Picture this: you’re feeling strong and confident. Your writing is going well, you’re in the flow.
That is, until you see her, that Famous Writer, on the cover of Writer’s Digest or being interviewed on the “Morning Show.” Rejection slips and cash flow crunches are just distant memories to her.
Or maybe it happens closer to home. Someone in your writing group sells a series and is suddenly catapulted into living your dream: The Perfect Life of a Successful Writer.
Why Not Me?
Why couldn’t this perfect writer’s life be yours? Eyes squinted and stomach churning, you’d gladly trade your computer for a slot on the NY Times Bestseller list. Or any list, for that matter. No chance, you think glumly.
Your self-esteem plummets, you scorn your own wishful thinking, and you reach for the nearest (writer’s) block enhancer: food, drink, TV, etc. The writing is forgotten for a day or a week … or a month.
Success and False Imaging
The above writer is a victim of “writer imaging.” Just as young girls and women are subjected daily to air-brushed and computer enhanced images of perfect women which create a distorted body image, writers are exposed via magazines, newspaper interviews, websites, podcasts and bookstore signings to distorted images of writers. Unless you boycott all media, you can’t avoid these images.
However, you CAN avoid the other part of the problem: your own perception and resulting lowered self-esteem.
The writing world focuses on fame, like society focuses on thinness, often to the point of obsession. And “fame” is a relative term. To one writer it means selling a story to Highlights so all her friends will read it in the dentist office.
To another writer, fame is an award, a contract with a big name publisher, or being asked to speak at a conference.
Media messages associate writing success and fame with the perfect writing life: a better, happier, more successful life. But this false image of perfection falls far short of reality. The promise is an empty one.
Biographies and profiles have shown that the attitudes and behaviors shared by happy writers have nothing to do with fame or fortune, just like being a happy woman has nothing to do with being thin and beautiful. Thanks to popular mainstream media and entertainment perpetuating the myth, many girls and women have been conditioned to believe that happiness relied on being thin.
And thanks to years of writer profiles in the media, new writers have been conditioned to believe that their contentment depends on publication and sales. Not so!
According to our most reliable sources—happy writers—the “good writing life” is actually dependent on five conditions.
(We’ll discuss those five conditions next week. In the meantime, what’s your own image of a successful writing life? Has reality measured up to your original image? Has your definition changed? Do leave a comment.)