Success, Jealousy, and Good Days

Wanna hear a little known fact?

Don’t let it get around, but occasionally writers do come out of writing-hibernation and venture into public. Even more amazing, they have interests outside Scrivner and word counts.

Accurate depiction of a writer.

My most recent foray into society came when the eldest rugrat and I ventured out to a dog show. Now, let’s get real for a minute. The televised show ya’ll see once a year? It reflects the reality of the dog show experience about as accurately as Nathan Fillion and Castle reflect the average author and her lifestyle. Westminster as seen on TV is all pomp and pageantry, clueless tuxedoed announcers, and shots of perfectly groomed dogs and handlers on pristine green velvet.

Not an accurate depiction of a writer.

The real deal involves dragging out of bed at four a.m., fighting a losing battle to keep freshly groomed dogs from rolling in dew-soaked grass, and following accurate-ish directions to obscure agriculture campuses for eight ‘o’clock ring times.

Our event this time around was in a red dirt arena more or less covered by a tin roof. Tin is awesome at amplifying a light spring shower into something more akin to standing in front of the speakers at an AC/DC concert (think For Those About To Rock and cannon fire). We also had a built-in feathered audience. Unfortunately, either the presence of all those furballs or the temperature dropping as the day went on and the storms worsened further annoyed the already disgruntled pigeons.

Glamorous, guys. Totally glamorous.

When the last ribbon was handed out and we negotiated the muddy path to the van, the eldest rugrat gave his verdict—“This was a good day.”

For 98% of the exhibitors, a good day entailed picking up points towards their dog’s championship or going Best of Breed. For the kids, it’s Best Junior Handler and cumulative points towards college scholarships.

I had a puppy out at her first show—pretty much the definition of a snowball’s chance in hell when it comes to odds of winning. The rugrat had one handling class under his belt and was competing against older, accomplished juniors.

The results were predictable and not most people’s idea of glorious success.

But the kid had a point.

My puppy came away with a positive first experience. The rugrat kept his cool when part of the ring collapsed, and got some great technical tips from the judges to implement next time.

He did his best and was happy with his dog and his performance.

Other exhibitors left grumpy because they didn’t pick up those elusive points, or only won one show out of four over the course of the weekend.

One the drive home, the kid’s comment rattled around and reminded me that success comes in different forms.

Not a bad fact for writers to keep in mind.

Publishing is a long, slow journey. If your only definition of publishing success is “published with a six figure multi-book deal and début best seller”…eh. That journey may feel even longer and bleaker.

It’s within our power to make the trip more pleasant, though.

My sanity-saving shortcut is savoring the little triumphs along the way.

Outlining a story that excites me. That new-shiny, full of promise moment is addictive.

Finishing a story.

The positive comments from critique partners (they really do mean ‘em, I promise).

Contest wins or workshop acceptances.

You know, all those necessary steps that eventually lead to your goal.

Enjoy those small steps and small wins. Don’t let anyone else belittle that sense of accomplishment—including yourself.

I also think a crucial aspect of success is keeping your eyes on your own paper.

No lie, it’s often hard to see peers getting what you want, whether it’s agents or acceptances or contracts. I’ve been guilty of mistakenly translating others’ wins as meaning that I lost. Why didn’t I try their approach? Write in that genre? Write as fast as they do?

And that negative comparison and second-guessing can kill creativity and forward motion. It took a long time to understand that my peers successes don’t mitigate mine.

With that in mind, congratulate friends and share in their happiness. Not to be creepily parasitic or anything, but let their success feed your drive instead of derailing it.

There’s so much in this industry that’s out of our hands, everything from our beta reader’s speed to publishers’ whims to Amazon’s fickle algorithms.

But it is in our power to have a good day.

Just sayin’.

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