John Scalzi just posted a great blog entitled “How to Have a Writing Career Like Mine.” The short answer? “You can’t.”
After reading the whole thing (which I highly recommend that you do), I couldn’t help but think of Gayle Forman’s recent post on jealousy, and how the two are related.
John’s point is that you can’t look at another writer and wish for their level of success for yourself without following each and every single step they took to achieve that success. And even if you could, I might add, even if you followed the exact 8 steps he outlines, there’s still no guarantee that you’d achieve the same results.
Which brings me to Gayle’s post, and her conclusion that “reading deal reports on Publishers Weekly and Publishers Lunch and Twitter and anywhere else […] doesn’t help writers. It just makes them crazy.”
Looking at the career paths of other authors, wanting what they have… it doesn’t help YOUR writing. And the only thing that’s going to get you published? Is an awesome book.
Look, I know this may seem contradictory in light of my repeated advice to be able to compare yourself to other authors in an agent’s client base, but there’s drawing lines between similar things, and there’s picking apart everything little piece of another’s success, and wanting it for yourself instead.
That’s where jealousy truly bites you in the ass: because it keeps you from being honestly happy when someone else — your critique partner, or a fellow member in your writing group — finds success. There’s always some silly rumor going around about a YA Mafia or clique, which is a sign of jealousy in itself, I think. But if you want to believe they exist, focus on this thought — they’re a tight-knit group of authors that takes pride in each other’s successes.
Seriously, just take a look on Twitter any day of the week and see all the posts from authors you like and admire praising other authors’ books. That’s something to aspire to, not emulating someone else’s career or deal. Envy their open admiration for their peers, and work on developing that yourself.