader who finished 250 books this year while you read four (*ahem, that person with only four would be yours truly, moi*)… they might have had a really bad year and found solace in books.
In other words, a tweet, post, or picture cannot show you everything. You don’t get to see all the backstory, the behind-the-scenes stuff. You don’t know what’s they’ve struggled through to have this happy moment.
So while jealousy is still something that will show up every now and then (because, after all, we’re human), try to keep in mind that we are all traveling on this beautiful, crazy, messy, wonderful writing journey together, and that we are all at different stages. Really, there is no destination. Publication is just another step. We continue to learn, continue to grow. No one has ever truly “made it”. They’ve just reached a milestone.
So congratulate your writing friends. Congratulate strangers, even! Share a little joy in the writing community when someone has a success, and remember… your day will come. And when it does, we’ll be there to celebrate with you too!
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