You're a writer. You have a novel published or are waiting to hear back from an agent/editor/critique partner. You click around on Facebook or Twitter and find that someone you know has a bright shiny new book deal!
You feel a moment of excitement for them and then suddenly the truth and reality comes crashing down. Why don't you have a book deal or movie deal or even an agent? Why are you still toiling away at this manuscript without seeing any return on your investment of time + emotion + hard work + patience?
Maybe you have a deal and your book has been published. Congrats! You've gotten a few reviews but nothing substantial. You open up People Magazine and smack dab in the middle of the book review section you see a four star review for a writer you know, maybe one you feel you are more talented then or has already achieved their fare share of attention. The inevitable crash of disappointment sets in again.
Why does it seem that the writing life is filled with so much disappointment? It seems that way because we are always chasing the next best thing. If we don't have an agent, all we see are writers with agents. If we get an agent, other writers are getting better deals + bigger advances. Even if we've scaled the mountain and gotten the agent, the book deal and have been published, now we're not getting the right media exposure. We are climbing up a mountain and we can't see the top. We're not sure if we're even going in the right direction.
So what happens? We burn out. We quit. We look around for other careers because this one is too hard with too much rejection and competition. If we keep searching for something better or more impressive, we will soon learn that we will never reach the top of the mountain because we will never be satisfied.
The problem is that we are only seeing the narrowest view of this climb. If we don't get an agent, then we are a failure. If we don't get a six-figure book deal, then we are a failure. If we don't achieve starred reviews in Publisher's Weekly or People magazine, then we are a failure.
Writers are too busy chasing their ideas of perfection instead of looking around at how far they've come. Think back to your 4th grade self. If you told your 4th grade self that you had written a 75,000 word novel, wouldn't 4th grade you be impressed? If you told your 4th grade self that you had written an article or published a book review, wouldn't 4th grade you be impressed. If you told your 4th grade self that you can search a website called Amazon.com and find your book with a cover and a price and people can actually buy it, wouldn't 4th grade you be impressed? (PS- While you're at it, tell your 4th grade self to invent Amazon.com, then you'll really be impressed!)
But seriously, we forget to appreciate how far we've already come in the direction of our dreams because we are always chasing + comparing. We continue to chase an idea of success without seeing it all around us. We compare our success to the success of others. We need to learn that there is no such thing as perfection and as Roosevelt said, "comparison is the thief of joy." There is always going to be a better deal, better sales, better coverage, better reviews. But if you love what you are doing and can appreciate the steps you've made in the pursuit of your dreams, then you are already a huge success.
Tips for success:
-Do one thing every day that moves you toward your ultimate goal. Write a thousand words a day. Pitch one magazine article to an editor. Write one important, thoughtful, well-researched blog post.
-Feel grateful for the success you have achieved, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. Remember, your 4th grade self would be impressed.
-Look at where you were last year vs. where you are today. I guarantee you have made strides towards your goal.
-Move forward. Keep going, moving, progressing, learning. You can't feel like a failure if you are always learning and growing.
-Stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone's journey is unique, with equal parts high + low. And in the words of your 4th grade teacher, "Keep your eyes on your own paper."