Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Loving the Competition

A popular post from February 2011

by Julie Wright

Several years ago, I attended World Fantasy and made a new friend who was new to the novel-writing world. She'd spent several years in the screenplay writing world. I loved her immediately and spent pretty much the whole weekend laughing with her.

I already had an agent at the time of this conference, but several of my friends didn't. So I made a point of agent trolling for them--introducing them to agents, talking them up to agents, and making sure that they had opportunities available to them. I wasn't the only one doing this. We were friends helping friends. It's what you do.

My new friend made a comment that stuck with me. She said, "I've never seen a business model where people are so willing to help one another--especially when those people they're helping are also their direct competition."

I hadn't ever really thought about it in terms like that before. They were my friends, and they were writers. I already had an agent and they didn't . . . so why wouldn't I want to help them? The other authors who were in my same shoes obviously felt the same way, because they were all there--helping each other.

This last week, the 2010 Whitney Awards finalists were announced. The Whitney Awards are a niche awards system for writers. A lot of my friends were eligible. I was eligible. And a lot of people who I love didn't make it into the finalist round. It was hard not having them there. It was more than just hard--it actually hurt to not have them there.

There have been times when I've felt left behind as an author. Times when my friends have acquired agents and national contracts and New York Times bestseller status. And they did all this without me.

Being left behind in that way feels like going to summer camp. At this camp, your friends all get put in the same cabin over by the lake where they have bonfires and canoe races. And while they're having a great time in their cabin, you're stuck in the bed wetters cabin. And it hurts. You feel lonely and left out and . . .

Jealousy kicks in.

I admit to this. Jealousy has reared its ugly head on several occasions for me. I'm so happy my friends are in good places--so happy when they hit the Times list, so happy when they get a six figure advance, so happy when they sell foreign rights in countries I haven't even heard of. And yet sometimes, it's easy to feel left behind.

When the finalists were announced, I thought a lot about the cabins and jealousies and love. I was a finalist, but several people I love weren't. Not having them with me hurt as much as when I couldn't go with others. I want their careers to be successful. I want them to succeed and believe in themselves.

And I know they're rooting for me in that same way. They want my success. They want me in the cabin with the bonfires and canoe races. And it occurred to me today that it isn't a race to the end where only one person can win. There is room for good books. There is room for a LOT of good books.

It's a matter of being brave enough to improve in your craft, to keep putting yourself out there, and making sure that you're paying it forward. Helping others get where they want to go feels really good. And loving your competition goes a long way to keep from feeling frustrated in your own endeavors.


Jolene Perry said...

Writers are the coolest bunch of people EVER. The longer I'm around writers, the more I believe it's true.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Amen! Like you, there are times I've been jealous of others' success, but I've found that the best thing for me to do is just get busy and write more, and to look back at my own success. There is nothing wrong with getting paid to write for magazines. There is certainly nothing wrong with getting paid in either money or editorial exchange to help others have their published books end up in those Whitney finalists lists (I had an editing hand on seven of those finalists this year!). Yes, I'd like to have a novel published, and the one I'm currently writing might just be THE ONE, but in the meantime I already have two non-fiction books published and a ton of articles in local publications as well as national magazines. Celebration comes in many forms, but perhaps the most rewarding is when we can truly celebrate the accomplishments of others.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Very well put! I'm thrilled that many of my friends have been nominated. I'm cheering them on! Go get 'em, Jules and all the other Whitney finalists! You're an inspiration!