If you’re a fan of feminist sonar you might be wondering “Where’s Elsa Been?” over the last month or so.
The answer is that I wrote a book. Actually, since last August I’ve completed drafts of THREE books.
August-November I finished the first draft of my novel. January-March I revised it and now it’s out on submission.
So that’s a thing.
Dead Scare got revised and now it’s in art and layout.
Plus, the Fate Accessibility Toolkit got written and revised.
All of this is to say that while I’ve been trying to keep up with writing feminist sonar, I’ve been doing a lot of work, and the last month has been challenging as I’ve been working on finding a home for my novel. A home for me as a writer. It’s a big professional journey, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the difference between ambition and competition while I’ve been working on it.
See, when you’re a writer professionally, you’re sitting around waiting for people to reject you. You’re waiting for the things you’ve crafted to be told they’re not good enough – and then you need to revise it and find a different place to send it. Possibly to be rejected again. The people who you turn to for support, for feedback, for help, those are other writers.
Which brings me to why I’m writing this post.
It’s really important to remember the difference between being competitive and being ambitious. Because one of those things is great for a writer, one of those things will force you to do better, to strive to write better stories, to rise above and continue writing, and the other will leave you alone. You might get published more, but you might also lose out on the kind of support you need to get better.
That’s right, being competitive with other writers can be extremely harmful. Writing isn’t a solitary practice, and your fellow writers are the best people to go to when you need information. In the past month or so, I’ve had fellow writers help with my query letter, listen to me plot out my next book, read short stories going out on sub, and I do the same for them. If I competed with these people, I would never grow, I would never learn to be better at my job. I so deeply value the writers who I have become close to in the last few months, their support and feedback is imperative.
The competitive streak that I have inside of me has to be tamped down, and controlled, and I try to feed that into a better emotion, I try to feed it into being ambitious. Ambition can go hand in hand with competition, but it doesn’t have to. You can strive to be the very best writer YOU can be, write the very best stories you can write, and also be generous and kind towards your fellow creators.
Yes, people are going to do better than you at some point – even people you’re close to in the writing world. People are going to have peaks and valleys just like you will, and the point of that, is that yes, you’ll still have professional jealousy. But if you try to be an adult about that jealousy, if you don’t let it rule your relationships with others, you’ll actually come out of those feelings with better relationships.
Right now, I’m in one of those tough spots where I don’t know what the next step is, I’m in a bit of a free fall, waiting to see where I’ll land. Others have already found their landing patches, and sure, I want to be where they are.
But instead of allowing myself to swoop down and land on their spot, I’m doing the work and letting myself go on that journey that I need to go on.
Trust your fellow writers to be your support network, and be part of their support networks too.
Don’t let competition rule your professional life – instead be ambitious as you want while still being caring. Good writers don’t live in boxes, they write in communities.