Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IWSG: When You Feel Like A Loser...

Okay, so it's the first Wednesday of the month. That means it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group. I don't participate often, but I am this month.

So I live in Utah. You may or may not know this, but there's about five million authors that live here. Big, famous ones like Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, James Dashner, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, Ally Condie, Brandon Mull, and Jennifer A. Nielson. (And that's only a few of the authors who live here.) All New York Times bestsellers. I know most of them. Have their emails. See them at conferences and in more casual situations.

So it's pretty easy to feel like a loser. In fact, I went to a launch party last week for a good friend of mine, and it was super-fun. I went with five other people (which sort of goes against everything in me, but that is another blog post for another day). Of the five of us, I was the only one without an agent, a new book deal, or some other Amazing Thing.

I felt like a loser.

As I was downing my southwest Caesar salad (love it, try it) in an attempt to stay out of the conversation and get this dinner over with! I remembered something my husband said a few weeks ago.

How you feel is your choice. Those were not his exact words, lest he read this (which he will) and be like, "When did I say that?"

His exact words were "You choose to be happy." And not exactly in that order, but that's what my brain heard. Just like it heard "How you feel is your choice."

So at the restaurant, I slowed down on the food consumption and tuned back into the conversation. I asked other people about themselves, their agents, their publisher imprints. I decided right then and there that I was not a loser, that I could be happy for my friends even though my writing career hasn't gone exactly how I wanted it to go.

Those people are my friends. They work hard. They weren't "making me" feel a certain way. I was feeling that way all by myself. And I have the ability to change it.

I did. I won't say it was easy, because it wasn't. I had to concentrate on it the whole night. I was exhausted when I finally got home. But I had a great time, and I was happy--with myself and for my friends. No loser-ness in sight.

Have you ever had to work to change how you feel? How did it go for you?


Kelly Hashway said...

It's easy to feel this way, Elana. Just think of all the people who wish they could say they've accomplished what you have. You're doing great.

Christine Danek said...

I feel like this a lot. And I have to say, I've only come to realize this choice this year. It's not easy. It's exhausting almost like a battle within yourself. And it's always a work in progress. I was nodding my head as I read this like you were in my mind. Crazy. Anyway, the only thing is to be proud of where you are and move forward. Battle on my friend. :)

Hal Lilburn said...

I love being a writer. I cherish every compliment I get. I would love to meet or have diner with these authors. I would use an opportunity like this toglean advice and inspiration, not to compare myself.

Jacqui said...

So...I'd be happy with your writing career right now! There are definitely levels of loserdom. I know you know this, but it put things into perspective for me. I'm a WIP writer. ;) Thanks for this post.

K. M. Walton said...

I read this somewhere (can't remember), typed it out, and it's taped to the bottom of my computer screen:

Compare yourself to yourself.

Look at how you've grown and what you've achieved.

Appreciate what you have done and what you have.

See how far you have come and what you are planning to do.

Keep your focus steadily on the opportunities, on the new chances, on what you can learn from your failures as best you can instead of confining your mind and your life.

When negative thoughts come or when I behave in a less than useful way, ask myself: What's in it for me?

Your post made me glance down and read it again ; )

Cherie Reich said...

That's so true how a person feel reflects more about her than the people around her. It's so easy to get lost in Loserville. It's even worse when you see people who started publishing at the same time you did and they already have upteen books out and are selling well. But every writer's journey is different, and we should be proud of what we've accomplished. You've done awesome things with your writing, Elana.

Stephsco said...

Thank you for sharing this and for such a simple way to stop and reflect. It can definitely be hard to see others in a place you wish you were, but I maintain you never really know what's going on with them until you ask--as you did.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

I hear ya, honey, and I feel the pain because I've been there in spades for waaaay too long. You have a wise husband, and I'm proud of you for turning around that evening and being the gracious, loving person and generous friend you are. I'm happy and proud to know you!

L.T. Elliot said...

Elana, you are a hero to me. Seriously. I so much want to be like you because you are strong, you are dedicated, you're ridiculously talented (oh, the novels in verse!), and because you GIVE, GIVE, GIVE to so many people. You're a success beyond measuring to me. And you always have been.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Can SO relate. I feel like a total loser right now because I'm laid off and can't find a job. At least one I think I should get. I'm coming to the realization I have to do something really different with less pay than I wanted. But like you, I'm going to choose how I feel about it all and my life as I reinvent it with everything changing in my life.

