Friday, November 03, 2006

How to Handle Success (Everyone Else's)

Sometimes it seems that everywhere you look, other writers are doing better than you.

Though writers tend to work in solitary, the community is pretty tight-knit and gossipy. Blogs, conferences, Publishers' Lunch, PW Weekly, email, and cell phones, all conspire to spread good news almost instantly.

Even if you're the humblest, happiest, and most down to earth writer on the planet, certain thoughts always creep into your brain. Thoughts like:

  • Why did she win the award?
  • Why did he get the movie deal?
  • Why did she get a three book contract?
  • Why did he get invited (and paid) to speak?
  • Why did she get the huge marketing campaign?
  • Why did he get the million dollar deal?
  • Why is she a lead title?
  • Why is he with the better publisher?
  • Why did she get on TV?
  • Why did he hit the NYT bestseller list?
  • Why is she on all the panels?
  • Why is he getting all the press?
  • Why did she get the huge print run?
  • Why did he get into Walmart?

And so on. And these questions are inevitable followed by: and not me?

After all, you're the better writer. Your book is better. You've struggled longer. You've worked harder. You've written more. Hell, you deserve it more. Why did that writer get it and not you?

I've long preached that comparing yourself to other writers is a one way ticket to despair. It's a no-win situation that can't possibly help you. If you're doing better than your peers, it's easy to develop a sense of entitlement, superiority, and egomania. If you're doing worse than your peers, it's easy to become bitter, angry, and depressed.

Here are some things to keep in mind, which might help curtail the poisonous envy:

There will always be someone doing better than you.

Luck plays a big part, no matter how hard you work or how talented you are.

There is no such thing as karma, no one is keeping score, and no such thing as destiny or fairness.

The writers you wish you were all wish they were someone else.

The only writer you're competing with is yourself.

Anyone can make it.

The last one is the most important. Your goal should be to maximize your opportunities, minimize your weaknesses, and keep at it until you're the one that makes it.

And quit comparing yourself to other writers. It's like comparing yourself to lottery winners, or people who have been run over by cars. No one deserves it.

Now get back to work. Luck isn't going to happen surfing the net, reading blogs.