Friday, May 8, 2015

Success, Rejections and Writer Envy

by Jean Henry Mead

I've been fortunate to interview hundreds of writers, some bestselling and award-winning, who have offered great advice for those just getting started in the publishing business. Some of the best advice regarding submissions and rejections has been: when a rejection arrives, allow yourself one hour to grieve, then get back to the computer and query that same editor with another story idea. Or, if the rejection was harsh, dig out your list of editors and begin querying again. Don’t think that John Grisham was immune to rejections. His first novel was rejected nearly thirty times before it was accepted for publication.

If it isn’t happening for you right now, don’t let the green-eyed monster invade your soul if you read congratulations to other writers when they announce a sale or writing award. They’ve been where you are any number of times before they were discovered.

Professional envy seems to be more prevalent in writers than other professions because we invest more of ourselves in our work. Psychologist Eric Maisel, the author of Coaching the Artist Within, says that the wide gap between successful writers and those still struggling to succeed enhances feelings of envy. And, unlike most occupations, there is no linear path to success.

You may have been writing steadily for years, selling sporadically, when you notice that someone half your age is on the bestseller list. How could that happen when you’re a much better writer? You may think that she’s the editor’s cousin or she happened to meet a top agent at a cocktail party. Luck does play a large role in publishing successes. So you’ve got to put yourself out there and make your work known. What better place than the Internet?

Diana Burrell wrote that “envy is a real burden for writers because it can derail a promising career. Envy manifests itself in two destructive ways: as psychological pain, such as lowered self-confidence or depression, and acting out behaviors that include self-sabotage (sending out sloppy query letters, for example) and withdrawal (failing to network with other writers for fear of hearing someone else’s good news).”

Mansel said, “It becomes a vicious cycle. You have more to envy because you have fewer successes because you’ve been hiding out.” In the long run, depression and negative feelings can cause writers to develop creative blocks and they may stop writing altogether. The good news is that you can conquer your feelings of envy by admitting them aloud to yourself, which helps to dissipate the power they hold over you.

“You must take action in spite of how you feel," Mansel added. Burrell defined that action as transforming envy into desire. Begrudging a shameless self-promoter only causes you pain. Instead, study how the writer works his or her press and create a promotional plan of your own.

Success is relative. For some it’s getting a single book published. For others it’s the bestseller list. Create your own list of goals that you want to achieve and figure out how to get there. Some writers consider themselves successful if they earn enough money to quit their day job. What are your writing goals? Write them down and paste them to your computer so that you never lose sight of them.

What if a writer friend is envious of your book sales and it’s ruining your relationship? How do you handle that? Mansel advises us to “Be your best self. Act as a mentor, freely giving advice to those who ask for it, and try to be of help. It can be painful when you sense other writers are rejoicing in your setbacks, so take a deep breath, smile and remain compassionate. If you take your successes too seriously and notice that your relationships with other writers are becoming difficult, he advises to: “Get over yourself.”


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

At my age, my writing goal is mainly, just keep on going. I write as much as I can each day, sometimes it's a lot, othertimes not so much. But I still manage to get two books done a year.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Two books a year is good output, as far as I'm concerned, Marilyn. I'm back to one a year because I now live on a ranch and there are so many chores.

Morgan Mandel said...

I don't bother with queries anymore. I'm to old for the nonsense of waiting for answers to proposals sent to people at least half my age. Then, if one of my manuscripts were accepted, it would take forever to get published. I much prefer doing it all myself.