Monday, September 30, 2013

Savoring your own success

Seeing Green: In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott spends a lot of air time on writer envy—that bile inside her that bubbles to the surface any time a friend (or frenemy) wins a big award or sells movie rights. Do you suffer from the same affliction? How do you combat it?

by Meredith Cole

A long time ago I was a hopeful unpublished writer attending a writer's conference in New York City. An agent was presenting, and was giving his take on the publishing business. After his talk he answered a few questions, and then right at the end he said that he wanted to just say one more thing. He had noticed with great sorrow that most writers appeared to be perpetually dissatisfied. They got a great review, but they complained that were not a New York Times bestseller. They won an award but they griped that they didn't win a different one. And he felt like all his clients were always green with jealousy about the success of other writers.  (Maybe he was Anne Lamott's agent... Who knows!)

The agent's advice to all the hopeful writers in the room was to be happy and relish each small victory. Enjoy when he you get published, or finish a story. Savor each victory. There will always be disappointments. There will always be obstacles. So make sure you take time to enjoy the good stuff.

Many wonderful writers I know have times when everything seems to be going their way. I admit to feeling a pang of jealousy when I hear someone has swept all the awards or sold their movie rights for a hefty sum. Or is having a great time at a conference I would have loved to attend.

But I'm also a reader. I enjoy reading the books of my peers, and I rejoice when a book I love is up for an award. I reach out to friends to congratulate them (hoping that they are savoring their own victories), and then I get back to work. No one can receive awards or publish a bestselling novel unless they write them first. And just because there can only be one New York Times #1 bestselling novel a week doesn't mean that there are fewer readers or fewer opportunities for the rest of us.

So... Savor. Write. Read. Repeat.


Clare ODonohue said...

Good advice, Meredith.

I know a woman who compares herself constantly to others and has some kind of running scorecard in her head, someone else's accomplishment or good fortune against her own. "She just got a big promotion," she'll say, "But I weigh less." It seems exhausting and pointless. And un-winable. (if that's a word.)

The only things worth keeping score about are the things you can control - I love all the good stuff when it comes my way - but the truth is the only time I pull out the "Happy dance" (and yes I actually dance) is when I type "The End" on a manuscript. As a writer so much else is out of our control, and so much is luck or timing. But writing - and finishing - is not.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Excellent advice! I know from experience how easy it is to sink into comparison mode, especially when you're exhausted from your own writing.

Edith Maxwell said...

Yes! Very nice post. And I remind myself that I am living my dream. Which is awesome.

Now, when can we expect another book from YOU? I loved your first two and keep hoping for an announcement about another one.

Meredith Cole said...

I love that you do a happy dance, Clare! Finishing a book is such a huge accomplishment and should always be celebrated...

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks for dropping by Edith! The next book is done... Hopefully I'll have exciting news to post soon! Just trying to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment (pauses to go do happy dance...)

Edith Maxwell said...

Oh, goodie!

Susan C Shea said...

Good perspective, Meredith. What I love about the crime writing community is a generally high level of mutual support and cheerleading. And when I am glum, thinking I'll never be a finalist for an award, I remind myself I have a sparkling agent, a book contract, and 2-going-on-3 books published.That's more than I dared dream when I started my new career.