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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-03-16 16:04
Subject: [process] The price of success
Security: Public
Location:Nuevo Rancho Lake
Mood:thoughtful and sad
Music:house noises
Tags:personal, process, writing
I was accidentally reminded of something this morning that I haven't thought on in a while. Succeeding in this field can change friendships. I've been very lucky, in that I can only name two fellow writers whom I counted as friends who've distanced themselves from me as my career burgeoned. One simply withdrew and doesn't acknowledge me any more, the other has made it their business to badmouth me whenever the opportunity presents.

Shortly after kenscholes began making his current splash, specifically with his rather magnificent Tor deal in hand, another writer asked me how our friendship had survived the experience. I thought it was a bizarre question. As I told them, I'd celebrate the success of a total stranger, why wouldn't I celebrate the success of a dear friend? But then I'm really not the jealous type. Envy, sure, sometimes by the truckloads, but it simply never occurs to me that someone else's accomplishments might somehow diminish me.

And that isn't true, at least in publishing. This isn't the Olympics, where three people win medals and everyone else goes home. This isn't a zero-sum game. Success builds on success, competence builds on competence, and in my experience everyone prospers for being on a shared journey. In part, that's why so many writers read each other's blogs these days. Yet people take their aspirations so personally that I cannot begin to count the number of stories I've heard from other writers about friendships lost, crit groups broken up, and other social prices paid because they began to succeed before the people around them.

The oddest, saddest part about these two people who have turned away from me is that both were very important mentors to me. One was the person who introduced me to critique, brought me to my first workshop, showed me how to format a manuscript — all the painful newbie stuff that everyone has to learn somewhere. I should be dedicating books to that person and mentioning their name on panels, not stumbling over angry, petty references to me in Technorati searches that reference their blog.

I don't ever want to be that person. I want to be the kind of human being who can applaud every accomplishment of my friends and still go to sleep at night with a smile on my face. Writing is a solitary enough act at its best. Why isolate ourselves and each other through jealousy and hatred?

Pick up the phone, the email, the IM, and tell someone you know how much you appreciate their work.
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Lisa Deutsch Harrigan
User: lisa_marli
Date: 2008-03-16 23:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hi Jay
That's why I read your blog and I enjoy knowing you. You are a Good Person, a Good Writer, and More than a Little Crazy. Which makes you Great fun!
A Fan.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-17 14:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-17 14:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you, Charles. I try to treat people the way I want to be treated. That tends to work out fairly well.
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calendula_witch: Books
User: calendula_witch
Date: 2008-03-16 23:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Books
That's very profound. I've struggled with how to convey excitement and enthusiasm and congratulations to people (for example in my crit group) who have gotten agents and book deals, and somehow also communicate "gosh, I wanna be there too!" I mean, not right when they get the initial score--that's their moment, and they should bask in it--but it somehow always feels like if I convey, I dunno, yearning to have that too, then I'm somehow wishing they didn't have it. Which is not true. We need better language for "that's awesome, and someday we will all be up there on that mountaintop together!"
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2008-03-16 23:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
This is something that makes me very sad when I see it happening. I've observed it in other writer friends, and I haven't liked it when I heard it.

The field is big enough for all of us. If anything, we should all be working together to promote everyone and expanding readership rather than engaging in petty feuds. There's a couple of people I've been in critique groups with who managed to do well before I have--I'm glad for them.

And I get inspired by their successes.
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Karrin Jackson
User: karjack
Date: 2008-03-16 23:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you for posting this.

I'm at that newbie point of learning everything, going to my first critique group, meeting other writers, etc. There is a lot about the experience that is rewarding and a lot that feels like a constant struggle. I'm surrounded by people who know what they're doing and I... don't. It's often overwhelming. The people who are encouraging me right now mean the world to me. The idea of them turning away once I've finally made it is a rather painful one to contemplate. I'm sorry that this has happened to you.

