Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Say Congratulations and Mean It, Dammit!

        Yesterday morning one of my new Twitter friends shared excitement over an agent requesting to read his manuscript. Since I have been advised that it would behoove me to display socially acceptable behavior, I attempted an appropriate response.
 “Wow, that’s great! Congratulations!”
I caught the evil, socially unacceptable voice in my head adding the words,
“Whatever. A-hole.” 
She (of course it’s a she!) was jealous that it wasn’t us who received that request. Lord knows we’ve been trying for a while. That knee jerk, unintentional reaction made me stop and ponder what percentage of the congratulations, that’s great’s, and good for you’s, I force out of my mouth knowing they are complete hogwash. Several examples immediately jumped to mind.
1- Several of my friends are unmarried and have no children. Most of them are pretty anxious, a fact that is exacerbated by our age (30, yikes!) and pretty much everyone we know being married and having children. I often wonder how said friends manage to congratulate these people without warily eyeing the sky for lightning bolts or choking on their tongues.
            2-I have a good friend who gets to travel the globe for weeks on end every summer. Australia, New Zealand, the Mediterranean, France. China…you name it, she’s been there. Looking at her pictures every summer makes the evil voice in my head go bonkers. Still, I dutifully pretend to belong in mainstream society and manage a few nice comments on Facebook. I am dying to be able to travel. She also has a full time job she actually enjoys. That little part of my brain hates her sometimes. Did I mention these vacations are entirely paid for in exchange for her keeping track of a few high school honor students? Now you hate her too, don’t you? Admit it.
3- I had a long distance relationship summer fling that wouldn’t die in college. While it wasn’t serious, I was under the impression delusion it could be. One day when we were discussing when I could visit he advised me that he “sort of had a girlfriend now.” Again, wanting to be appear normal, I managed a suitable reply. “Really, that’s great. What’s her name? (so I can kick her in the face when I see her…wait, no, not at all normal…bad evil voice)”
            In some situations, maybe it is okay to let the evil, jealous voice have its way. I posit, however, that many situations exist in which you should silence the snarky bitch inside your head. Hold her down and tape her mouth shut if you have to. The reasons for this are:
1-We are connecting with other struggling aspiring writers to hopefully help get one another to the published stage. Knowing that there are actually agents out there requesting/selling manuscripts encourages me. Hmmm, maybe they do actually read submissions. In my head, they all have a huge, red button (like the EASY button in the Staples commercials) that says REJECT ALL. It’s nice to know they don’t. It gives me hope.
            2-What writer doesn’t love to read good books? The more talented authors (as I know many of you are) who get a chance to be published, the more quality novels on the shelves. That’s a bonus for everyone.
            3- I know how hard I work, how much I study, how badly I want success, and how much time I spend writing, editing, and perfecting my work. My fellow twittering writer does to. He deserves the chance to have it read, and perhaps accepted. I shouldn’t begrudge him that. He earned it. After months of exploring the publishing industry I understand that no author get’s an agent or a book deal they haven’t earned with great writing, a great story, pounding the pavement, and more than a little bit of luck.
            I’m not going to feed you any bullshit like “God must have an even greater plan for you”, “it’s just not meant to be,” or the always popular “your time is coming.” I have no way of knowing whether it’s true. Maybe our time will never come and our novels will never get published. I submit the humble idea that maybe it doesn’t matter. As I’ve said, I write because I have to, not because I expect to ever be able to make a living out of it. Not that I don’t hope/pray/fantasize daily that this dream will come to fruition. But even if some know-it-all agent advised me tomorrow that my writing was terrible and I would never, ever sell a book to anyone as long as we both shall live, I would still write my stories.
 I’m thinking that perhaps our fellow authors’ successes can feel as good as our own. I’m willing to give it a try. After all, living vicariously is the only option I have right now. When it comes to the other writers you know, both in real life and online, I urge you to join in my quest to stay positive and encouraging. I challenge you (and me!) to try this: Support them. Be happy for them. Take pride in their accomplishments. After all, networking and community is why we are all here to begin with. I hear it takes a village to raise a child publish a successful book.


  1. This post was an interesting perspective for me. Maybe because I spent so many years in the film business, I'm used to rejection. I've been rejected too many times to count, and I've been the rejector. Being the rejector really opened my eyes to how ridiculous and pointless the reasons for rejecting someone can be, and how there is usually a complete lack of malice when doing the rejecting.

    When I see someone get an agent or a book deal, or a request for a full I am truly 100% happy for them. I see it as confirmation that it's possible, and that it can and will happen for me too. With the economy the way it is now, I look at anyone's success as reason to cheer because it means there's still a chance for me. It really is quality work + right place, right time. I think.

  2. I think it's only human to have that jealous/envious/cynical/fill-in-the-blank pause whenever someone else gets closer to the thing you feel so far away from. It's when those feelings last longer than a moment or two that you have a problem.

    I'm looking for an agent too and it's a rough process. Like you, I do feel excited when I hear about other emerging writers getting signed by agents or getting their first book deal.

    I'm crossing my fingers for all of us!

  3. I agree with Dawn Maria's comment. It is tough when you hear about others but it's also good. Good because it means books are being signed and published and so there is always a chance! You can't know unless you try!

  4. I think that this is a great reminder for all of us. I truly do feel happy when someone is successful but that doesn't mean that there isn't a tiny little part of me that wonders "why can't that be me?".

    However, like you, I write because I have to. I write because there are stories in my head that need to be told and it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. :)

  5. Har har har! Your inner voice and my inner voice should totally get together and bitch about other people over margaritas. Or coffee. I love that you are aware of it -- and can hear it clearly -- without actually letting it run willy-nilly shouting "Damn you for being lucky!"

    I also agree that there is much comfort and support amongst the community of writers, published, agented or not. And I, like you, value that.

  6. SomedayAuthor, you are right. I do hate your traveling friend. Maybe more than just a little. But, good for her! ConGRAtulations!

    As far as befriending other authors, aspiring for publication or otherwise, I think is a smart thing to do. *eh* (pat's his own back)... I like to think of it as a next gen of writers that come up into the industry, reviewing each others books, giving each other those little tidbit reviews when we do (and will) get published.

    Btw, I'm JM... good post.

    Ps\\please don't give me the "god has another plan for you" story... ;)

  7. What a refreshingly honest post! Thanks so much for letting me know about it (and your blog, as well, which looks great). Finding a community of writers online has been both a blessing and a curse for me... a blessing because of posts like this and a curse because there are days when I really don't want to read about how others are writing 12,000 words or getting a 10-book deal. What can I say? I'm insecure about my own writing!

    Your advice is pitch-perfect: accept the jealousy and then step back and think of the bigger picture. So, I can and will say congrats and mean it (dammit!), but it will just take me a while. ;-D

    Best of luck with your writing and querying. Looking forward to reading more of your posts (especially since I know so little about Ancient Rome but have always wanted to read more...)