Comparing Yourself: The Imagined Journey towards Publication vs. Reality
By Shannon Grogan
I love the movie Grease.
It came out in theaters when I was almost 8 years old, so I wasn’t allowed to see it. But when I first saw it on HBO, or Showtime a year or two later, I was hooked, and in love with Danny Zuko/John Travolta.
In 4th grade, for my birthday, I got a pink satin jacket that I’m pretty sure had a roller skate on the back of it, even though I specifically remember asking Mom to make sure it said ‘Pink Ladies’ in twirly script.
Back then, