IWSG: Behold the Insidious Anti-Muse

How to banish the insidious anti-muse.

Insecurities, I’ve had a few.

My foray into full-time fiction writing hasn’t even started yet (it begins this month!) and I’m already terrified.

I’m preparing for the launch of two major novels on May 16th, and the stakes seem so incredibly high. Suddenly I have a publicity team. A cover artist. A formatter. And everyone needs input from me in order to do their part.

Ever have one of those moments where you try to knock just one thing off your to-do list, only to discover ten more things you hadn’t thought of? That’s how the last few weeks have been for me. The learning curve is incredibly steep, and it’s more than a little daunting.

And, all along the way, the Insidious Anti-Muse whispers in my ear.

“What if no one reads your books?”
What if this is as good as it gets? What if you fail?”

What if, what if, what if.

And those are some mighty big ifs.

It’s odd that my most crushing insecurities arise when one of my books gets published, but the same thing happened with my Bear. I don’t know if it’s the tendency to constantly check my Amazon rankings or what, but the release of Monsters in Our Wake has inspired moments of pure terror, and not because it’s a scary book. The Insidious Anti-Muse became more vocal, more insistent, more difficult to ignore.

As writers, we’re advised not to write to get published. Not to care what others think. To write for ourselves and only ourselves, simply because we love it. In that case, I’d keep my manuscripts in a box under my bed. I send my books out on submission because I love writing fiction enough to want it to be my day job. Connecting with readers and knowing that I’ve written a book that means something to people is important to me.

So I try to focus on the readers, the small handful of people who’ve taken the time to let me know my writing has meant something to them. I’m still so full of gratitude and awe that anyone is willing to trade their time and money for one of my tales.

It’s a scary world out there, and this has got to be one of the most insecurity-inducing industries. It’s not easy to focus on the small steps we’ve made up the mountain when the peak is so high above us it’s obscured by clouds.

I wish I had some great words of wisdom to pass on, some sure-fire cure for the times that Insidious Anti-Muse is screaming in your ear.

All I’ve got is this: as terrifying as the possibility of failing is, it’s still far more frightening to never try at all.

What do you do to banish the Insidious Anti-Muse? I’d love to hear how you push on despite your insecurities.

If you’re on Pinterest, would you take a minute to share my pin for Monsters? It would mean a lot to me.

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThe purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

IWSG: Free (or really cheap) Resources for Writers

Free and cheap resources for #writers. http://www.jhmoncrieff.com/iwsg-free-or-rea…rces-for-writers/

Last month’s IWSG post discussed five things writers don’t need to buy (and five worth investing in). The post definitely struck a nerve and made me realize there was a need for a follow-up about all the great free and inexpensive resources out there.

I’d love your suggestions too. If you know of some great free or cheap resources, please post them in a comment. Working together, we can come up with a fantastic list!

Free Resources

aboutYes and Yes’s Free Site Review: Sarah from Yes and Yes is a bit of a phenom, to put it mildly. She’s ghostwritten NYT bestsellers, been featured in national magazines like Forbes and Glamour, and gets over 12K visitors to her site every day. In short–she knows what she’s talking about. In exchange for your email address, she’ll review your website or blog for free and give you tons of helpful suggestions. Seriously, when I had her do this, the resulting list was daunting–but worth it! If you don’t care for her newsletter, you can opt out, but I always find her posts interesting, insightful, and helpful. She shares a ton of free career advice too.

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series: Dean Wesley Smith isn’t afraid to give it to you straight–and that’s what I love about him. He’s never been shy when revealing controversial truths about the writing industry, and he was doing it long before others made it popular. Think you need an agent to be traditionally published, or that an agent always knows what’s best for your career? Think writers can’t make money, or that only a few make a living at it? You need to check out Smith’s myth-busting Sacred Cows series. You can buy the books if you want your own copy, or read them for free on his website.

Toby Neal’s Building an Author Platform ebook: When Toby Neal decided to break into self-publishing,Toby-Neal-headshot-300x300 she did it in a big way–she spent $15,000 USD to launch her first book. She made her money back within a month or two (can’t recall the exact time frame), and has now sold well over a million copies of her mystery novels. Neal’s free ebook has lots of helpful advice about how to target your marketing, figure out who your ideal readers are, and launch a successful indie career. Most of her marketing tips would work for the traditionally published as well.

