My dress isn’t pretty enough.

This is Victoria. I don’t know her but she has a pretty dress. She deserves to be invited to all the parties. Photo CC licensed by Robert Douglas – BY-SA

Some people like the fact that I show my insecurities on I Should be Writing. It tells them that they are not alone in their insecurities, that they are something to overcome, that you can reach publication while still feeling like someone’s going to knock on your door and demand the advance back because they just found out that YOU ARE A FRAUD.

Others don’t like it because they think I shouldn’t feel that way once I have reached the level in my career that I have. Get over it. I should quit whining; it’s obvious I’m doing OK, I have the writing creds to prove it. And their emails do so much to regulate my emotions. Thanks guys, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

But in reading [REDACTED] online today I discovered a new negative feeling that comes with the low level of pro writing that I have achieved. It actually comes from reaching a small sense of self worth. Where the feeling USED to be, “Wow, I’d love someday to be invited to contribute to a book like that,” now it’s, “Hey, wait, I’m totally qualified to contribute to that. Why didn’t they invite me? Wait. Am I done? Am I over? Did I never arrive? Did they sample my work and decide, ‘hm, no, not again.’ Or worse, did they read something I wrote online or hear me on a podcast and think, ‘yeah, we’re not inviting that asshole to a project.’ WHY WASN’T I INVITED TO THE PARTY? I WORE MY PRETTY DRESS AND EVERYTHING!” *runs off to eat frosting*

I often liken this career thing to a domed party in the desert. You think that you’re in the desert and all the pro writers are inside the party, and you need but ONE break to open the door and be invited in where there are water, showers, and waiters carrying trays of champagne once you dry off. But once you get in, you realize the party is only along the outer perimeter, and there is ANOTHER party right inside. And inside there? More parties. The parties of the multi-book deal, or the six-figure deal, or the movie option, or the actual movie being made, or the award winners. I had accepted this Dante-esque view of a writing career, but I had never expected that some people who I think are at the same party I am will get invited to other parties while we’re mingling. I mean, we’re all with the cocktails and the humorous WorldCon stories, and then a waiter in tails comes by with a little engraved notecard to hand to my companion, and he reads it and then excuses himself and goes on to the next party. Why didn’t I get one? Did I not wear the right pretty dress?

This is, of course, all metaphorical insecure BS. First, you don’t measure your career with someone else’s career as a yardstick. Second, not everyone can be invited to a party, just the law of averages, or some other mathematical rule, says that they can’t invite every talented person to every project. Third, maybe you’re not the right person – or even good enough – for that project, and that’s OK. Really. As long as you persist, your chances will improve, as will your talent.

Besides, you don’t stay hungry and scrappy by having every opportunity handed to you. The occasional disappointment/letdown/failure will make you fight all the harder next time.

And by you I mean me, obviously.

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One Response to My dress isn’t pretty enough.

  1. Tim says:

    I find this post to be a useful one already, and I don’t have any professional publishing credits yet. Rejection my omission is what I call this feeling, and its very common in my life. Knowing its just more BS and that other people go through it too is very helpful.