Have you ever felt like you were lagging behind everyone else… like WAY behind? Lately, these thoughts and frustrations plague me, focusing on, “Why aren’t you published yet?” In the past eighteen months, several of my friends and peers have published books and made great advances in their careers as writers, and I just feel stuck.
To be clear up front, I am not jealous of their success. Each and every one of them deserves it, has earned it, and I am thrilled for them. BUT I keep thinking – why can’t that be me too? I have tried to be patient, but I am to the point of throwing up my arms, getting a copyeditor and self-publishing this son of a bitch (my manuscript). It is not what I want, and I want to hold out, but I have yet to find an editor to help me get my manuscript to where it needs to be to send out to agents. Once I get my manuscript to that point I have to send it out and find representation (let’s say about six months) and then they have to tell me what to change about my book and/or book proposal so they can turn around and sell it. And then they have to try to sell it (I would say another six months). Then once it is accepted by a publisher, I have to work with the publisher’s editor, make those changes and wait for it to be published (anywhere from eighteen to thirty months). That is a long flipping time! Even if it was ready to send out today, I am looking at about three years. And that is just depressing.
It seems everyone I went to grad school with, who focused on fiction and/or nonfiction are leading these amazing lives, doing what they love. They’re receiving acclaim, earning accolades and going on book tours. I don’t want their success or want them to be less successful so I am not sure if envy is the right word, but I just feel like an epic failure, slacker, and what the hell is wrong with me! My husband says things like, “Well what have you been doing since graduate school? You got sick and had to focus on your health.” To him this is a reason; to me this is an excuse. A lame crutch I want to kick away.
I think a little added salt in the wound comes from an old classmate (not graduate school, high school). She is living as a fulltime writer (has been for about two years) and just published her second book. Her second book garnered a major motion picture deal before it even came out, and producers and screenwriters who are Hollywood heavyweights and who I seriously admire are in charge of the movie. This might be the closest thing to envy that I feel, but again I am happy for her. The only reason it stings is that we worked together on our high school newspaper and she used to berate me for being involved with creative writing: the class, student literary magazine and concept in general. To her journalism was where it was at, and the only real writing – everything else was a joke and beneath her. But look at her now! People grow and change and I am sure she has, but I think this is the reason I feel the pressure even more when I think about her success.
I wanted to be an amazing and published writer with my own accolades and publishing success, with more than one book out before I turned thirty. Well given that I turn thirty in a little over a month, I won’t even have one out – I won’t even have a book deal. Veronica Roth (author of “Divergent”) and many other amazing writers are younger than me. I don’t know Veronica, but I use her as an example because she has accomplished what I have always longed to accomplish well before she will be thirty. Of course, none of these thoughts are positive or productive, so I don’t dwell on them, but still can’t help feeling them in the first place. When I think about my goals and where I am at now I get so frustrated. I think about everything I wanted to do and now I just want to punch myself in the face – that is what I want to do.
I feel utterly alone in this struggle. Not a part of a writing community or writers group and all of my friends are now too busy to help me like we used to do for each other, because they’re in the midst of their own book success. When you have a great momentum you go with it, ride it out. I understand this, so I’m not even disappointed in them, though it does kind of intensify the alone factor. My husband is not a writer and other writers I know who are less busy do not have the same goals that I do. They self-publish this and that and are content with sixty readers of mostly friends and family. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not what I want. And so, again there isn’t that bond of “what the hell is wrong with me or my book?” Because just like my friends who are doing fabulously in the world of traditional publishing, they are doing their thing, their way. And I am just sitting on my ass, ready to metaphorically burn my book. I swear if I have to look at it one more time without someone else’s feedback (because I am completely stuck) I am going to rip my eyes out and need sedation (nice imagery, no?).
I have always been a person who wanted it all. A great husband (have it), lots of kids (working on it, but it will be awhile, stupid IVF and surrogacy costs) and a career that fulfilled me. I wanted to be successful both professionally and personally. I want to make my mark on the world, and for me, I can only do that through my writing. I feel like while everyone else is living and moving forward, I have been in the same place for almost a year, not sinking, but no closer to getting myself unstuck either. And that, quite frankly, sucks.