I am a fairly zen person. I do yoga, practice mindfulness, try to treat people with respect, and I regard jealousy as a negative, and pointless, emotion.
But being a writer is a job unlike most others, and it’s easy to see the success of other writers in your genre, or in your area and think ‘Goodness, I wish I had that’ or even, ‘Hey, why the hell don’t I have that?’
That doesn’t mean you are denying these other writers their good luck or the rewards of their hard work, but where in other careers there is a clear path to the top, the rungs of promotion and targets, writing doesn’t have that.
A debut author with no blog, no concept of blog tours or social media and no fanbase can get to the top of the charts. An author with more friends than you might get more reviews, so that the system feels skewed.
When you’re down, when the words aren’t flowing and the sales aren’t coming in, these things can feel unfair. And it is easy to dwell on this unfairness. Because, for all that writing is a wonderful community of friendly, creative people, connecting online and sharing their knowledge, social media shows us how much of a rat race writing is. Absolutely everyone seems to have written a book, to be vying for a top Amazon spot, to be tracking their metadata and using titles and covers that seem similar to previous bestsellers. Because writing is a business. And if you’re going to act as a business person when it comes to your writing, then you have to accept that sometimes you ARE going to want what someone else has, you ARE going to feel like you’re more deserving, or have worked harder, and finally, you’re going to have to accept, that business, like life, is unfair.
But, this does not mean you are destined to be a jealous, embittered writer who never feels like they get the breaks they deserve. It means you have to start looking at your work like a business if you want those results.
- Quantify your goals (how many books do you want to sell, what ranking do you want to reach, how many books do you want to bring out in the next few years?)
- Ensure your goals are realistic (you are not going to win the Man Booker Prize for your romantic comedy, but if prizes are important to you, look and see what’s around).
- Assess your weaknesses and create an action plan (Need more reviews? Want a longer blog tour? Want to merchandise? Want to get involved in the local community?)
- If other writers are achieving the things you want, ask them how they did it! Turn jealousy into motivation!
- Keep writing the things that make you happy, and make you proud. Slipping into a genre you don’t care about, and writing inauthentically and without heart, just to make a few bucks, is not good for your brand or your soul. If writing is a business, it should also be a joy.
I would also suggest assessing what your personal success story looks like – how do you define success for you and your books? Everyone always holds up the big names as examples of success, but it’s the writers bringing out content, writing great books and managing to survive who really impress me.
My personal goals:
- Take a writing class/go on a retreat. I’ve been running workshops for so long it would be nice not to be responsible, and just enjoy someone else leading it. Also, I see this as a craft, and you have to practice your craft.
- Talk to people about what I want from my books, and how to get it. If I want to write a book that is turned into a movie, what do I need for that? It’s all very well yelling into the Twitterverse that I want someone to take on my books, but what about learning to write a book that would be easy to adapt for screen?
- Get an agent to tell me how to do a lot of this, and fight my corner. Currently working on a book for this, but so many books to write, so little time.
- Be engaged as a writer more prominently in my local community. Whether this means running things, building relationships, joining a writing group…
What do you think about the place of jealousy – do you ever get jealous of other writers? What are your goals for success, and do you have any tips for other writers to manage their expectations or reach their goals?
Also, in case you missed the news earlier in the week, I’m excited to announce I’ll be writing three books for Canelo, The Martini Club series, with the first book out in the summer to be Cocktails and Dreams. I’m also running a Writing for Wellbeing workshop in Watford Waterstones, FOR FREE, on Thursday 27th April at 6pm.