Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When the Good News isn't for You.

"Call me!" the email said. "I've got good news!"
It was from my critique buddy -- one of my really close, truly bonded,
seriously professional writing friends. We've been in a active critique
group together for over five years. We go to all the conferences together -
every year. We share each other's lives, the good and the bad, the ups and
downs with kids and husbands, the query letters, the rejections. We've critiqued
each other's manuscripts - all 170+ pages of each version, through multiple
revisions. We've shared our writing dreams - since the beginning, when we knew
nothing - about the profession. :)
We've each had our little successes along the way on our writing journey - a contest win here, a nod from an agent there, some publications of shorter works...little candles to light our way.
But the published novel on the bookstore shelf which we are both sure will be our first novel of many -- well, neither of us has quite achieved that goal yet. But we're close! We're darn close! We know it! We can taste it! This is our time! We're each other's biggest champions, urging each other on. We're "running neck and neck" on this journey to publication.
Or we were
Until five minutes ago.
When she finished talking to
that agent, or that editor.
And now... I ... am behind.
Doggone it!
So I pick up the phone to call her
-- so excited. I want to hear all about it! It's what we've dreamed of.
Forward motion!
Yes.... right.
Well, no, not exactly.
It was supposed to be "us" -- US together!
Signing those first books. Toasting our success as novelists.
And now I'm playing catch up. Grrrr.
She's standing on the podium and I'm
still a few laps back in the pool.
But I'm still so happy for her.

And she's excited I'm about to call
her. Right? I mean, why wouldn't she be?
She emailed ME, to talk to ME.
She just can't wait for that phone
to ring. She wants to tell me everything.
She's glad she's on the podium. I'm sure she is.
Why wouldn't she be?


Have you had an experience similar to this one yet in your writing career? If not, you will. : )
It happens to all of us.
Once you've been in a critique group long enough someone, or even multiple someones,
will start having more or less "success" than you for a period of time. Someone will get an agent before or after you, or their first book contract, or their 17th, or that coveted award that every children's writer you know was vying for. And then what happens? The dynamics in your critique group can go from great to a little bit tricky about two seconds after the news is announced. Perhaps some of those who didn't "win" that award or contract feel jealous. After-all, you were all neck and neck until then, right? It was just luck, really, that she or he got that contract before you did. Right?

The person on the “podium” can feel nervous that others in the group will be jealous. Others in the group can feel hurt, and sad, left out of the limelight. We’ll all be on one side or another of this imbalance of success at one point or another during our careers.

But what should we remember?
We’re all still who we were before that imbalance occurred.
And if we all keep writing and critiquing and submitting, that imbalance is going to change repeatedly. She may be "ahead of you" now, you may be "ahead" of her later, it’s a process. But it’s not about “ahead or behind.” It’s a journey that we’re all on together. We’re all on the same road, helping each other along. We’re still crit buddies, helping each other, attending each other’s book signings, calling to congratulate each other when those calls of good news do come in, picking up our buddies who may have fallen into a writing funk, being honest with each other, moving each other’s writing forward, moving as a group -- onward, toward each of our next levels of success. And
as a group we a strong. It’s not about him or her or me or you - alone.
We help each other. This buddy's agent may later want a submission of my manuscript; That Buddy's editor may be looking for a writer with just your skills, and he, your crit buddy, can recommend you.

If someone in your group has success, celebrate it!
Success for one opens doors for the others!
Success for one reminds the rest of us that we’re close, darn close, doggone it! Because we’re writing on parr with him or her as well, no doubt. Our time is coming!
Success for one reminds the rest of us to put “butt in chair” and get that book finished, or those revisions done, or those query letters sent – because there ain’t no success without a finished book and submissions being made, my friends! Butt in chair, I say, my mateys!
But success for one is success for all of us!

Congrats to those who’ve had “success” this year, and congrats to the rest who will soon have success of their ownl! For all the critique groups around the world -- Go team!


Anonymous said...

