I guess that should be one of the universal truths in life. It was something I definitely learned as I got older. I'm getting close to forty years old, and yet, I don't feel a whole lot different than I did in my twenties--except I can't stay out all night without paying for it the next day. But you know what I mean. Of course, I've grown, I'm matured, I'm more confident, but inside, being thirty-eight doesn't feel very different from all those other ages. In fact, I remember vividly all those stupid and really fun things I did when I was younger that I'm glad I did! I don't have a lot of regrets, because even those made me who I am today. And I'm definitely glad I had my wild and woolly days, so I can look back and laugh and enjoy them now that I'm a little more settled. (Except when I'm at RT, but hey, that shouldn't count...lol!)
Lately, I've found out how much this axiom applies to writing and writers. Now, I'm convinced writers are a very insecure breed of animal. I know each and every time I write a book, I'm afraid it's crap and that the public in general are going to gag when they read it. Then I'm pleasantly surprised when reviewers like it, it sells well and I get emails and letters from readers telling me they can't wait for the next book in the series. And it's not just whole books that suffer from this. Every time I finish a chapter and send it off to my critique group, I'm afraid they are going to come back and ask what the hell I'm thinking by sending them this drivel!
I know I'm not alone in this. I have friends who are NYT & USA Today Best Selling authors, as well as those who are just published and those who are pre published. And the universal truth is, all of them (or us, I should say) react the same way I mentioned in the paragraph above.
Don't get me wrong, we enjoy our successes. As for me, I'm a multi-published author with two pen names and a loyal and very vocal fan base. And it still makes me smile and my throat tighten with excitement every time I see my books on the shelf in a store. I'm very proud of what I've accomplished. Hell, I was too terrified to even begin writing for publication until 2003 when my husband told me to stop talking about it and just go do it. So, in a short time, I've accomplished a lot. I'm happy, I'm proud, I'm still plugging along and know I will continue to grow and improve as a writer. So what's my problem?
I think it's back to the axiom above. I don't feel any different. I know all these accomplishments are real, and yet, they don't feel different. My friend, the NYT and USA Today Best Seller concurs. Don't you think that when you get that call that you are on one or both of those lists that your life should change and you should feel like you've reached some sort of writing milestone? Hmmm. Well, apparently it's great and nice and all that, but it doesn't feel different. You don't suddenly feel like a "NYT or USA Today Best Selling Author," and you are still afraid your book isn't great when you're writing it. Although, there is then pressure to reach those marks with every book.
Things that make you go "hmmm."
I guess it's not just me who feels just a tad like an imposter about to be unmasked every time I sit down at a book signing.
So, if no matter how high we climb (or how much we accomplish), there we are, then it should take a lot of comparison pressures out of it.
I know authors who are constantly comparing themselves and their writing career to others. Some of them spend so much time doing this, I'm surprised they have time to write. It stresses them out and leaves them less creative energy to move forward with their own work.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a Saint (and I'm not just referring to all that fun I had in my twenties...lol...and I must admit, my thirties have been pretty enjoyable too...) Now and then I glance at the people above me on sales lists etc and there is a twinge of longing, but I try to shut that down quickly. Comparison serves no purpose other than to undermine my confidence. My concentration should remain on what I can affect--namely, my books, my career and my experience.
Because remember, no matter how high they get or you get--there you are! You are going to be the same person!! Definitely proud of what you've accomplished, but it won't change you as a person. You won't suddenly become happier with your overall life because you hit a NYT Best Seller's list, or sold another series. You might for a night--especially if there is champagne involved, or while you're buying some new earrings with your advance, and you should celebrate! But you'll be disappointed if you think that these career milestones will suddenly turn your life into nirvana--happiness comes from the inside out, not the outside in.
So, at the risk of sounding like an after school special - be happy for the accomplishments of others, and be happy for your own accomplishments. Treasure both and enjoy the journey. Because the lasting memories will come from the work you did to get there, not necessarily the prize. (Although those are nice too!)