A Rising Tide

Two weeks ago I wrote a post (“In the Company of Writers“) about my journey as a writer over the past ten years. I created a list of the things I have learned, and included the following:

  • Success of others doesn’t diminish your chance of success. It improves it.

Two of the comments questioned that statement, and so I thought I would explain, or try to.

The easy answer is that being around success you learn how people create their “luck”:

  • When you have a friend who gets a story published, you learn about markets, and niches, and submission processes.
  • When you know writers with agents, you hear how they made that happen. You take a look at a query letter that worked, and you learn. You hear stories about rejection, and you take heart. And perhaps you have opportunities to meet agents in the process.
  • When you have a friend who has a book published, you learn by watching her go through the process. You learn about proposals, contracts, deadlines, timelines, editing, copy edits, Goodreads, ARCs, blog tours, book launches, metadata, Amazon rankings, and B&N lists. And you gain knowledge in advance of needing it, which is always helpful.
  • Authors need teams to help them market, and to offer support. So you pass out book marks, drive to signings, and clap loudly at panels. And you find that talking about your friend’s work is easy, and fun. And again, good practice.

Luck requires hard work. Seeing other people navigate the waters of publication, your path may become easier. But probably not. It will just become clearer, and a lot less scary.

But this philosophy is about more than learning. It is about self preservation. There is room enough for everyone, and success is defined a lot of ways. But discontent in the form of “why not me?” creates room for jealousy, which soon turns into full blown envy. And this isn’t a good place for writers to live.

Instead, be happy for the success of others, especially for your friends. Raise a glass over every contract, dance when they get a book deal, weep when they get on a best seller list. Ride on the wake of their success, cheering all the way. If nothing else, it is a lot more fun.

“A rising tide will lift all boats.” — John F Kennedy


J.A.Hennrikus writes mysteries, and blogs with five friends all in varying stages of launching new series over at Wicked Cozy Authors.

26 thoughts on “A Rising Tide

  1. I loved this entry. Currently I am going through the book writing process, am attending writing classes and seminars and am loving every second of it. It’s fascinating and refreshing to be surrounded by people who are trying to achieve the same goals that I am. I always shied away from this kind of thing because the entire process seemed overwhelming and terrifying, but being amongst others who are swimming the same waters makes it a bit easier to navigate and has really shown me what I need to be doing and where I need to be focusing my energy to achieve my goals.

  2. Hear hear. Also, these days no one needs to envy other writers’ success. It is so easy to self-publish ebooks. There’s nothing stopping anyone from writing a story and getting it “out there” for others to read. Lynn

    • I agree. So many paths, and I have a number of friends who are pursuing a bunch of different ones all at the same time. Navigating them all well is a whole other blog post. Thank you for your comment.

  3. This is great advice, and applies to a LOT more than just writing. Additionally, being around successful and/or excellent writers makes their critiques and analysis of one’s own work more useful and creditable.

  4. Good advice. We all have to find the path that works for us – whatever that is. No two writers are the same and it is all to easy to become bogged down with `right and `wrong` ways of getting the words down. Keep writing – learning and reading about others – then go with what is right for you.

  5. Thanks. Your comments point to the value of ‘nurturing and supporting one’s spirit -*- from the heart’ as a fully deserving, life-engaging quest. This is a holistic venture that involves a transition from the single-minded ‘achieving financial success at any cost’ quest that has become so embedded in our culture and in our heads.

    While publishing (especially via self-publishing) has become easier than ever before, achieving financial success at this has become increasingly challenging in our expanding, competitive online seas. And, while many of us have become discouraged by the relative scarcity of financial rewards, many also realize they are empowered by a spirit that is anchored to more than external financial validation -*- and they continue on with their ‘spirit nurturing’ quest.

    Those engaged in the competitive financial quest may understandably be inclined to criticize ones who proceed to ‘nurture one’s spirit’ in the absence of financial rewards. Yet, meanwhile …, as the inclination to ‘follow one’s spirit’ seems to be gaining less acceptance across our competitive culture, those who do this are pursuing more than mere life satisfaction for themselves -*- they are serving as critical positive examples for others’ spirits as ‘well’.

    Continuing to learn is as life-affirming as the commitment to ‘live well’.
    Thank you for your key, ‘rising tide’, positive life example.

  6. I love your positivity here. I don’t know where I would be without fellow writers to learn from and with. Critique groups, writing sessions, and others’ publications are all equally valuable for my growth as a writer, as I hope my input is for theirs. Thank you for this – the quote you chose is perfect. Very uplifting 😉

  7. Absolutely. Jealousy comes easily, especially in such a competitive industry. But having a community of writers you can actually root for and celebrate with (regardless of who’s “successful” at the moment) is invaluable. Plus, what works for you may not work for somebody else. It’s all about forging your own path and enjoying the process!

  8. Wonderfully said! Part of the best thing about being part of a community of writers, even if only online, is cheering each other on and learning from everyone’s process.

    Do I have pangs of envy when a friend gets an agent or a publishing contract? Of course–but not in the way that would diminish my joy for them. I have no desire to take someone’s opportunity. I want my own. The more people publish, the more people are reading and want more.

    Your quote says it all.

  9. This post is so helpful and easy to relate. I’m trying to get my manuscripts published and this just boosted up my confidence and hope in finding a publisher. Also, this little piece of advice will help with more than just writing but life in general. You are a talented writer and advice-giver. 🙂

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