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Rising Tides Lift All Ships

Conversations in the writing community are often cyclical. One of the talking points that always comes around is whether authors are in community or in competition. It usually comes from someone who is measuring success by dollars and cents. These authors get on their platform and belittle other authors, insinuating that cheering on other people’s stories is naïve. That’s bullshit for so many reasons which I will not fully enumerate.


My opinion is that other authors are necessary to keep readers interested in reading. We need other authors to engage the imaginations and minds of readers in ways that are similar and dissimilar from our books because that challenges readers to read more. It challenges us to perfect our craft. That collection of art generates genre fans. It makes someone reach for the next book with dragons or an alien invasion.


However, that is not what I want to talk about today. I want to be vulnerable and acknowledge that I pit myself in competition with other authors all the time in my head, even with authors whom I love as people and am fans of as a reader. I go to petty, envious places in my mind. It’s not because I don’t want them to succeed or I think I am better than them. It’s because I am scared that my stories and I will become irrelevant. So when I see someone succeeding in a way that I desire for myself, I get competitive.


Why am I sharing this? These are thoughts I typically keep private and try not to let loose because I don’t like that I have them. And I don’t want people to see me as petty.

I am sharing this because I think it would have helped me, especially when sales shift downward, to have someone openly acknowledge that they feel the same. Maybe I’m not a shitty person because I have these competitive inclinations and get envious at times. Or maybe I am. Judge as you will.


When this conversation of community versus competition rears its head, the response is one of unabashed positivity, as if competition plays no part in this community. It does though. We have huge, important competitions that can bring readers to our books. I don’t think that negates community. It complicates it.


I love the readers, reviewers, and authors I have had the pleasure of interacting with. That doesn’t mean I haven’t felt the need to compare myself to them. When I fall short in my mind, I felt envious.


Maybe this is a self-indulgent need to acknowledge something about myself in order to move past it. I don’t know. This blog is about as free form of a rant as something that will be edited and proofread can get for me.


So what is the point of this conversation?

I want to ask the question: would we be a healthier community if we acknowledged we are not the perfect cheerleaders? Would I be a better member of the community if I were more honest with myself about my feelings? I think every single book that made it to semi-finals and finals of SPFBO9 and BBYNA deserved it. They deserve their attention and readership for their accomplishments. Am I also envious that I didn’t make it? 100%


It is possible that competition is an inherent part of community. I don’t think it’s something we need to extricate or harp on. But if you are an author who is envious of other authors in this community, you are not alone.


The big question for me is: am I brave enough to overcome my envy or will I let it be a weight on me? The adage that a rising tide lifts all ships is correct, but only if we allow it too. Some ships sink. For me, I need to toss out the baggage first.


To every author who I have ever been envious of, I apologize. To every author who has caught themselves being envious, I get it. To myself, acknowledge it, get over it, and cheer anyway.


If you read this, thank you for your indulgence.



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