Lexa Cain’s Foxy’s Friday Freebies: Every Friday, writer Lexa Cain features a large and varied line-up of links to free stories, novels, novellas, and other goodies on her blog.

  • My own Hidden Library: when my new site debuts near the end of February, those who sign up for my Hidden Library will have access to free ebooks, along with other resources and perks.

Cheap Resources

footer-nanowrimoWinning NaNoWriMo: It’s only available once a year, but if you sign up for NaNoWriMo and manage to write 50,000 words in November, “winning” the challenge, you’ll receive lots of discount offers and some freebies, including free trials of Scrivener and other software. There’s always a lengthy list of prizes. I guess, if you were just in it for the freebies, you could enter a manuscript you’ve already written to snag them, but you didn’t hear it from me.

Jutoh Ebook Formatting Program: My writer friend swears by this program, and computers are not her thing. She even showed me how easy it is, and it’s true–within minutes, your ebook is ready to go. Jutoh can fill most, if not all of your formatting needs, and the program is a one-time cost of $39 USD (although there are more expensive options, of course). If you currently pay for formatting, this will save you a lot of money over time.

Lynda Online Courses and Classes: Another writer friend is a huge fan of Lynda, which offers courses and tutorials in just about everything, from software programs to design to marketing. After taking advantage of its ten-day free trial, you can subscribe starting at $19 USD per month, which I believe you can cancel at any time. There are free training videos offered for every course. However, if you opt for the free trial and decide it’s not for you, be sure to cancel Lynda or they’ll start billing you as a subscriber.

Focus: I gave a more in-depth description of this program in yesterday’s post, but it has greatly increased my productivity by blocking social media sites, Google, etc. during the hours I’m supposed to be working. It has a generous free trial, and a one-time purchase of the program is only $19 USD.

Fiverr: If you need something–a business card, photography, editing, voiceover work–chances are someone’s offering it on this site for $5 USD. Everyone wants you to opt for something more expensive, of course, but if you’re in need of a great deal, this site has tons of them.

Now it’s your turn to add to the list! What free or low-cost resources have you discovered? Have you tried any of the ones I mentioned?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThe Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

IWSG: Five Things Writers Don’t Need to Buy

Counting your pennies? Don't worry--here are five things #writers really don't need to buy.

If you’re seeing this because you signed up for my newsletter, you may have forgotten who I am. I’ve been terrible at interacting with my readers, but that ends now. I hope you’ll stick around, because you’re in for some awesome perks in 2017!

Thanks so much for your patience. I’ve survived yet another NaNoWriMo and am celebrating it by co-hosting the Insecure Writers’ Support Group this month! If this is your first visit, welcome. Every Tuesday I blog about unsolved mysteries, spooky places in the world, scary true stories or the supernatural. You may have missed yesterday’s scary true story, since it posted late. Here it is.

As I prepare to spend three years focusing almost solely on fiction, I’m bracing for some financially lean times. Perhaps not as bad as when I waitressed at Pizza Hut, but pretty damn close.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for anything that promises to help improve my productivity, write a better query letter, get more newsletter followers, or sell more books. I’d hate to guess how much money and time I’ve spent on courses, workshops, books, and boot camps over the years. And you know what? Most of them weren’t worth it.

The sad truth is, one of the easiest ways to make money as a writer is to create books, workshops and courses for other writers–but just because someone is successful doesn’t mean their brand of success will work for you (and if they’re so successful, why do they need to run courses and workshops?)

As insecure writers (and who isn’t insecure in this industry?), we’re particularly vulnerable to believing we need these things.

So, without further ado, here are five things writers don’t need to spend money on:

1. Costly writing retreats. (NOT conferences–those are different.) I’ve attended several different writers’ retreats over the years, and you know what I remember? Eating. Socializing. Going for walks with other writers. Talking about writing. Was it fun? Sure. Did I vastly improve my writing or get much (or any) writing done? Nope. Writing retreats with other writers (the ones that tend to be $5K-$10K) are great for socializing, making new writer buddies and getting inspired. But you know what? There are many cheaper ways to do this. (Have you heard of a little community called the IWSG? It’s free!)

