How to Deal with Other People Finding Writing Success
You know those success-based social media posts.
The exuberant ones.
The ones where people announce they’ve just found an agent, met some ridiculous word count goal, or had a publisher snap up their book in a six- or even seven-figure deal.
On the one hand, I am genuinely over the moon for the writers who are putting up those messages on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms. That’s because I empathize. I know firsthand all the hours that go into creating the manuscript, editing it, sending it out into the world, and feeling crazily protective and hopeful. So I make it a point to congratulate them. They deserve every kudos, and I mean what I say in my responses.
Yet, there’s also the side of those success posts that’s kind of like a punch in the gut.
With brass knuckles.
Maybe some razor blades.
And you know what? Just throw in a random bomb embedded with rusty nails and screws in there, because you know, what the heck.
Why success posts are full of ouch
There’s something about those posts, which I admittedly and ironically dream of putting up myself one day, that holds a crappy message. Something that says, “See? If you were just ‘good enough’, too, then you’d have that agent/deal/paycheck/fame. Comparatively, your writing is stinkier than the rear end of a hippo.”
Talk about a motivation killer.
But the thing is, none of those writers is saying that. They’re not trying to rub it in. They’re just genuinely unable to contain how elated they are. And deep down, I know better. I understand that the industry is highly subjective and very much about making the right editorial connections. And I understand that even “bad” writing that’s a grammatical mess still can have a great story at its heart. So the real question is just how to bounce back from the temporary blech that seeing others’ success inspires. Because if you or I can just bounce back from that, we can keep writing, submitting, and pursuing the writing goals we have.
How to beat back the unnecessary blahs
Here’s what I’ve found works to get out of a social media post funk:
- Read other types of posts. I’m not going to tell you to go on a social media fast. That might not be realistic if you need to promote your work. But what you can do is focus on particular types of posts. Look at how many people are still drafting, querying, or just looking for advice on which writing tool is best. You might not have the deal or agent yet, but there are tons of people right where you are who can offer support and remind you that you’re not alone. Pay close attention to the posts where people share little bits of drafts–favorite lines, for example–or talk about a beautiful moment they had with writing. Those kinds of posts reveal what matters to other people and can remind you that writing is about a lot more than money or other perks.
- Stick to a plan. If you are going about your writing inconsistently or without a plan, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t making real headway. But a plan lets you measure progress or success based on a specific strategy. Every time you post something, every time you send a query or take the half an hour you slotted for outlining, you can say you really did something. You are trying. You are not idle. You’re moving forward. And that’s a heck of a lot better than feeling like you have zero direction.
- Trash your own writing. This might seem a little counterintuitive. But ripping your drafts to shreds teaches you not to get too attached to them. You learn to be open to trying new options that ultimately could make the content work significantly better. Even if you end up going with your original version, the exercise in exploration can give you a sense of progress and development that’s a huge confidence booster. You also might end up with snippets or new concepts that could lead to entirely new works later on.
- Do something other than writing. Writers are just like other professionals in that they can attach a huge part of their identity to their work. That’s why it’s so painful to see the other “I made it” posts from others. It’s not just about people validating your project. It’s about them validating you. So if the sting is getting too sharp, go spend time in other activities or hobbies. This doesn’t mean stop writing. It just means that other aspects of who you are should balance the writing. Do whatever you enjoy to remind yourself that, although writing is part of you, it doesn’t define your worth.
Your time to brag is coming, so stay positive
People who find writing success deserve to celebrate it and brag a little. This applies to you just as much as to anyone else. But since it might be a while until it’s your time to celebrate, don’t just wallow. Be proactive about staying in a positive mindset. You’ll produce better when you aren’t depressed and stressed, guaranteed.