In one week, three people I know got published. Not even just “published.” They got BOOK DEALS. From real publishers. I read about it on Facebook and in Publisher’s Marketplace and in a text from my neighbor.
Right off, let me say that I am not an ogre, so I was completely and uncomplicatedly happy for them. I think that’s one of the great things about the writing community: we are sincerely happy to see others succeed, even if it’s just because it means we’ll get to read their books.
But, of course, it made me reflect on my own career thus far. A career in which, although I freelance regularly and work hard, I have yet to make my own book deal with a real publisher. Cue the pity party, which included a Boston cream doughnut, another cup of coffee, and an extended cuddle with my dog.
If you go on social media pretty much any time of day, you’ll come across a meme that, in one way or another, tells you not to compare yourself to other writers because it is the superhighway to unhappiness and doom and desperation.
Well, Twitter and Facebook are wrong again. To compare yourself to other writers isn’t the highway to ruin—at least, it isn’t when you do it the right way and not to make yourself miserable. Carefully handled, comparison can help inspire and motivate.
So when your friends and neighbors are getting published or signed by agents or winning awards or whatever it is that signifies success for you when you aren’t there yet, compare yourself to them like the confident visionary that you are:
Acknowledge how long it took them to get there and how hard they worked for it. Are there overnight successes? Sure, but not as often as we think. Most “overnight” successes are just people who’ve worked their butts off for ten or twenty years and then, suddenly, someone notices them in a big way. Are you working your butt off?
Study them. How did they get where they are today? Are they members of professional associations? Did they take classes? Go to workshops or conferences? Are they reading all the books they can get their hands on? What are you doing—besides working your butt off—to be your best?
Draw inspiration from them. These are real people! Who you know! And they did what you want to do! You don’t need some Instagram quote about how J.K. Rowling or Stephen King persevered through rejection after rejection (although that’s awesome, too). These are everyday folks in your own backyard who had dreams and are getting it done. If they can do it, so can you!
I would hate to think that when I publish my first book, it would make someone else feel “less than.” Other writers’ successes shouldn’t be a source of self-doubt. The more good writing that’s out there, the more we all benefit. So let’s celebrate each writer’s success, glean what we can, and get back to work.
If you compare yourself to other writers too often, you could miss out on new opportunities for writing. Read another piece by this author about finding creativity in the unfamiliar.