Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Peer Pressure...and Writers

Just like hypothetical jumping-off-bridge-parties and giving in to the (horrible) skinny jeans trend, the modern writer faces peer pressure daily. With social media and electronic interaction, writers are more connected than ever - and more likely than ever to derail their own success by giving in.

Here are a few common scenarios to consider:

Are you hanging with the wrong crowd?

Has your critique group become more of a social circle? Are the members getting published, or only offering positive "I love it!" feedback instead of constructive advice? What about your social networking friends - are they starting to rant and rave and be negative and bash all the things you THOUGHT you wanted in your career? These people will drag you down. I realize it's not easy to break up with a critique partner or group or stop speaking to a fellow writer, but if you are in any of these situations, you sure as heck better do something to counter-balance it. Join a new group that can offer what your other can't; balance negativity with inspiring posts and optimistic writer pals. Wallowing in the negative isn't going to help you get ahead, so make sure your peers aren't holding back your path to success.

Are you wanting what you don't have just because "everyone else" has it?

Never measure your success based on another author's resume. No two writing paths are the same - and that doesn't make the end destination any different. Looking to the success of others to dictate what you should and should not have is just going to hurt. Set goals for yourself, and don't change those goals or celebrate meeting them any less just because it's not as good as someone else's - i.e., if you want to be published, don't beat yourself with a stick because you were published...but not with your FIRST BOOK AND A SIX FIGURE DEAL like so-and-so did. Enjoy and work with YOUR publishing path; don't wish it was someone else's.

Are you listening to "know-it-alls"?

Everyone has an opinion on publishing. Chances are you've had at least one person tell you to just self publish, or most definitely be on a zillion social sites, or submit to twenty different contests, or turn your book into an erotic giant fairy story because THAT'S what's hot or - or -  It's easy for others to tell you what to do. But you have to do what's best for YOU and your career, YOU and YOUR book. If you only have time for one social media site, don't worry about spreading yourself thin - focus on what works for you. If you want traditional, then go for it. If you're writing historical but that's not what's hot, don't force yourself to write contemporary. Just like getting medical advice from your cousin, who TOTALLY thinks that mole you have is cancerous because Aunt Bertie TOTALLY had the same mole and had cancer vs. your doctor, who says it's fine - any advice given should be weighted with the experience behind the words, with only your career interests in mind.

Do you hesitate before saying "I'm a writer" because you don't think others would call you that?

I've heard of writers who won't consider themselves a writer if they're aren't actually published, or who won't celebrate a good review as a win or even a contest win as the most fabulous news ever because it's not quite what you SHOULD celebrate (which is a book deal or a six figure deal or hitting a list), or who won't say they're published because self-publishing isn't REAL publishing. Bull. You celebrate your wins, no matter how small, and you live up to what you ARE, not what you think others think you are.

I know it's hard to stand firm in your own writing path, especially when that path is long and tedious. And I don't mean to imply that adjusting to a changing atmosphere (such as deciding to self publish vs. traditional) is giving in, if YOU made that decision based on what YOU want and is right for YOUR goals and YOUR path.

But making a decision based on fear or giving in to pressure or changing your views on your journey or your writing based on negative influences is only going to interfere with your success. Be proud if you have the courage to do what's right for your writing and your career, even if that means being different from "everyone else."


  1. Great advice, thank you very much! I will definitely reread this from time to time.

  2. This may seem a tad esoteric, but I think writers have to keep their ears to the ground to keep up with peer pressures on the agents/editors ends as well, ( and there's definitely such a thing as pub industry fads) not only to find out what sort of groundswells might be in the offing their stuff might be a good fit for, but also to avoid ephemeral upticks that aren't going to trnaslate into book sales. (I won't offer specific examples, but in my 15+ years at Borders-glub,glub,- I saw more than a few few) If it sounds like fools gold it probably is, so stay the course with your own vision... Kevin A. Lewis

  3. Also it helps to type slowly enough to avoid repetitions and to spell "translate" properly...Kevin A. Lewis

  4. I guess it's human nature to compare ourselves to others, but it definitely happens at every stage of a writer's career. There's always a "Penelope" (SNL reference) who comes along to make you feel less than... If you book a school visit, she's filling auditoriums. If you sell one book, she sells seven. In my RWA days, I had my fill of that sort of thing, honestly. I remember a woman who showed up at a meeting, saying she had just sold her first book. She'd only been writing a year. We all compared ourselves unfavorably to her...but guess what? The last time I checked, she never published a book again. Someone said recently, "Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint," and I think that helps more than anything.

  5. Thank you for this. So inspiring!


  6. And I would venture to say that whatever makes us each different is what generally gets us published. When I wrote features for the Chicago Tribune, editors called me because of my voice--their words, not mine. We all have one. It's just making sure it doesn't get drowned out. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Great advice. I love this post. :)

  8. Well put! Thanks for the encouragement!