As I begin taking steps toward having a novel released, I start wondering about, you know, comparing myself. As I mentioned in a previous post, A little healthy comparison, an author cannot compare certain things. Sales, fans, popularity, success. Not only are these elements largely outside of a persons direct control, they are also subjective.
Sales depend on exposure and marketability (cover art, blurb, author presence), as well as content. Fans are a trickier thing again, but a small and rabid fanbase can do more for an author than a larger, lukewarm group. Popularity comes and goes, for the book, for the author, for the genre. And success, that’s all in the eye of the beholder. Success is determined by what you want, and reaching milestones and goals.
Will I be able to keep that mindset once my book is out there, competing with the rest? Will I stay Zen? I like to think I know myself pretty well. I am honestly, truly happy to support other writers and see them succeed. In terms of what others have achieved before me already; the stack of finished manuscripts, the publishing acceptance, their dream agent, or a roaring independent career, I can say that I only rejoice for them! I can assess what they’re doing, and make decisions about my own path in relation, but I don’t feel grumbly that I’m not there yet.
But it changes when you’re down in the dirt with them. It would be naïve to pretend otherwise. Looking from the outside in might have a twinge of longing beside it, but once you’re actually exposed and, really, once you’re vulnerable, something shifts.
Again, I’m pretty self-aware, as far as I can tell. I don’t believe there will ever come a time where my friendships and admiration for other people and their own writing success will become tainted with jealousy or resentment. I don’t work that way. Sure, I get down on myself when I think I’m not doing so well, but that has little to do with what others are getting out of their efforts. My little stabs of depression are almost universally because I haven’t reached a goal I set out for – even if that goal was a barely half-thought mad idea in the first place.
In the end, it’s not that someone else did – it’s that I thought I could, and I didn’t. Especially if I know I didn’t try hard enough. So here’s to ongoing happiness, even when the competition starts!