We all have that dream. Write a book, get discovered, be published, gain fans, live happily ever after in a house bought with the royalties. Or maybe money doesn’t factor into it. Maybe the dream is to write a book, be published, gain fans and live happily ever after knowing that you have put something of great worth out there. Or that you’ve achieved something you’ve always wanted to. Or that you’ve crossed something off your bucket list.
Whatever your writing dream, it starts with a story. Specifically, your story. Not anyone else’s, so own it.
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES
Growing up, my Dad told me that there would ‘always be someone more intelligent than me, always someone better off, and always someone with better opportunities’. He wasn’t being mean – he was telling me not to judge myself by others. My progress, my achievements… they were mine. They are mine. They weren’t and aren’t lessened by what other people manage to do, or have already done, as long as I apply myself and try my best.
The same goes for writing. Whatever stage you’re currently at, be it plotting, drafting, editing, querying or trying to sell your books to readers… there will always be someone in a better situation. There will always someone who has written more, or has a character you wish you’d thought of, or someone who has signed a better financial deal than you, or is selling more books.
You’re still trying. You’re still writing.
You’re also doing, without a doubt, much better than someone who never picked up that pen, turned on that laptop, and started writing. So many people think about writing a story and never do anything about it. “Everyone has a book in them” might be true enough, but it is a rare person who actually writes the book they have inside.
Yesterday, someone (of around thirty years of age) told me that I was the first writer he’d ever met. I was really surprised because I’m constantly surrounded by writers. On Twitter, on Facebook; my friends are writers; I read books by talented, successful people every day. How could I be the first he’d met?
Writers tend to gravitate towards writers. On Twitter and Facebook (and in real life), I have a writing community; friends who share a passion for words and stories and characters. You probably have a writing community too. Getting support from such people is wonderful, and often helps the writing process, but sometimes you lose sight of how many non-writers there are out there. What you do is not what everyone does. What you do is not what everyone can do. So do it your way.
Writing success is relative. You can measure your success by others – some will be better off than you, some will be worse. But if you carry on writing, focusing on your own merits, your own achievements, your own goals and aims, you stand a greater chance of being the writer you want to be, and writing the book you want to write – especially compared to those millions, billions of people who never try at all.
ALL THE SMALL THINGS
Last month, I received an email telling me I’d been shortlisted for a short story competition (woohoo!). Upon telling my mum, she asked when I’d find out if I’d won, skimming over the important detail of: I’d tried something new, and I’d achieved something. There were over 2k entrants in this competition, and I’d reached the top 10. I didn’t care if I won, I told her, because I’d already achieved something. So I celebrated with a chocolate mousse.
I also celebrated when, in January, I submitted a story to another competition and didn’t get anywhere at all. Why? Because it was the first story I’d ever submitted to a competition. I’d been brave and stuck my neck out there, which is something I hadn’t ever done before. It was an achievement by itself. It marked progress. It marked me taking my writing life up a notch.
Yes, other people won the competition. Yes, other people clearly wrote a better story than me. So what? I celebrated all the same. Why?
Because it’s important to celebrate the small things. Because to some people – maybe to you – they’re the big things.