**Warning: Lots of lovey corny kumbaya things ahead**
Last night, I met up with my friend Kaitlyn Patterson. She and I went through our MFA program together and since she returned from Korea have seen each other once every other month to catch up. She’s had some extremely exciting and promising news on the young adult book she has written/is revising, and we discussed how silly it is when other writers try to be competitive with one another.
Competitive in the sense of insulting/degrading/condescending about some other writer’s success/failure/effort. Writing is an extremely hard gig. We get rejected a lot (I love Sylvia Plath’s quote of, “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”). Our harshest critic (usually ourselves) berates what we are writing and tells us it’ll never get published; it’ll never go anywhere. We have to keep writing anyway. We don’t need to also attack one another. I hate hearing people say, “Oh, she got published there?” As if a publication could ever be bad. Yes, we can always have standards, but like Plath said, at least she’s trying.
I often find that when people are the most scathing about another writer, there’s usually really jealousy behind it all. For myself, I know what my next step to take is when I find myself senses-suppressing jealous, like I’m seeing through green-colored glasses and the envy is so in me that I’m sweating it out and it’s this sickly sour apple smell. The first thought that comes up for me is usually, “Why are they doing that? And they got success for that?” Immediately I want to cut them down because really I’m jealous. I wish I’d done that. I wish I could have gotten that success for it.
Talking to Kaitlyn, I was reminded that the rewards of the writing life are not dependent on a Santa Claus God. If Bobby gets a book deal, that doesn’t take a book deal away from me. If Peggy Sue gets published in prestigious journal, she didn’t knock my poem out of the running. There’s room enough for all of us. Writing rewards are not finite. Bobby may have gotten that book deal, but there’s another one for me. Peggy Sue may have gotten that publication, but that’s not to say I won’t get published in that same journal later. These writers aren’t taking anything from me. They’re just pursuing the same things I want. Why not walk along with them? This is why it’s so important for me to have a writing community, to feel supported and uplifted and loved through every hard bump on the road.