This time of year many people take stock of their lives and recognize the people and things which they are grateful for. I’m grateful for my loving and supportive husband, my family, and my friends. I’m grateful to have a job that allows me to help other adults learn to read.
And as an author I’m grateful for the community of teachers, writers, and mentors that I’ve built for myself. There’s comfort in knowing that every writer faces dark days and the same, slow slog through the querying process. And it’s not all tears and disappointment. Several of my writing friends are very successful with their short story publications, landing agents and teaching positions. There seems to be a swell of support whenever this good news pops up on my Facebook feed.
But it’s hard sometimes not to feel disappointed in my own efforts as my writing friends experience success and achieve their professional goals while I tinker with the same query letter and refresh my inbox an unhealthy number of time each day.
There is a quote which I stumbled on recently that helps to soothe the jealous beast inside me when yet another Twitter follower lands an agent: Keep your eyes on your own path. No two writers walk the same road. (V.E. Schwab)
Books and blogs stuffed full of how-to advice on getting published can make it seem like there is a set path up the mountain to publication peak…but those trail markers are really more like guidelines. Every few months there will be another success story from a debut author who claims they met an agent at a conference and signed within a month. Or they self-published their work online and then sold the rights to a publishing house. But this is not the norm. These individuals parachuted to the top of publication peak, or drove their ATV up some kind of goat trail.
For most of us seeking to be traditionally published with the help of an agent and/or editor, we have to stick to the trail, even though we can’t see very far ahead through the trees. Some of us will stumble with each rejection, consider giving up and returning back down the mountain each time our foot catches on a root. We’ll complain about how long it takes, how much our feet hurt, whether the view from the top will even be worth it. And we’ll hike along at a pace that is right for us and our story.
The dismal news about the publishing industry wants us to believe that there are only so many spots at the top of the mountain, that writers must compete with each other in a Hunger Games-style battle of negative reviews and backbiting. But the truth is that those who are meant to reach the top will get there if they keep moving forward, and those who turn back along the way should never be ridiculed for trying. As a community of artists, we’ll get further if we support each other instead of shoving each other over cliffs.
Your fellow writers are your tribe. Support them when they experience success, and they’ll be there for you when your reach the top no matter how long it takes.