Yesterday, a good friend of mine, another writer, got GREAT news about a book she is writing. It’s the kind of news that validates and affirms. The kind of news that comes with a sizable payment. The kind of news that means her book will see a wide market and be promoted well. The kind of news – in short – that is every book writer’s dream.
My friend and I have been talking about her book ideas for a while now, and she had told me this contract was a possibility, but when she texted yesterday to tell me the details, I let out a “Yahoo” so loud it scared my husband. (Milo was unfazed by such joy since he exhibits it often.) She deserves this contract. She has earned it. She has something important and wise and beautiful and wise to say, and I am thrilled.
But I’ll admit that even just a couple of years ago, if a friend had told me this kind of news, I would have had to dig hard for my joy. I would have had to push past a lot of jealousy, a lot of edge-walking despair to find even cursory words of comfort. Envy is a really normal, really common response to the success of people who do what we do, especially when we feel like we’ve worked hard and still haven’t gotten “there,” wherever there is.
I wish I could tell you I had some magic formula for how to get truly excited for your writer friends’ successes. I wish there was some switch we could all flip to just go all in on celebration with each other. But there’s not. It is – like all things worth doing – a process, a practice, a skill and attitude we develop.
Here’s what I’ve been actively doing to let envy and frustration about other peoples’ successes go so that I can find joy with them.
Connecting to Writers as Friends
I count a few dozen writers as good, dear friends. I talk about all aspects of the writing life with these folks – our successes, our business challenges, and our myriad failures and disappointments. With some I lament the way the publishing industry privileges certain people and with others I talk about the way that the economics of writing are so very hard. But these folks, they are friends in the deepest sense, and because they are also writers, they get me and what I do in the way a lot of my other dear friends – teachers, administrators, stay-at-home parents – can’t.
So when these people reach success, I know the road they’ve walked to get there, and I get to celebrate with them even more deeply for knowing the trials of the journey. Plus, I know they will do the same with me if and when the time comes. Friendship makes celebration so much easier.
Finding Ways to Publicly Support Other Writers
When I’m tempted to be jealous or self-pitying about another writers’ success, I’ve found that I can turn that soul-eating negativity into celebration by being public about what they’ve achieved. I offer this blog (or our farm one) as a place to share. I do social media posts and rave about the book or the article, the website or the contract. I invite people to a writer’s social media pages and Instagram the covers of their books. I make myself celebrate because just the act of doing it can help make it so.
Doing my own Work
But by far, the most successful way I know of finding joy for others is in being sure I am doing my own work. If I am writing, actively and with as much joy as I can muster, I find that I can far more easily celebrate with other writers, even if my outward success is far more minimal. It’s way too easy to wallow in my own perceived lack of success if I’m not actually doing the work.
Yet, when I am committed to the practice of my own writing, when I am stepping toward my own goals, when I am recognizing that my writing is – first and foremost – a practice of vocation and joy, then friends, I have joy overflowing to share with others.
So if you, like me, struggle with jealousy, if you find yourself having to eek out a congratulations at that writer’s good news, if you are tempted to blame the unfairness of the publishing industry, if you feel like whining on social media, may I suggest that you turn to your page and just do some of your own work first? Write that story. Get that chapter wrapped. Sketch that poem. Post that idea. Do your own thing . . . and then celebrate wildly because you are doing your work and have extra of the joy to share with the other writers of the world.
Because, after all, if we all can operate like we are a community instead of as if we are in a competition, we will become that . . . and then, we can change the world with our words. I know we can.
By the way, if you’d like to make some writer friends, we’d LOVE to have you join our online writing community. It’s totally free and includes some of the best writers I know. Get more information and sign-up here.