If there’s one piece of advice writers like to give other writers, it’s “Don’t compare yourself to others.”
I cannot tell you how many times I sat with my laptop, viewing the success of others and reading the unwritten subtext put there just for me: You’re a failure because you don’t have an agent/book/deal/best pound cake on the block.
To be clear, the subtext of almost every book deal and I got an agent post is “Oh, gods, please don’t see that I’m a fake and have managed to completely bamboozle this person into liking my work! I’m so happy, but TERRIFIED because no one talks about the After in Happily Ever After.”
Yes there are a lot of writers who feel like they worked hard and deserve it (I applaud you confident writers who don’t suffer from the dreaded impostor syndrome), but there are heaps tons more who feel like some person with a clipboard is going to show up and say “I’m sorry, but we both know you’re a fraud.” (this, is a direct quote from Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art commencement speech, good stuff)
Our stories tell us that the part that’s actually super hard is something those movie people cover up with one song (usually edited), and the whole process is really a great backdrop for a Rom Com. The stories most of us consume have endings (some happy, some not), and we try to fit our lives into these story templates. And it doesn’t work. We compare to other people, and we see that what they present to the internet fits the mold: worked hard, made the thing, queried and got the agent, BOOK DEAL!
It’s the perfect happily ever after rolled up in blog posts and tweets. Sometimes these success stories feel like fairytales, all wrapped up with a perfect little bow. And do you know what bearing this has on your journey?
None. Absolutely none.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll tear yourself apart comparing yourself to these fairytales. And they aren’t real. The path in writing is so very unclear. So much is about taste and preference, it’ll kill you to go about assuming the normal rules apply to publishing and agents and writing.
In the movies (which we’ve been taught to use as our gauge of how to process the world), it’s simple: You work hard, you put in the time, and you get the reward. Our stories are built this way so we understand that our culture values hard work. Unfortunately, the formula in movies doesn’t pan out in real life. In real life, you can work as hard as is humanly possible, and the reward you were working for might not come. You did nothing wrong, but you don’t win the game or get the book deal/agent/job. And we don’t have many stories like that even if it is a reality of our world.
But Rena, how can you talk about disappointment when you have Book Deals and even a book coming out in November??
Oh, sweet summer child, I know more pain than can be seen in my scars. I struggle everyday with the doubt born of how I clearly bamboozled my way into having a book deal, but I’ve never been a good enough con-artist to get an agent. My rejections folder is filled with “Not right for me,” “Send me your next project,” “I’m sure someone will snatch this up if they haven’t already.”
And I know those sound like I’m on the right track, but those were responses I got with the second book I queried. I’ve queried a number since then, and I still get those responses. And some of that is my fault. I tend to query my books too early. I have taken some of those books and revised them and that’s how I got my book deals (you know, after collecting a no from every agent who will even read SFF).
And here I am, on the brink of #Pitchwars with the very awkward path of trying to get a mentor for a book I’m probably rushing towards a Happily Ever After that probably doesn’t really exist while juggling an upcoming book release, trying to plot out another sequel and promotion. It’s awkward. I was supposed to get the agent, then get the book deal. I never did anything the standard way, but I’m worried my rush to get to Happily Ever After may have hamstringed my attempts to get an agent. I’m worried I’m no longer a fresh naïve writer. I’m wiser now, but I’m still worried I’m rushing. Just the other day, I realized there was a major revision I could put into my manuscript to make it significantly cooler, so I’m trying to nail that down before I throw my hat into the arena.
So that’s this month’s insecurity. How about you all, anyone else struggle with rushing their projects?