Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash.
In last week’s post on making friends in your writers’ community, there were two topics I meant to address but neglected to. So I thought I should briefly address them here. The first of these is perhaps hardest to deal with:
What to do when you are jealous of your writing friends
Assuming you are human, and imperfect, and have all the messy human emotions and foibles as the rest of us, it is likely you will, at one time or the other, find yourself in envy of your writing friends. Maybe someone got an agent already, while you’re still in the querying trenches. Maybe they were accepted into the mentoring program you were trying for, and it’s difficult to hide your disappointment. Or maybe their book got picked up by a publisher right away, and yours appears to be dying on submission. It happens.
So when, for whatever reason, you find yourself envious of your writing friends, here are my recommendations: First off, breathe. Be gentle with yourself, honor your emotions, and realize you are not a bad person for feeling this way. Then acknowledge that the only guaranteed way to avoid being jealous of your writing friends is not to have any. Wish your successful friend well–this is one of the few occasions I recommend “faking it until you make it”–and use whatever coping mechanisms you have that will not harm the relationship. Maybe you need to block a certain hashtag, or get off Twitter entirely, if you are feeling envious and bad about yourself. Or maybe you need to find people you can privately vent to, either in a private group chat or in person. The good news is, in most cases, this professional jealousy doesn’t last, or at least gradually loses its sting.
Every writer has their own path
It seems like these days writers have more publishing options than ever: from traditional publishing to self-publishing, and the smaller presses in-between. And that’s great … except when we assume others ought to follow the same publishing path as we do. Time and time again, I have seen traditionally published and aspiring traditionally published authors assume that those who self-publish “couldn’t get” an agent or a publisher, and that simply isn’t the case. Self-publishing has a lot of advantages for certain authors and genres, can be far more open to marginalized authors than traditional publishing, and literally means nothing about the quality of the book. Unless one wants to be an insufferable snob, it’s best to acknowledge this fact and accept the self-published as authors, with all the professional courtesy that merits.
By the same token, when a querying author bemoans a form rejection on a full request, I have seen self-published authors leap out of the woodwork to tell them, “Just self-publish.” This is pretty darned rude. Self-publishing has its downsides, from difficulties getting one’s book into physical bookstores to needing to pay for editing, formatting, and cover design. It is hard work. You may face less rejection from the gatekeepers, agents and editors, only to find it from readers and reviewers. Even if you secretly believe an author would fare better with self-publishing than trying for traditional publication, it’s really condescending to say so, and undercuts all the hard work self-published authors put in. Whatever your chosen path to publication, be aware that others might do differently, and that’s okay. With mutual respect, we can all be friends.