I love writing support groups. They provide advice, writing tips, and great publishing advice. I particularly enjoy reading group-member success stories; they inspire me and give me hope for my own writing career.
Some time ago, while I was reading posts on a Facebook writer’s support group, I read the post of a fellow author who joyously shared the news that a literary agent had offered her representation. Naturally, everyone who commented offered his or her heartfelt congratulations.
I started to type a similar congratulatory response, but this time, my fingers froze as a small voice in my head surfaced.
“Go ahead,” it said. “Write what you really think.”
What did I think? I was happy for her, but another, less Beth-like part of me was angry. Why? Why should this person get what I desired the most? Why should I congratulate my fellow writer when I had yet to be successful? I have already admitted, in a previous post, to sending out over 100 query letters – all of which resulted in rejection; so, to summon a positive, heartfelt response was beyond me at that moment.
Disappointed in my reaction, I left the computer and took a break to collect my thoughts. Writing is a tough profession, I reminded myself. The competition is enormous, and there are no guarantees we will succeed the way we want. This fellow writer is a success story, which should be celebrated. I had no business scorning her achievement. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the truth: I wasn’t angry with her. I was angry with myself for not achieving my goals. I felt sorry for myself – as we have all done at one point or another – and I let that self-pity override my happiness for her accomplishment.
When the selfish side of me faded, I popped back on to Facebook to give my writing-buddy the congratulations she deserved. She sent me a private message later, expressing how long she had been working towards this goal, what a hard journey it had been, and how she knew I would find an agent too, someday.
As writers, it is imperative that we form positive, encouraging communities which support one another. That is part of what Women on Writing does. It provides wisdom, encouragement, and ideas for people who love to write. By helping one another, we form a strong group of people who will continue to nurture the art of writing. Jealously might creep into the picture from time to time, but we should not let that jealously overshadow the positive aspects of a writing community.
It took this experience to remind me that a win for one writer is a win for many. While I cannot promise that I’ll never have another momentary pity-party, I can promise that I won’t let it get in the way of my support for my fellow writers. Now, I appreciate my writing groups more than ever.
Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here.