2. Expensive agent-led bootcamps/workshops. I’m a sucker for this one, I have to admit, to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of dollars. This agent will finally tell me what’s wrong with my query letter. That agent will foolproof my first ten pages. No, no, no. You will come away from the workshop with the highly subjective opinion of one person (maybe two if you’re lucky), same as you’d eventually get for free if you kept submitting your work. And, no offence to the great agents offering their services, but–how many books are they selling while they’re leading workshops and giving in-depth feedback to strangers? One of the most successful agents I know is almost impossible to find online. He doesn’t Tweet, and he barely has a web presence. I have to wonder if there’s a correlation.

3. Fancy productivity or “success” journals. As I gaze across the room at my lovely $77 success journal, I am reminded of one thing–the success of the guy who created it. You don’t need a fancy journal to set goals and stay on task–you can adapt any dollar store notebook or find free templates online. Miss the inspirational quotes? They’re online too. An additional downfall of productivity journals is that they often take a lot of time to fill out–time you could use to, you know, write.

4. Business/life coaches and marketing consultants. With the average coaching and/or consulting package starting at $500, it’s easy to see how this service can quickly drain your bank account. Yes, it’s very comforting to put your life in the hands of an “expert” and have that person hold you accountable and at least pretend to listen as you babble on about your week. You know who else will do that? A good friend. Talking through things with my boyfriend resulted in at least as many, if not more, epiphanies than working with a coach.

5. Online courses targeted to writers. I’m sure there are good courses out there. But the vast majority of them are time consuming, labor intensive, full of advice you’ll forget within two months, and taught by other writers who don’t have much more experience than you.

On the flip side, here are some things worth investing in:

1. A designer. A talented web and/or cover designer is worth her weight in gold. It’s an investment that will pay off.

2. Equipment. Sure, you can get away with using the same computer for 13 years like I did, but I don’t recommend it. With the time I wasted rebooting and swearing, I could have written another book. A back-up system of some kind is non-negotiable–if you don’t have one, get one yesterday. Trust me.

3. Photography. Whether it’s high-quality stock photos for blog posts and ads or headshots for guest posts and your next cover, you won’t regret spending a bit more for better images.

4. Travel. The inspirational and creative boost you get from a change of scenery is amazing. And you don’t necessarily have to go far–sometimes a walk around the block or a journey to the next city is enough to recharge your batteries.

5. An editor. Yes, I’m an editor, but I also use one for my own work. Whether your goal is indie or traditional publishing, a good editor is essential. Just make sure you hire someone who’s an actual editor–not a writer who needs to make more money. There’s a big difference. Some professional editors are writers as well, but not all writers are suited to be editors.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but I hope this will help you avoid some of the costly mistakes I’ve made. What would you add to the list? Anything you wish you hadn’t bought or something you think is essential?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

Gone Writing

closed for NaNoWriMo

Hello dear readers,

Rather than driving myself completely mad, I’m going to take a brief hiatus from blogging during NaNoWriMo. I’m still responding and returning blog visits from my last two posts, so if you haven’t heard from me yet, rest assured I’m getting to you.

If you have any questions about National Novel Writing Month, I’ve “won” it three times so far–this is my fourth year. I can certainly provide hints, tips, brief pep talks, and tell you what works for me.

If you’d like to share your own tips or just chime if with how you’re doing, please feel free. Hate NaNo? Go on, tell the rest of us how deluded we are.

I’ll see you on the other side.

IWSG: What, me–worry? (Or, when your dreams seem like insanity.)

scared kitten

As many of you know by now, I’ve decided to take the next three years off to focus on fiction. By remortgaging my house and putting my successful freelance career on hold, I’ll finally be able to chase my dream of being a full-time novelist.

When I first came up with this plan, I figured a lot of the people closest to me would think I was crazy, or at least would strongly urge me against it. Happily, the opposite was true–everyone, from young friends to older, cheered me on without hesitation.

“Life is short.” I heard it over and over again, which is appropriate, because that sentiment–and the untimely loss of a dear friend to breast cancer this spring–has a lot to do with me throwing caution to the wind next March.

