Being a writer is a wonderful rollercoaster of super highs and terrible lows. It's a lot of fun imagining new worlds and finding the best way to form the perfect sentence. It’s pure magic when a reader connects with the story you’re trying to tell. But it's also incredibly hard not to have every single person love every single thing you write. It’s depressing when it feels like everyone else is succeeding in the ways you’re not.
My advice to you is the same as your grade school teacher's: Keep your eyes on your own paper.
I feel strongly that as an ARTIST you should beg, borrow, and steal from everyone and everything around you. Be inspired by books, steal cool scenes from movies, get even with all the people who have wronged you in reality by killing them fictionally in horrifying ways. Watch everyone around you and take pieces that you transform into your own story, in your own way.
But when it comes to being an AUTHOR, or pursuing a career as a writer:
Never compare yourself to what other people are accomplishing. Never take your place in the journey and compare it to somebody else's successes. Whether you've been pursuing publication for six months or twenty years, there will always be new milestones to achieve. There will always be someone further along than you are. There will always be someone with more books published or more short stories accepted. Trying to be anyone else or beat anyone else will only leave you feeling sad or jealous or not enough.
Don't worry about them. They are not your problem. Just do what you love. Improve your craft. Write often. Write terribly. Write with passion. Focus on the sheer joy of creating. Focus on improving your characters. Focus on the business of making your writing into a profitable living, if that's what you want it to be. Focus on finding health and happiness and carving out time for your passion.
But for goodness sake, don't ever make it about competing with what anyone else is doing. Keep your eyes on your own paper, and you'll find joy in the journey. What more could any of us even hope for?
Emma Nelson’s writing has most recently been published in The Routledge Companion to Media and Fairy-Tale Cultures. She has taught writing classes at BYU where she received an MA in Literature, is the founder of Owl Hollow Press, and has edited many books and anthologies, including the annual teen anthologies in partnership with Teen Author Boot Camp. Her fiction is represented by Donaghy Literary Group.
TABC 2020 CLASS:
HUMOR, HEART, and HICCUPPING-SOBS: Grab your readers’ emotions and don’t let go
We all have those books that remain close to our hearts because they made us laugh, they made us cry, or they made us fall in love. They pulled us in emotionally and carried us along for a ride that made us feel something unforgettable. In this class, we’ll learn techniques for creating emotionally layered characters, plots, and themes to make your writing come to life for your readers. We’ll grab them by their hearts and never let go—and maybe make them laugh a little along the way.