Thank You For (not) Asking…

19 Jan

It breaks my heart to write this post, but it seems… expedient.

Over the last couple years most of my close friends who have been actively writing and submitting with me since near the beginning have sold. Some of them are on their third and fourth books to go out into the world published.

This, to me, is a reason to be joyous. A reason to celebrate.

And yet, not a month goes by that someone doesn’t slyly try to hint at – if not out-and-out ask me – how I feel about being the last girl sitting in the unpublished section.

First, let me clarify. I have tons of unpublished friends as well. I have friends who write slower because that’s their style or because of their writing/life balance. I have friends who don’t submit aggressively. I have friends who write for hobby. And I do have a few friends from the beginning who write and submit as aggressively as I have who aren’t published. I’ve also met several people along the way in the same boat. Those are their stories to tell though.

But, many, many of my friends who write and submit at the same level of ambition as I do have sold. Many of my closest friends are published authors (either because they were when we met or they became published after that). I have two friends who have gotten the dream contracts – those ones you don’t ever expect to know someone who gets one, let alone earn for yourself.

And so, sometimes I am in rooms at conferences surrounded by amazing women who are amazing writers and have amazing books on the shelf. I’ve sat around having drinks and laughing and realized that I have no idea how I’d gotten into a certain room since I was literally the only unpublished person in it. Apparently, no one checked my ID.

I am blessed.

Blessed to know those people.

Blessed that they couldn’t care less that I’m not published

And yes, blessed that I couldn’t care less that they are published.

You see, other people’s successes don’t bother me. They don’t shame me. They don’t hurt me. They don’t even motivate me. Other people’s successes don’t really have a lot to do with me… or you.

So, when people ask, “How does it feel to be the one not published?” I know they are really asking, “Are you jealous? Does it hurt your friendships?”

Darlings, if we cannot rejoice in the joy of our friends, then our lives and our attitudes have become to small.

Am I Pollyanna? Nope. There is a certain book that has been highly successful that is a joke among my friends because it grates on me. It grates because I think it is sub-par. I don’t know the writer, but I think it’s great she is having success… I just really don’t like the book.

And there is a huge difference. Because, it is possible to dislike a product without having harsh feelings toward it’s creator.

I’ve been wondering as I’ve seen all the meltdowns online lately if some of it is caused by this… this feeling of competition where none truly exists. If the pressure to succeed has tainted relationships so far, that writers feel the brunt force of it from every direction. That the lashing out is a defense mechanism against the hurt of other people’s successes.

If it’s that pressure that has people asking (or hinting) about this.

In the world of writing, the only measuring stick you should have is yourself. If you’re not getting it done, don’t blame your lack of success on being left behind. Look and see what you need to change, grow or do more of. True, sometimes the best of writers with the most wondrous of stories is overlooked (let’s all pretend that’s me, k?) But, usually, when I think about what needs to happen to get my book on the shelf, the answer isn’t:New Yorkneeds to stop buying such-and-such so they can buy me – It’s, I need to A B C and sometimes Q more.

Yes, sometimes that is hard. Sometimes I do feel behind. But, is it my friends’ fault? Or the industries? Or do I just need to continue getting my butt in the chair and working for what I want? I’m going to go with that last one.

By keeping focused squarely on myself, it allows me to honestly rejoice with my friends and colleagues in their successes.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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13 Responses to “Thank You For (not) Asking…”

  1. Sara January 19, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Love this! SO well said!! I often wonder why more people aren’t able to full-heartedly celebrate the triumphs of friends/colleagues/family members? Too often, we spend way too much time feeling jealous or left out…time that would be much better spent working on the aspects of our own lives that would help us get to our own happiness!

  2. briaq January 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    So true Sara. And, if you’re always upset about other’s successes while you’re still working toward yours…. where are we going to find the joy then?