Here on the blog, people were supportive as well. I’ve been overwhelmed by your kindness and encouragement. So I stopped thinking people would find this idea insane and instead expected a ringing endorsement–or at least a muttered, “Good for you.”

At the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I attended a workshop on rejection and resilience, figuring I’d need all the help I could get for the years ahead. The instructor asked us to share what brought us to the workshop, along with our worst rejection story. When I burbled out my plans, excited and enthusiastic, she looked like I’d slapped her. Her face fell. The room was silent.

Uh-oh.

Something similar happened that day at lunch, when I confided my plans to a very nice literary agent–only he was more vocal about his feelings.

“Oh no! That’s like quitting your day job,” he said. “In good conscience, I can’t encourage you to do that.”

Too late.

When I got up from the table, the instructor from the workshop was waiting. With a soft, wavering voice, she confessed she was very afraid for me. She seemed relieved when I told her about my previous success and the contracts I have in progress, etc. But her fear clung to me like a pesky dryer sheet.

This woman was a poet laureate. The agent was from a well-established NYC literary agency. These are people who know. They’ve lived the life. They understand the risks.

I was supremely confident when I responded to their concerns. But as soon as the conference was over, I wanted to sneak up to my hotel room and hide under the bed. What if they’re right? What if I fail? What if, in year two, I’m looking at the want ads and scouting out beige cubicles? What if, what if, what if.

After I stopped panicking, I realized something. Those well-meaning, kind people may know the industry. They have their own experiences to share, and those experiences are extremely valuable.

But they don’t know me.

They don’t know my work ethic, my determination, my well laid-out plans and my multi-pronged approach. They don’t know about the wealth of knowledge that surrounds me, knowledge from writers like you–people who have already succeeded in this crazy industry.

Can a bit of talent and a lot of hard work, research, assistance, persistence and know-how guarantee my plans will be a success?

No…but it’s certainly worth a shot.

Has someone ever made you doubt (however briefly) your writing dreams? If so, how did you overcome it? I apologize for STILL being behind on returning comments and visiting blogs, due to the conference and other commitments. I promise to catch up this week.

PS – This month’s podcast is all about NaNoWriMo survival tips–some of you might find it handy. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo and would like to add me as a buddy, I’m KickboxingWriter.

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThe purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

IWSG: Ignoring the flamingo of doubt

butterfly rock

Or, Going all the Way Part II.

Some of you may have read my IWSG post from August, where I announced my intentions to put my hectic freelance career on hiatus and focus on writing fiction full-time.

This plan required the support of my credit union, as I’d hoped to remortgage my house to fund this venture, giving myself three years to see progress. Unfortunately, if there’s anything banks don’t like to hear, it’s the words “self employed,” and apparently that goes for credit unions as well.

In spite of my financial rep’s valiant efforts on my behalf, my loan application was turned down. To say this was upsetting would be an understatement of ginormous proportions. This is why I’ve taken so long to give you a proper update–I was devastated, and I didn’t want to drag anyone down with me.

But soon enough, I returned to planning and plotting. If the remortgage idea wasn’t going to fly, there had to be another way. I was already working on plan b when someone near and dear to me stepped forward and offered to cosign.

This gesture moved me to tears, but it wasn’t as simple as just saying yes and going out to celebrate. It was a huge decision. Was I comfortable having someone delay their potential future plans so I could realize my own? In a word, no. It took some convincing, but eventually I realized this person really wanted to help me and that being able to help made him happy. I’m beyond grateful to have been given this chance, and I won’t squander a single second.

The next step was quitting my news director job, which wasn’t as easy as expected. My supervisor convinced me to stay on until next year, giving me a little while longer to save up for my brand new life as a full-time novelist, which will begin in February.

After September’s IWSG post, a few people said they envied the confidence I had in my work, with at least one person suggesting I’m never insecure. Insecure? Nah, I’m terrified. I’ve already had one miserable day where I got completely freaked out about the possibility of failure. And I haven’t even started yet.

But whenever I get scared, whenever that critical voice starts screaming in my head, someone always sets me straight. And often that someone is Chuck Wendig, so I’ll end this post with his advice on what do with self-doubt:

Chuck doubt tweet one

Chuck doubt tweet two

chuck doubt tweets 3
chuck flamingo

Well said, Chuck. Well said.

