Recently I came across a writer, let’s call her Susie Snarkster, who publicly trashed me in a forum. I had just been hired at this particular site and Susie didn’t know me at all. Her issue is that I was hired to write in the same area she writes in and she felt like I was treading on her turf. Now, it should be said that this was not an uncommon practice. Several writers at this site share titles and sections, but in her comment about me she said she “was the first” so now she’s ticked at me. I didn’t respond to her but chose to ignore it.
I also understood her dismay, because I didn’t want to share a title with someone else either. I expressed this to the hiring person and they said it shouldn’t be an issue because there should be enough things to write about. You know what? They were right.
Still, it shocked me a little when I read Susie’s public lament. After all, I wasn’t happy about the situation either, but I sure wasn’t going to complain about her or the company giving me a paycheck. Second of all, I had just started and hadn’t really done much writing yet.
I decided to ignore the whole issue and just write. Since she had not reached out to me, I wasn’t going to send her a message and say, “Hey there… saw you trash me in the forums and just wanted to introduce myself.” Several writers on the site, however, have reached out to me personally, and I’ve been encouraged that not everyone there is like Susie. In fact, I’ve had a great time getting to know quite a few new writers.
I kept doing my job, and as a result, Susie got even more upset, because now I was writing more than she was. In fact, in just over a month I overtook her article total, and she had been there half a year. She decided then to leave snarky comments on my articles. I answered one but then decided to ignore the rest. Then, she started leaving snarky comments under a pseudonym.
There are a couple reasons this behavior makes me laugh. One is that the freelance writing community (especially in the online world) is very small. Many writers on this particular site are also on several other sites. Susie doesn’t write for more than just this one, or she would know if you alienate one writer publicly like she did, you are going to be met with resistance because the majority of writers out there don’t tolerate that behavior. They might not lash out at you right away, but they will remember it.
Another reason her behavior is funny to me is because look at how much time she is wasting on “being mad.” She could put that time and energy into actually writing.
Her behavior brings up a good point, though, and that is sometimes writers are jealous of each other. Being jealous is never productive, people! Trust me, I would love to sell as many books as Dan Brown or have the following that Mary Higgins Clark does, but I’m not them. So why bother being upset about it? I’ll just keep writing and if it’s meant to happen, it will.
Susie’s jealously isn’t unique. I hear writers get sassy with each other, or with people they feel shouldn’t have bestselling novels, and since I’m a sports nut (football to be exact) I started looking at the whole thing as unsportsmanlike behavior. To that end, here are some “Good Sportsmanship Rules” I’ve come up with, especially for writers:
Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Writers
This is a very hard thing to do. After all, writers see the success that others have and we strive for the same thing. To make it worse, some online writing sites list their top performers in terms of pay, pageviews, or comments for the rest of their writers to see. Everyone responds differently to this. Some writers are encouraged and motivated to write more, while some get instantly ticked.
I found this out myself recently when it was revealed by one site I write for that a writer had a record month with earnings. This writer got thousands more than I got, and I was happy for her until I realized she had the same amount of articles as me! I went through a series of thoughts: what the heck?, I should just quit, why am I doing this?, and on and on. Then, my reasonable side kicked in, and I took a look at her articles so I could learn a thing or two. First, she had a completely different topic, one that paid more than mine. Second, her keyword subtitles were much better than mine.
I instantly felt better because I knew I could improve, but also because I realized I didn’t write in her subject area and wasn’t going to. How did that make me feel better? Read on:
Make the Most of Your Writing Strengths
Let’s face it, every writer has a slightly different skill set. Focus your career on what you do best. Many writers try to fit their particular skills into a certain site’s or genre’s qualifications, and then they spend the entire time miserable (and unsuccessful.)
You’re Not Dan Brown, or Stephen King, or Stieg Larsson, or…..
It never fails, that when one writer “makes it big” and has a huge hit, there is someone who is immediately talking about how he or she doesn’t deserve the success because they “aren’t a good writer.”
Now here’s the thing, another writer’s style may be different than yours, but why begrudge him success? Why compare yourself to his works? Why be hostile with a writer that now has what you want?
There are different kinds of writers, and yay for that. Willa Cather for example, could write about garbage cans and make it so beautiful and compelling that you couldn’t turn away. Other writers have a different tone, method, style. Some are great at characterization and others tell a fantastic story. We all have strengths, and it’s up to us to make the most of them. Trust me, Dan Brown or Stieg Larsson’s book deal isn’t the reason your book or article didn’t make millions.