For what it's worth, your success has been an inspiration to me.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-17 14:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm glad I've been able to inspire a bit. Thank you for the kind words.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2008-03-16 23:44 (UTC)
Subject: Another argument against the Olympic Model
"Small Publisher X is just starting up. It buys a book from Author Y...the sales are fantastic! Now, would Small Publisher X want to try to find new authors who will increase its sales...maybe help it become Big Publisher X...or will they just hold onto the single author they have because Author Y is a known quantity?"
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The Green Knight: Ninja
User: green_knight
Date: 2008-03-17 16:51 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Another argument against the Olympic Model
Keyword:Ninja
... and will author Y continue to stay with Small Publisher X whose distribution is limited, not to mention their marketing budget, and who had to *really* stretch in order to lay down a large enough first printing, stay with them, or will they accept an offer from Big Publisher Z that would be much more beneficial to their career? And how will X think about that?

A successful book can kill a small publisher.
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Ann
User: ann1962
Date: 2008-03-17 00:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yet people take their aspirations so personally that I cannot begin to count the number of stories I've heard from other writers about friendships lost, crit groups broken up, and other social prices paid because they began to succeed before the people around them.

They blame the success, but I suspect that it doesn't really have anything to do with that. About the people that they are, or maybe fear they really aren't.

In terms of appreciating work, I keep your quote above my work space. "The best indicator of the future success as a novelist is finishing one." Gets me onto my chair, and typing. So thanks.
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User: copperwise
Date: 2008-03-17 00:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you for saying this. I recently had what might be called a minor but important breakthrough, and immediately found a fellow writing friend becoming snippy and distant about it. Clearly not happy for me. And it upset me quite a lot.
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Greg van Eekhout
User: gregvaneekhout
Date: 2008-03-17 00:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Earlier today, before having read this entry, I was saying to my partner that Jay Lake is one of the most generous people I've come across in this business, that's he's truly one of the good guys.
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squirrel_monkey
User: squirrel_monkey
Date: 2008-03-17 01:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ditto.
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Darja: writing
User: ombriel
Date: 2008-03-17 01:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:writing
Great post.

Whenever someone close to me has a major success that has me feeling twinges of envy or self-doubt or what-have-you, I remind myself that I'm not in competition with anyone...except myself. That always seems to set my perspective aright.
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robvagle: Spencer's Butte
User: robvagle
Date: 2008-03-17 01:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Spencer's Butte

I love you, man!
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Jeremy Tolbert
User: the_flea_king
Date: 2008-03-17 01:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, for what it's worth, you're my mentor and I can't thank you enough for that.

It won't affect our friendship when I get a magnificent Tor deal, I swear.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-17 14:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Can I pre-envy you?
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User: spir123
Date: 2008-03-17 04:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Although blogging is about the only writing I aspire to at the present time, that does not keep me from feeling the pathos in "Process, The Price os Success". How sad that jealousy instead of joy and supportiveness enters in. Mentoring can be wonderful. Please continue both your writing and encouraging others.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-17 14:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Please continue both your writing and encouraging others.

No power in the 'verse can stop me!
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daveraines
User: daveraines
Date: 2008-03-17 04:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I know I have the possibility of that kind of jealousy in me, but right now I have to guard the opposite extreme - Super Fanboy. "I know people who have published! Published NOVELS even! And GOOD novels!"

Which is a kind of selfishness too, I guess. If my friends weren't successful, I couldn't brag on them.

Still, I think my applause is sincere when I say: I appreciate your work.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-17 14:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you, sir. Believe me, I have my fanboy moments.
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ericjamesstone
User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-03-17 05:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I've been very fortunate in that the writing friends I've made over the past few years have been the type to celebrate the successes of friends. And it's been a thrill for me to see my friends succeed, too. I find it sad that not everyone feels that way.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-03-17 14:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I find it sad that not everyone feels that way.

Yah. This business is tough enough without us throwing barriers in front of one another.
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