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThe purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

IWSG: When to give up

last for gym class

Were you ever picked last in gym class?

I was. Many, many times.

For starters, the team “captains” were usually the athletic guys who spent their lives playing team sports together. And then there was peer pressure. Favouritism.

Or it might be I was a late bloomer when it came to athletics.

very late bloomer. To be fair, I still can’t run around a gymnasium while keeping a hula hoop twirling around my waist–but I’d have a fair shot at knocking out my classmates with a right cross and a roundhouse.

We all have our gifts.

Now imagine that, instead of dividing the entire class into two teams, each captain got to pick only one student. And imagine they had over 900 kids to choose from. If you weren’t picked, what would that mean? That your athletic future was doomed? That you’d failed as a human being? Or maybe that it’s damn hard to make an impression when the gymnasium is packed with almost 1,000 other kids.

I recently entered a writing contest where the odds were exactly that. The judges got to read the first chapter of my work, along with the first chapter of 900 other manuscripts. If chosen, a judge would work closely with me over the next few months, helping to get my book into better shape.

It was awesome to have a judge ask me for the full manuscript, but I still didn’t expect anything. The odds were definitely not in my favour, but now I was one out of 70 instead of one out of 900.

As expected, I didn’t win. My response was to shrug, think “Oh well,” and go back to the work in progress.

To say I was shocked by the aftermath of this contest would be an understatement. Social media feeds were flooded with posts begging the “losing” writers not to give up, to keep writing, to try their luck with another book.

I received several emails from the judges who had read my work, offering similar encouragement. I understood that they were trying to be kind, but it puzzled me. Why would I quit writing just because one chapter of one manuscript hadn’t resonated with them over dozens upon dozens of others? It didn’t make any sense to me. Not being chosen for the next level of this contest has absolutely no bearing on my writing ability or my future success–and the same goes for the rest of the hopefuls who weren’t chosen.

Contests like this can be a great foot in the door. But they’re not a measure of your talent or ability, much like my absolute failure at hula hooping didn’t hint at the success I would later find as a kickboxer. As writers, we need more than tough skins–we need titanium armour. Every time someone says no, every time someone tells you that you can’t, every time you get a shitty review, use it to motivate you, to spur you on, to succeed against the odds.

Because if losing a contest honestly makes you want to give up your dream of being a writer…

Then maybe it is time to try something different. (Or just stop entering contests for a while.)

Have you ever entered and lost a writing contest? Did it make you want to give up? What words of encouragement have inspired you?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThe purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

IWSG: Going all the way

Believe

One question has made me more insecure than any other.

“How’s the writing going?”

The reason this seemingly benign question used to fill me with horror is simple. How was my writing going? Most of the time, it wasn’t.

Not that I wasn’t writing. Every week I produced thousands of words–for journalism articles, press releases, ads, and websites. By the time I was finished, I rarely had the energy for my own projects. So they–and my dreams of being a full-time novelist–languished.

I always thought it was smart to have a Plan B. Problem was, my Plan B kept taking over. Plan A never got its moment in the sun. It was relegated to my “spare” time, whatever the hell that is.

Frustrated with the corporate world, I quit my day job at the end of 2012. I promised myself I would finally give my own writing a fair shot. Instead my freelancing took over. Before I knew it, I was working 14-hour days again. I was spending more time on my own writing, but it still wasn’t enough. It continued to get crammed into the little remaining space I had left in my day.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that life is short. It’s too damn short to keep putting my dreams on hold for a Plan B that was supposed to be temporary–it’s been temporary for over twenty years now. I have a crazy idea that–if my credit union agrees today–will finally allow me to go all-in with my career as a novelist.

It’ll be a huge life change, and I’ll definitely have to make sacrifices, but you know what? I’m ready.

When I told one of my friends what I planned to do, she said:

“Can you imagine a world where you would regret doing that?”

Nope. No I can’t. Perhaps this idea isn’t so crazy after all.

While I’m sure I’ll face many insecure days on this journey, what I’m most insecure about is that my bank will say no. So cross your fingers for me, fellow writers! I’m about to go all the way.

I’ll update this post later to let you know how the meeting with my credit union goes. If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?

