“… But here’s what you have to remember: You’re running your own race.
“This means you set the pace & the direction. YOU do. Both. Pace AND direction.
“… So when you find yourself rubbernecking, looking at all the writers who are “passing you by”, remember: they’re not in your race. … Your race is still your own & it will always be your own.”
The excerpts I’ve included above will hopefully convince you to go read Deborah’s entire post, because it’s succinctly and excellently put and we should all print it out and tape to the wall by our computers as Lisa suggests. (Then come back here.)
What a great post. I really needed to hear those words, because it can be so hard to persevere along that lonely track when I see others taking what seems to be a much faster path. I almost said ‘easier path’ just now, but I know that’s not really the case. Every writer has a different path, with different challenges, drivers and external pressures, which is actually Deborah’s point.
My path has been longer — and more laboured — than I anticipated. I made a decision long ago not to write short stories — they don’t really interest me to write or read. I much prefer the immersion of novel-length works. But the latter do take far longer to complete, and when you consider how many ‘bottom drawer’ novels can be expected before something publishable turns up, I do find myself wondering whether a period of dedicated short story writing might have served me better as a training tool.
But that wasn’t to be my path.
The process of becoming an author is strange. There’s this cycle that starts with blithe self-confidence, which gives way to the devastating realisation that said confidence was completely misguided, which in turn is replaced by sheer determination to improve and prevail. And then it all repeats and repeats as skill levels creep upward. I can’t count how many times I’ve felt I’m just about there, that I’ve finally produced something worthy, only to have it all come crashing down.
When you’re in the trough of this cycle, it’s all too easy to compare yourself unfavourably with fellow writers in the ‘race’ and perceive yourself as losing. There’s always another writer (often a friend) who has better turn of phrase, a more unique voice, superior insight into character, better industry connections, is faster, better, more talented.
I had lunch today with a writer friend who questioned his own natural talent and said he persevered out of sheer bloody-mindedness and determination. Part of the thrill for him is the challenge of traditional publication purely because it’s so hard. That’s his ‘race’, I guess. (Go figure.)
My race? All I can do is keep running, keep improving, keep believing. I want to write a novel I’m proud of and have it reputably published. My pledge to myself is to try not to dwell on what I haven’t achieved, to not compare myself with anybody else. I’m going to focus on my goals instead, and do all I can to achieve them.
How about you guys? Do you sometimes wonder whether you’re taking the right path towards your goals? Does it ever feel like you’re in a race? What strategies do you employ to deal with setbacks?