I just started re-reading Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I think it's really goingn to help me get through all these challenges I'm going through to find the joy in life. It might help you too.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love this. We all need that reminder sometimes.
I have a poster in my classroom saying "you're as happy as you choose to be". Can't remember the person who said it at the moment, but it's so true!

Chrys Fey said...

I had no idea that many writers lived in Utah! Wow!

And to answer your question, yes, I have had to change how I feel. I've gone through depression and it was tough to get back to normal, but I did it one day at a time. I looked at my blessings, talents, and accomplishments.

Angela Brown said...

I guess it is difficult for me to see you as a loser. You published a great trilogy after putting in the work to get an agent and a trad pub deal. You made your mind up and put in the work to lose weight the right way for you. And you opened your mind to self-publishing some pretty fantastic titles. So, again, kind of hard for me to see you as a loser.

That being said, I understand the feelings you experienced. I won't call myself a super writer with mad skillz. Nothing like that by far. But I've had to re-evaluate my perspective on my writing grind.

I have friends and some readers who think my published stories are fantastic, from the YA to the erotic works. Yet my sales don't come anywhere near in agreement. If I went by sales alone, I'd get out of publishing. But I've adjusted my perspective back to the passion that brought me to publishing, to the passion that drove me to discover other dream-makers willing to take the risk and stay the course despite the dead winds, to remembering genuine joy for others reaching milestones.

I still have wavering moments when I compare myself to others. But my passion, my lifeline in this marathon, re-aligns me with the one truth your husband told you: My happiness is my choice. And I choose to be happy for you, Elana, for the successes you've attained and for those to come.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I bet I know whose launch party that was -- and what awesome event he attended later -- and who he got a photograph with at said event.

Meanwhile, I had a launch party the same weekend, in little-old-Delaware, where I was happy some friends, relatives, and former co-workers showed up -- as well as a handful of kids who liked my books.


Doggone it, I want to be at an event with Brandon Mull. I want to meet Carrie Fisher. How the heck do you get invited to a Con anyway? Any Con. Even Baltimore Con, for heaven's sake?!?! (They ought to take anyone, right?)

But your husband and my husband -- they probably would like to meet up and have some drinks. Because they have it right. We choose to feel what we feel. You and I both have good things that have happened to us, and if we feel like failures, it's because we choose to do so.

It's a darn shame Utah and the part of Pennsylvania that might as well be Delaware are so far apart, because I'll bet we'd have some interesting conversations over drinks. (While our husbands threw their hands up in exasperation out of our eyesight.)

Liza said...

So astute. We make so many choices in life. This is a wonderful reminder that we have the power to make ourselves content or happy or over the top with joy. It is also a reminder to value our own accomplishments and to refrain from comparing (or feeling competitive) with others. It is hard. But we can choose to do it. You have written this beautifully.

miriam said...

Thanks, Elana, for sharing! I totally get how you feel, though you have so many accomplishments to be proud of. It's the comparing thing that we all need to stop doing, and yes, my husband would love to meet with your husband (and Diane's) !!
This was just the post I needed to read today.

Rosalyn said...

This is such an important post. Most of us aren't going to have exactly the career we've envisioned as writers. Few of us will hit the BUT list. But we can still choose to love our work. And like others have said, you are such an integral part of the writing scene here!

Robin said...

Whenever we aren't where we want to be we tend to feel this way. That feeling is magnified when we're surrounded by people who have what we want. But... they weren't always successful. They probably felt like a loser, too. I'm so glad you decided to choose happiness and have a good time. Yay you!

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Did you peek into my soul before writing this? Or how about my life recently?

In my writer's group, in the last year, one signed a two book deal, one got a great agent (after a gazillion wanted her), and one has her series optioned for a TV series.

I restarted a book three times. And just got rejected from a contest.

I'm trying super super hard to work on the craft, make my story incredible, and celebrate with my friends. Sometimes these celebrations end with me at my house, snuggled against my husband, trying to come to terms with timelines and expectations, and worse, I mean, most of all patience. Which is a really long way of saying thanks for talking about this. I really needed it.

Stasia said...

You are simply the best, Elana. That is all.

Stephanie Faris said...

I think we feel this way when we try to compare ourselves to others. One of the most profound statements I've read about that, though, is a quote that said when we compare ourselves to others, we're comparing our behind-the-scenes to their highlight reel. We only see what they show to the world...and people have a way of deceiving others to make them believe things are much bigger than they actually are.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wise words from your husband. We choose how we respond to situations and people. They can't make us do or feel anything.
You've had three books released from a big publisher - that's far from being a loser!

E. Arroyo said...

What Alex said. =)

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