If I had a dollar for every time a writer friend has said this to me in the last two months:” I feel like everyone else is doing these great things and making this great progress and I’m just stuck here.” I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d be set for coffee money for the foreseeable future.
One of the fallouts of social media is that we are in a constant state of “spin.” We see the spin that everyone puts on their lives twenty-four -seven. Whereas it used to be that we only had to read the spin-version of someone’s life once a year in their really obnoxious Holiday Letter (and yes, I’ve written those letters, so I can say it), nowadays we’re confronted with it all day every day. And if we’re writers, we see their sales, their awards, and all of their famous bestseller friends meeting them for lunch, and plotting sessions, and signing events. It can be discouraging and disheartening and it can make you feel that you’re the lone loser left in the world of publishing.
But, the thing you have to remember is that you’re seeing only the tiny part of their lives that they choose to let you see. You’re also only seeing those tiny parts presented in the way that they choose. When your friend says she won the “International Bestseller Book Award” (I made that up btw, you don’t need to go Google it), that sounds impressive, right? And it is. Anytime we win an award for our writing it’s fabulous, but if you look closer you might discover that the award is given out by the local RWA chapter of a sparsely populated state and the judges were the members’ teenage daughters. It’s cool she won, it might not be as cool as it appears, however. You get what I’m saying here, right?
Smart writers, those of us who have learned how to market, put spin on everything. That doesn’t make us liars, but it doesn’t mean everything is exactly as it appears. Smart writers will post when they go to lunch with a friend who’s a bestseller, because let’s face it, it makes them seem more important themselves. Smart writers will post congratulations when someone they know makes a bestseller list. Do they want to congratulate their friend? Of course. Do they want everyone to know about their friend’s book? Of course. Do they want to associate themselves publicly with the bestselling friend? Also of course. And while we shouldn’t judge each other harshly for these marketing ploys, we also need to be aware of them and not let them affect our own self-worth.
As much as we’d all like to believe that success in publishing is primarily about writing a fabulous book, that’s really only a small part of the story. There is marketing, the market conditions, networking, and a great deal of luck. So, we control the things we can. We learn craft, we meet people and attend conferences, and we spin, spin, spin. Then we cross our fingers and hope that lady luck shines her light on us. And even the biggest bestseller you know is doing those things. At its core, the job is the same for all of us, and we all have varying degrees of success and failure day-to-day and year-to-year.
So the next time you’re feeling like everyone else is doing so much better than you, look for the spin. Remember that the virtual world is only one small part of the bigger world, and maybe look for something in your own career to spin. Because in order for anyone else to believe you’re “all that” you need to believe it first.