Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

[process] The price of success

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.
Tags: personal, process, writing
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