Thursday, February 6, 2014

On Comparison and Confidence

Now that I have a little time for blogging (read: now that I finished my latest revision), I've been thinking about what I might say, and the thing my brain keeps circling back around to is comparison. YA Misfit Maggie Hall blogged on a similar theme not long ago, and I want to add my voice to hers.

The truth is, I've blogged about comparison before. If you click on that link, you might notice that I wrote that post in the first month of this blog's life. You'd think I would have figured at least a few things out in the last four and a half years, and the truth is, I did. There was a time when I was querying when it honestly didn't bother me if other writers got agents or book deals or fill-in-the-blank. I was confident in my own writing, so I knew that, sooner or later (probably later), things would work out for me, too. I just had to stay the course.

But then I signed with Kate (which was FANTASTIC) and went on submission (which was less fantastic). As the days turned into weeks and those weeks turned into months, my confidence dried up. The depression I'd struggled with as a teenager came back in full force, gobbling up the inner calm I'd worked so hard to achieve, and suddenly, I felt like I was right back where I'd started, jealous of anyone's success and secretly satisfied with anyone's failure.

In making this admission, I realize I'm opening myself up to criticism. Even if you're willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, you're probably thinking, "Gosh, Krista, you've sold a manuscript--no, two--for heaven's sake. You should buck up and be grateful!" And I should. Some days, I even think I am. But I'd be lying if I said I haven't felt jealous lately, and at least in my opinion, the only thing worse than feeling jealous is lying about not feeling jealous.

It's occurred to me as I've written this that, at least for me, the reason I feel jealous is because I've lost the confidence I used to have. Now, I don't mean the confidence that looks down its nose at other people and puts itself on a pedestal; I mean the confidence that comes from knowing you've done your best and being satisfied with that. THAT'S the kind of confidence that allowed me to reach out to other writers with genuine warmth and well wishes, and that's the kind of confidence I want to find again.

The great thing about this quiet confidence is that you can acquire it at any step along this path. As I already mentioned, I felt the most quietly confident before I had a book deal or even an agent. I was going through rejections like most people go through toilet paper, but it didn't even faze me. I knew my time would come, and I was content to wait it out.

I haven't managed to lay hands on that quiet confidence again, but I know where to look for it. For me, it usually springs from God, who, when I'm quiet and listening, never fails to reassure me of the infinite worth I have in His eyes. You might also find your quiet confidence in God or in the friends and family who love and support you no matter how many rejections you rack up or manuscripts you set aside. They believe in us.

Now, we just have to figure out how to believe in ourselves.


Ben Spendlove said...

As you know, I'm still in the looking-for-an-agent stage. From here, finding an agent looks like the summit. Reaching that crest and finding it to be merely a foothill must play havoc with one's emotions. We work for years just to get over that first obstacle, and it requires all the tenacity and grit we can muster. And run out?

Is that what happened? I can easily see it happening to me. I'm so focussed on this one thing that I don't even want to think about what comes after.

Anonymous said...

As always, your honesty is appreciated. I tend to trust that everything will work out in God's timing, but that doesn't mean I don't notice when writing friends advance to the next level without me. I tell myself, "Well, it's their time, not mine." It's hard not to compare, even when I know we're not comparing the same thing. But I have to keep the focus on doing my best and continuing to trust there's a master plan. Honestly, I couldn't do this without that faith. Hang in there!

posse said...

have you ever read anne lamott's BIRD BY BIRD? i love this book and your terrific post inspired me to revisit a chapter called jealousy.

a good quote from page 124:

""Jealousy is one of the occupational hazards of being a writer, and the most degrading. And I, who have been the Leona Helmsley of jealousy, have come to believe that the only things that help ease or transform it are (a) getting older, (b) talking about it until the fever breaks, and (c) using it as material. Also, someone somewhere along the line is going to be able to make you start laughing about it, and then you will be on your way home."

Thank you for your thought-provoking post. I really relate to it!

Jessie Oliveros said...

I feel like I am in the quiet confidence stage you were at while querying...I'm not there YET. But then what if when I get "there" it's not enough...? Yeah, seems like it's hard to keep your chin up ALL THE TIME in this business. I just read Natalie Whipple's blog post today, too, which is also along the lines of "Writing always comes with its challenges, at whatever stage you are in."

Creel Family said...

I love that you said that: The only thing worse than feeling jealous is lying about feeling jealous. I go through phases, too. And truthfully, there will always be people I will never be jealous of, because I love them that much, and then there are people who bring the jealousy out. I too am looking for the quiet confidence. You put it so well, thanks for sharing.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Good question, Ben. I don't know that I ran out so much as got the rug pulled out from under me. By the end, I felt like a champion querier, but at least for me, being on submission was a completely different animal. The stakes were so much higher. I mean, this was it. If it sold, I'd be a published author, fulfilling my lifelong dream, and if it didn't, well, I'd be right back at square one. It made the highs and lows that much higher and lower. I didn't anticipate that, so it hit me pretty hard.

Great comment, Michelle. I've learned that God's timing is far superior to my own, but it's hard to see that from the ground, especially when you can't see the end from the beginning like He can. Honey Bear and I had a miscarriage a few months after we got married, and then we spent the next two years trying to get pregnant again. I didn't understand, I REALLY didn't, but then our first son was born at what turned out to be the perfect time, and everything made sense. Like you said, it all comes down to faith, but developing great faith is a lifelong pursuit in and of itself. You hang in there, too. I'm certain great things are on your horizon.

I have read BIRD BY BIRD, posse, but it's been years, and I didn't remember that chapter. I'll have to look it up! (And thank YOU for your lovely comment.)

Jessie, thanks for mentioning Natalie's post. I read it this afternoon, and she really hit the nail on the head (as she often does). The dollar value of the advance tells you exactly where you stand in the publisher's eye. It makes it that much more important to remember we all have infinite worth in the sight of God.

Creel Family, your comment reminded me that it's always easier for me not to be jealous of the people I already care about. That's one of the great things about developing close friendships with other writers--their successes become your successes, and when they fail, you're able to shoulder some of the pain. Shared joy is double joy, and shared sorrow is half sorrow. (I didn't make that up, by the way--I remember reading it some inspirational calendar once:) )

HeatherCRaglin said...


Jeff Chen said...

Bravo for such an honest post. I think many of us experience these feelings, and what better way to counteract them than to acknowledge them?

Carmen said...

Bless you for your honesty and wisdom, Krista. I have no doubt that God will help you find that sweet spot again--when He believes you're ready. In the meantime, we're here cheering for you. :)

Karen Clayton said...

Thanks for opening up to us. I am ashamed to admit it, but this week I've been struggling with the same issue. Once again I am over it, but for a few days it wasn't pretty and I certainly wasn't proud of myself. It happens though. We are only human and perhaps it makes us better writers - as painful as it is we can use it in our writing. I am taking your post as a sign that everything will be okay. Again thanks for letting us know that it is okay to be human and make mistakes.

Anonymous said...

I think the post was very reflective of what everyone feels at one point or another. I believe if we have been at this long enough then we have all probably experienced all parts of the emotional stew that goes with writing. I know I have been elated when a piece is accepted to a magazine or newspaper and frustrated when the pile of rejections gets that one extra that seems to be one too many. Then there are things that are out of our control. Everything about it is matter where we are in the journey. I recently started a blog to put my published stories on as well as because I hope to communicate with other writers etc. I keep reminding myself what a famous author said when asked what he would have wanted to be if he was not a successful writer. His answer... "an unsuccessful writer." :) I remind myself of that whenever I have a day or a moment like you describe. Anyway, if anyone wants to connect - check me out at my blog :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for stopping by, Heather!

I agree, Jeff. I like to talk through things that bother me, so it definitely helps to get it out.

Aw, thank you, Carmen, for your lovely comment.

Karen, I'm sorry you've been struggling with some of the same things. I remember reading recently than the novel-writing profession is the second most competitive in this country, so it's no wonder that we all find ourselves comparing at least once in a while. (My husband was surprised that novelists beat out, say, professional football players on the competitive scale, but I think the reason is that very few people are qualified to actually be considered for a position as a professional football player whereas anyone can write a book and seek publication.) As you said, you just have to step back and realize that comparing isn't okay and try to get back into a healthy frame of mind. I hope you're feeling better this week.

Daniel, thanks for the thoughtful comment. Do you know which writer said that? It's a fantastic quote:) That's what I have to keep reminding myself of--I chose this, so now, it's time to figure out how to roll with the punches.

Karen lee Hallam said...

I LOVE your post. This feeling seems to be in many hearts lately.
They way you explain, is so beautiful. I'm saving this post, for always. :) you are an inspiration, Krista.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Oh, Karen, thank you. What a kind thing to say.

Anonymous said...

I love everything about this post and admire your honesty. As Michelle Mason said, " His time."

While it's easier said than done, I try to remind myself that I was given a writing talent for a reason. I'm meant to tell a story in a particular way that couldn't be accomplished by anyone other than me. The story you have to tell could never be written by anyone other than you. So I try my best to celebrate every story out there. And every step that lead to that story making it out into the world--but it's not easy at times.

I hope you've found your happy place once again. Hugs!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for this reminder, Kerry. You're absolutely right that we all have stories to tell. And I am feeling better--thanks for thinking of me:)