Hi Janelle,
An excellent post! Thanks for sharing. I am happy for the successes (big and small) of the Goalies.

Here is a quote I like:

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill

Janelle said...

Hi Carol! Thanks! I know of so many critique groups lately that are experiencing success - including both of mine! So I wanted to write a post that would address all those emotions that can go on while we're all on this journey together.
I love the Winston Churchhill Quote!

Karen said...

Great post. I felt great happiness when my critique partner got her good news. We are all in this together, and the journey is long.

My twinges of jealousy are directed at people who have been accepted by an agent who rejected me. I know it is silly, but I have kidlit books on my shelf that I don't want to read because I was rejected by their agent.

Janelle said...

Hi Karen : ) Thanks for the total honesty about the agents who accepted others but not you.

I've heard that feeling from many others too. That's why I wanted to open up this discussion. So we all can be honest and still happy for each other.

Plus, having read your current manuscript I know I'll be getting my signed copy from a bookstore very soon, and I'm excited! : )

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully put!!
It's such a weird combintation of comraderie and competition sometimes, but you put it exactly right.
Thank you!!

Donna Earnhardt said...

Good post!

We have had multiple successes in our little crit group - and I really believe it helps spur the rest of us forward.

Of course, feelings are fragile things and we all can experience moments of, "Dude... I'm so happy for you. Now what do I need to do to get there, too?"

Life is full of good stuff.
Full of bad stuff.
I'm just glad to know there are others sharing all that stuff with us!

maureen wartski said...

Very true, Janelle! To celebrate a friend's success is to really celebrate your own.

Janelle said...

You're right, Marilee. Thanks!

So true, Donna. That's what I love about crit groups -- we spur each other forward!

Janelle said...

I absolutely agree, Maureen!

By the way, I saw you book front and center on a shelf a Barnes and Nobles over the holidays and was excited for you! It looked happy there. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for addressing this! I've felt this so much lately--genuinely, deeply happy for various friends, and that little bit envious for me. I've been telling myself this is training so when I do "get my turn," I'll remember what it feels like to be the onlooker and be sensitive in my joy. I do as many silly happy dances for my friends as I do for myself--more actually!

Janelle said...

Well put, Rebecca!

Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Janelle,
What a great post! You are certainly right. Our emotions get the best of us if we don't see the situation in a good light. Thanks for turning the lamp on for us so we can see what's really happening. We're all winning when we work together in a critique group!
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Janelle said...

Hi Joan! Absolutely, never give up!

Kathleen S. Volcjak said...

Great post, Janelle.

I am right there with Karen on things I can't touch because they hurt. I have found it helpful to step back and look at what exactly is causing the pain or jealousy. For me, it is usually some remnant of my MG or YA self acting up. Not pleasant to discover I still have "growing up" to do, but better than the alternative. And it makes great fodder for stories.

Laura Renegar said...

Beautiful and honest post, Janelle. I'm marking this one as a favorite and sharing it on Twitter.

Janelle said...

Ha ha, Kathy! You're right, we do still hold on to that teenaged tendency toward jealousy sometimes, don't we?

Often I find that the problem that's causing that other person to succeed "ahead of me," at that moment is a problem in my manuscript or my lack of "butt in chair" when that other writer is focused and working harder than me. That's not alwasy true - but sometimes. So I try to look at my own work ethic and manuscript first, and often the jealously stops right there - sometimes. :)

Kit said...

Oh my, Love seeing those familiar faces of the Goalies. And oh how I can identify with you. My current group in Asheville, N.C. is very close and full of talented people, so there are many successes. And that little green monster of jealousy tries to pop up now and then. But success for one is a success for all in this crazy journey.

Janelle said...

Thanks Laura! I really do need to learn how to use twitter! : )

And Kit, it's always great to hear from you and to see all your great illustrating success!

Carol Baldwin said...

How right you are, Janelle. Passing this along to my critique group!

Carol Baldwin said...

How right you are, Janelle. Passing this along to my critique group!

Janelle said...

Great, Carol! Thanks!

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