I think I'm a good writer. Talented. Above mediocre. Dedicated. Probably not good enough to win awards or be a best seller but unique and worth your reading time. I have put in my time writing and getting rejected and despairing and recovering and rewriting, and now I have an agent who is, allegedly, trying to sell my debut novel. I think it's a good first book: nihilistic, dark, and funny. It's an ok spot to be in.
Assuming/hoping that it will indeed be published, I've added quite a few writers to my list of "friends" on a certain social media network with the goal of reciprocal plugging and future networking. The problem is that I despise every one of these people. Especially the ones that tout, on a daily basis, their myriad successes. These updates include but are not limited to: inclusion on "Best of" lists; print reviews; blog reviews; a passing mention; an explicit reference; an oblique rumor; a comic strip resemblance to their protagonist; a fart that sounded like their title, etc.
They self-promote with nary an iota of shame. They put their book cover as their profile picture. They brag about every fucking thing related to their book. It sickens me, but that's only because I'm not in the position to do the same (though, admittedly, I can honestly say I'll exercise more restraint after witnessing such horrors).
Why do other people's success makes me ill? I know I should revel in my friends' successes. Even if these people aren't my friends. God knows I want them to be. But there's got to be a better way to go about this, right?
Oh, the Demon of Writerly Envy! We are well acquainted with that gentleman! And boy, is he a motherfucker!
Here's the thing, Author-friend: you can tell yourself all you want that this Demon will leave you alone once your book is published. Guess what? He won't. Because once your book is published, someone else will get a better book deal. Get a better deal? Someone else will win an award. Win an award? Someone will win a FANCIER award. Win a fancier award? Someone else will sell film rights. You don't belay this shit RIGHT NOW, you are going to turn into the kind of person who sends your agent hateful emails about not being included on the New Yorker's 20 under 40 list. When you're 45.
We have a theory about where this dude comes from, the Demon of Writerly Envy. Let us ask you a rhetorical question. What is easier and less energy-consuming: writing a book, really writing a book, like really doing it, putting your whole life on the line to admit you want this thing and you want to be good and you want the whole world to recognize you are good, to sit your ass down in the chair and put in the fucking two or five or ten or sometimes even twenty years of hard-ass work and sweat and tears and misery that it takes to write a book, and then embarking on the terrifying and perilous mission of actually sending that book out into the world? Or hating other people? OH THAT'S RIGHT, IT IS EASIER TO HATE OTHER PEOPLE. It is easier, infinitely a thousand million times easier, to say to yourself, "Ah! Well, she knows an editor and he married someone rich and doesn't have to have a real job and she is besties with James Franco and he's just lucky and she has a blog that got famous overnight so NO WONDER." The path of least resistance is never the path of self-love, dear Author-friend. But let us remind you it is not on the Insterstate that we find the most beautiful and rewarding views.
You have no control over the successes of others. After a certain point, you have no control over your own. Terrifying? Yes. True? Yes. This industry is filled with injustice and cretinry; wonderful things happen for terrible people, and brilliant, amazing writers toil for decades in poverty and obscurity. That is some scary shit, dude. There are no guarantees. There is nothing you can do to make the future certain. Which is why, if you will forgive us coming out as a TOTAL HIPPIE, the only action you can take is to put all the love and grace and generosity you have in your heart out into the world, in the hopes that it will return to you. That's it.
All of that said, the single biggest thing that has helped us personally in battling this particular demon is staying off the internet. We do not read publishing blogs, we do not read author blogs, we do not read writers writing about writing, we do not read industry news, we do not read the posts titled How I Got My Agent and How it Feels to Win the Pulitzer and My Process and My Journey and My Query and etc. etc. etc. Which is not, and should not be read as, a judgment on people who write or read about those things; we have just come to realize that for us personally, reading about publishing or writing makes us want to crawl in a hole and die. That's not a rational response, but it doesn't make it any less true for us. If you find those sorts of things helpful and encouraging, by all means peruse them; but we are guessing that you do not, or else you would not have asked this question in the first place.
We are officially liberating you, good Author-friend: The Rejectionist says you don't have to read that stuff, and you don't have to be friends on the internet with people you wouldn't like in real life NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY MIGHT HELP YOUR CAREER. We are allowing you TO HIDE THEIR FACEBOOK NEWS FEEDS. We are granting you OFFICIAL PERMISSION, dear one, to stop worrying about other people and start loving YOUR OWN SELF. YOUR SELF. YOUR BOOK. YOUR WORK. You are in the best place, now, BEFORE you publish your book, to figure out what you need to do to make good work and take care of yourself. Good things are like vampires: they cannot come into your life until you open the door and invite them in. In the words of the once-great Lenny Kravitz, you got to let love rule.
The Great Questions of our time may be directed to rejectionistandyourmom[at]gmail.com.