It’s pretty natural to let “grass is greener” syndrome creep into most aspects of our lives; people put a lot of effort into hiding their disappointments and frustrations and trumpeting their success. The age of social media has made this even easier, because you don’t even have to invite people physically into your home to show off your material success—you just Instagram it, with the bonus of being able to carefully curate, light, and edit what you show.
This is just as true for the writing community. Authors will blast out their covers, their buy links, their humlebraggy links to Publisher’s Lunch, and edit out the lengthy edit letters, the discussions with their editors about low sales, and their dissatisfactions with their current WIP. So it’s easy to start thinking that other writers are doing it the right way, and to start comparing your process, style, and creative sensibility to everyone else.
You have to resist the urge to compare yourself, though, because that leads only to Literary Madness (similar to Space Madness, but more book-oriented).
Keeping Your Head Down
The simple fact is, there are no shortcuts. Even a writer who is objectively more successful than you in terms of sales or deals is likely building on years and years of sustained effort while omitting some of their failures or setbacks. It’s impossible to map your own writing journey onto someone else’s because you’ll never know the true level of effort they’ve put in, the true number of failures both real and imagined, or how much luck was involved. And luck is always involved, to some extent.
So, instead, keep your head down. It’s one thing to learn from other writers, it something else to compare yourself and constantly change your approach to the art and business of writing to match up with someone you see as being more successful. Do the work. Write the drafts, revise the drafts, send out the pitches. Submit the short stories, enter the contests, go to the pitch slams. Do the work, and most importantly: Do the work your way.
Of course, Literary Madness comes in many forms. For example, right now I’m wearing pants made out of papier-mâché paperback book pages.