Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

"Keep on living in competition"

Tuesday Night Writers was a bit of a bust. Due to a variety of circumstances only davidlevine and I were there for any length of time, and there was a raucous Wiccan moot going on around us. However, it meant that he and I got to talk a bit, which is a somewhat rare pleasure. David is thoughtful, witty and erudite, in addition to being a hell of a writer. (And I did get a fair amount of work done on a number of disparate projects.)

One of the things we touched on was the sense of competition which writers seem to be overtaken by. I pointed out something that I've said before -- this is not a direct competition, such as a footrace, where there can be only one winner, and that person's victory by definition sets other runners behind. Rather, the field of writing and publishing is an indirect competition, like shopping for a hard-to-find product. Just because I am able to buy a Wii doesn't mean you can't. (Well, as if I would ever buy a Wii...)

What this means is a practical matter is that jealousy or envy over someone else's sale or a good review is deeply pointless. Not only for the obvious psychological reasons, but simply because it is misplaced. At the same time, we're all monkeys here (unless you're a product of Intelligent Design or Young Earth Creation, in which case you should be complaining about manufacturer's defects in your knees, spine and reproductive system), and monkeys compete. All the time.

I believe that one of the great virtues of our particular genre is the workshop system that supports it. One of the important, albeit secondary, functions of the workshop system is to facilitiate a sense of cooperation and mutuality, while providing an outlet for that competitive impulse.

At the bottom, we're all in this together. No one fails simply because someone else succeeds.
Tags: process, publishing, writing

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