Competition. Four syllables that turn our brains bat-shit-crazy.
I’ve certainly have a history of going a little too far in the name of competition. There was a long chunk of time during my childhood when my family refused to play board games with me at all because I would absolutely lose it.
Fortunately, I grew up, and my brain learned to flex its self-control muscles. I’ve still been known to trash-talk during a game of Catan, but I won’t flip the board in a Hulk-smash rage just because I get frustrated that someone just BLOCKED MY LONGEST ROAD.
For years, I worked at a project manager, when the only thing that was won or lost was my sanity while I was racing against deadlines. So, I didn’t really think about the competitive nature of publishing before I sent Only Fools Jump out into the world. I became an author because I’ve been writing stories since I started stringing words into sentences. It’s something that has always brought me joy, and I finally got up the nerve to put that work out into the world.
But, being an author is competitive. There are lists and ratings and rankings. If you want to put a score on how well your career is going, there are more than enough numbers for you suffocate yourself with.
For some people, numbers are fantastic. Numbers help them set goals and show growth; there’s value in what you can measure.
For others, including me, they’re dangerous. Having access to that kind of data gives oxygen to the little seedling of an idea in my brain that I’m competing with others.
The idea of competition is that there is a winner and a loser. When you enter that mindset, it’s easy to watch other book releases or to read a Facebook post about “omg, this is the best book OF THE YEAR” and think there’s not enough room at the table for you. That somehow in this world of publishing, there are only so many seats and all of them have been snatched up already.
And do you know what? It’s not true. You're not vying for a slot on someone’s favorite author list, because there aren't a set number of slots. It’s just a list, and it can grow however long it needs to. That’s the funny thing about readers…they keep reading.
How many times have you picked up a book by an author you didn’t recognize?
You're striving to be the book someone picks up, and you hope your words make them feel and think long past when they’re done reading. And you don’t have to be better than some other author in order to do that. You just have to be good.
Being good can be hard, but that’s a struggle against yourself and your own growth. It’s not a competition with the rest of the book world.
But if you’re thinking of it as some kind of race, then you’re always going to be staring at the backs of people who’ve done it first or better or faster.
So focus on your own two feet. Do the best you can with what you have, and then try to do better. That’s what matters. Not how far you are behind or ahead of everyone else.
Being an outstanding author isn't about anyone else except for you and the blank page.
So, go write the shit out those words. And when you do look up, know that you’re doing the very best thing you can do in order to get better. And that is doing the work—one step, one word, and one day at time.
There’s more than enough room for you at the table, but you have to keep showing up with everything you have in order to get a spot.