UPDATE: The jury is still out, as my banking rep needs more information. However, based on his manner and his lack of helpfulness, I’ve decided to wait until my former, long-standing rep gets back from vacation. I think it’s worth waiting a little longer to make sure this is done right. I’ll keep you posted! Thanks so much for the kind words and support. You guys ROCK.

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThe purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

100-word Horror Story

father and daughter

Since tomorrow is Insecure Writers’ Support Group day, I’ll make this post short and sweet.

I was recently challenged to write a 100-word horror story. Feel free to write your own and share it in the comments, if you like.

The questions began every evening. I tried my best to answer them.

 “Daddy, why is the sky blue?”

 I sighed with relief—this one I knew. “It isn’t really—it’s colorless. The reflection of the sun’s rays makes it seem blue.”

 She paused for a moment. Her next question was a little harder.

 “Daddy, where did Mommy go?”

 The thought of her mother still made my chest tight. “Mommy got sick, and the angels took her away so she wouldn’t suffer.”

 Her last question was the most difficult.

 “Daddy, why did you kill me?”

 I wish I had the answer.

IWSG: The Comparison Game

Envy Comparison

From an early age, my writing life was all about comparisons.

When I was a little kid I said, “I want to write a classic that will be remembered forever, like Charles Dickens.”

When I was in grade school, I aspired to be like Gordon Korman, who published his first book at age fourteen.

By high school, my writing teacher was calling me Stephanie Queen.

As an adult, one of the nicest things anyone ever said about my writing was that it read like a “young Gillian Flynn’s.”

It’s only human to play the comparison game–to look up to the people who are much higher on the ladder to mythical writing success. I say mythical because you never really get there. As soon as you achieve that agent, that publishing contract, that movie deal, there will be something new to strive for.

The comparison game can be a good thing…if it inspires you. Let’s face it–it can be difficult to put your butt in that chair day after day, writing novels that no one may ever read. Or, if they read, may not like. Sometimes seeing someone else’s success can motivate us to push on through the difficult middle. Through the days and weeks we don’t feel like writing. It may help us say no to distractions and excuses when we learn Stephen King writes every single day, including his birthday and Christmas.

The problem starts when the comparison game turns dark. Why not me? Why can’t these amazing things ever happen to me? I work hard; I’m a good writer. Where’s my seven-figure contract?

Maybe you have been working hard. But the thing to keep in mind is–no matter who you’re envying, you have no idea how hard they worked. For some reason, our industry loves to make success seem easy. How often do we hear about the bestselling debut? The overnight success? Debut, my ass. I bet you my imaginary seven-figure book contract that the “overnight success” has several novels gathering dust in a closet somewhere. Maybe they even published a few flops under a different pen name.

A lot of writers succeed in part because they have no choice. Think of J.K. Rowling, supposedly only a few food stamps away from homelessness when she feverishly wrote her first Harry Potter book. Stephen King was struggling to support his wife and kids on a low teacher’s salary. Jasinda Wilder, who has made millions from her self-published books, was laid off. She told herself she had a year to become successful. With no other alternative, that’s exactly what she did.

When writer envy rears its ugly head, one of my friends uses it as an opportunity to ask herself what she really wants. Then she can go after her own success with renewed vigour. I’d go one step further and ask, “Are you willing to do what it takes to get there?”

King was submitting his stories for publication when he was still in high school. His writing output is legendary. Even when he was in the hospital, recovering from a near-fatal accident, he still managed to finish a book or two. You can envy his success–many people do–but are you willing to have that level of dedication, day in and day out? That singleminded sense of purpose, that obsession? Very, very few of us are.

Instead of beating yourself up because you aren’t as successful as the J.K. Rowlings of the world, decide what success means to you. Is it more books on the shelf? More words written each day? A consistent writing schedule that you will actually stick to? Awards? An agent? A movie deal? Once you know what it is, you can go after it with King-like obsession.

It never hurts to research how others achieved the success you crave. Armed with that knowledge, you can go out and create your own path.

My writing group’s podcast is all about the comparison game this month. Check it out for more strategies on how to keep envy from being a destructive force, plus all the things that personally make each of us go green now and then.

Do you ever compare your success to other writers’? Does it depress you or motivate you? How do you keep yourself from getting the comparison-game blues?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.