  3. Sashi January 19, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    Well said Bria. I think the questions often come from people who aren’t writers and are wondering how anyone could doggedly pursue something that seems so dang difficult. I think, unfortunately, sometimes the questions come from people who wish they had the drive to pursue their own ambitions and may even be jealous of you for your persistence. Either way, ballsy post and I like it!

  4. briaq January 19, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    Thanks Sashi,

    I get a ton of “is your book out yet?” (emphasis on the “yet”) from non-writers. It seems (in my circle) that the jealousy question comes up a lot from other writers… it always makes me wonder how they’re dealing.

  5. Sara January 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Bria: Exactly!! (“Where are we going to find the joy?”) The thing that really puzzles me is that there seems to be this attitude of scarcity…like someone else’s success detracts/makes our own impossible. It’s weird because I actually think the opposite: there’s endless opportunities for all of us. When my friends succeed, I’m genuinely thrilled for them. I’m happy to bask in the glow of their glory from the sidelines 😉

    I haven’t gotten this question from published writer friends (yet) but I get the equally dreaded, “So…what’s going on with your book” question all the time from non-writer friends. I don’t know if it’s because they wish they had the chutzpah to chase their dreams or whether they’re trying to comprehend the insanity of my choice to chase mine. lol.

  6. briaq January 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Right – Publishing isn’t a zero sum game… although, business are. It’s hard to balance those two thoughts in the same space I think.
    Go you and your writing!!!

  7. Sabrina January 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Fantastic Post! I identified with this so closely. It’s been almost 3 years and I’m still trying to write The End on my very 1st WIP. Meanwhile, I have friends who’ve published, who’ve gotten big contracts and even made friends with some pretty big named authors. I’ve had those same questions, “When are you going finish already?” – Like I don’t ask myself that every single day! LOL

    I too feel blessed to share time with them and to be one of a team that cheers each other on instead of caring who’s at what level. There are no “levels” among my writing friends and I love that. It seemed the only people who want to put labels and levels on us are the outsiders looking in.

    Thanks for a lovely reminder about counting your blessings.

  8. briaq January 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

    Sabrina, I love that “There are no levels among my writing friends” – exactly… then they wouldn’t be “friends”

  9. Sara January 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Bria: agree! Publishing isn’t zero-sum and sometimes businesses are (or positions/promotions within businesses). I have seen businesses co-exist to nobody’s detriment though (think: restaurants!)
    Thank you so much (for this post and your encouraging words). I’m so excited to have found your blog!

  10. Bethanne January 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Perfectly said, Bria.
    And when I met you years ago, we were both unpublished, and we’re still unpublished now. You are right! I have only to look at myself and see that I need to do X,Y and Z… 😀
    How selfish! And egotistical! LOL 😀 Self, self, self. Me, me, me.

    I have to look at me to see what I am doing. My success this week is writing 1000 words, ya know? Someday, publishing will be part of my success but it will be no bigger a success than this week has been.

    Keep writing, Bria.
    Love,
    Bethanne

  11. Jo Ramsey January 22, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    Great post, Bria. I have people sometimes asking me how I feel to be published by “companies no one’s heard of”, and I admit sometimes I do feel a little when I’m surrounded by people with agents and Big 6 contracts. But I’ve wanted to be an author all my life; I’ve been writing stories since I was five years old. I might be living my dream with small presses right now, but I’m still living it and I celebrate it.

  12. abby mumford January 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    this is a wonderful post about keeping your eye on the prize, but still managing to be grounded enough to properly celebrate your friends’ prizes too. your day will come and we’ll all CHEER and SQUEAL and PROPERLY REJOICE in your news. 🙂

  13. briaq January 23, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

    Bethanne ~ Lovely to “see” you 🙂 It’s hard sometimes, looking at ourselves, isn’t it? *covers mirror*

    Jo – You constantly amaze me with your work ethic, consistancy and go get’em’ness. If you ever feel that way, email me and I’ll slap it out of you. Seriously.

    Abby – I assume “properly rejoice” means drinks 😉

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