Now, the publishing business is crazy sometimes. There are books by celebs, joke books, trendy books, whatever, that somehow manage to sell a bunch and surprise people. Even the person who claims he wrote a book and it became an instant success and he was never a writer before… does not deserve your hatred. Let them have their success; it has nothing to do with you. If you don’t like their book then don’t buy it.
If you’re the type of writer that sees another author’s success and thinks, “I could do that so much better….” then do it.
Don’t Look Down Your Nose at Other Writers
Here’s another thing writers love to do sometimes: trash a writer because he is making a living differently than you. I still get comments every once in a while from someone when I tell them I’m a paid blogger. They make a pissy comment because “everybody blogs.” Well everybody might blog but I’m getting paid for it.
When I was writing in entertainment (which I loved and still do occasionally), I’d get the random pissy comment about “writing about celebrities” or “writing about gossip.” My writing career is really varied, and I like that. I like writing about entertainment, celebrities, and dating just as much as I do sports, frugal living, news, and health. Just because another writer’s work isn’t your cup of tea? Don’t trash them.
There are some writers that think you have to only: write novels, write for major magazines, write certain types of articles, etc. There have been threads upon threads in forums where writers attack each other for where and how they choose to work. Don’t be like that. Each writing career is different, and really, what’s it to you if a writer’s career is different than yours?
Don’t Be Pissy About What You Have
Part of the jealousy thing comes from writers who are just plain unhappy with what they have. There are so many options for freelancing and publishing today that writers should never crab about it. After all, how many times does someone tell you they “always wanted to be a writer?” I hear that all the time. I could tell people that “I work long hours, sometimes I struggle to find jobs, I have a novel I need to get published….” wah wah wah….. but I don’t because in the end, all of that stuff sounds cool to other people. That’s because it is. We’re lucky to be able to write. If your career isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, work on changing it. It’s in your power to do so.
Don’t Trash Other Writers
Let’s bring it back to Susie’s example. Susie has probably already rubbed a few people the wrong way simply because she chose to attack. Don’t do that. It will never gain you respect or success. Instead, focus on yourself.
Learn From Other Writers
If you’re feeling a little jealous, take a look at the things that particular writer is doing, and learn from them. Ask them how they got their success. Want more radio interviews? Ask a writer who is always giving interviews. Want better freelance jobs? Find out what other writers do. Want a book deal? Find out how another writer got theirs.
The lesson here is in finding something you can do and apply to your own career. You can’t have exactly the same kind of career as someone else, but you can apply tactics they use. Look at my keyword example above. I learned a lesson and applied it.
I’ll admit, I’m in awe of most writers. I work with so many published authors and successful freelancers that I can’t help but to be inspired. As a result, I am constantly asking writers how they market themselves, how they found agents, how they polish their fiction, how they get more pageviews, or how they got that fabulous job at a large writing outlet. There’s an opportunity to learn something every day.
Market Yourself As If You Are a Huge Success
I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but I market myself constantly. I sit every day and spend a couple hours finding opportunities to sell my writing or expertise. All the time. Not just when I feel like it or when I have a new book out, but all the time. I’m marketing myself as if I was already the success I want to be. I did this from the beginning, even when I had one paying freelance gig and one poetry book out. I have an idea of what I want my writing career to look like, and I market as if I am already that busy, in demand, incredibly successful writer I hope to be. (Right now I have busy… but in demand? Incredibly successful? Not yet.)
What do I mean by marketing? Pitching articles or ideas for radio or TV segments. Not just “I wrote a book” but what kind of knowledge you can bring. Getting involved in writer’s forums and finding opportunities. Getting to know other writers. Contacting bloggers and reporters. Contacting sites and asking them if they can review or list your book. Getting involved in social media – not just to promote your work but to be a valuable part of the system. Someone will contact you if you have established yourself as an expert, not just when you claim you are but when you show them you are.
And on and on…..
Bring Other Writers Up With You
Don’t keep your success tips a secret. Your success will not suffer if you help promote other writers. Share ideas and opportunities freely. Trust me on this one, when one writer is successful it helps all of us. We can all bring each other up and help promote the craft.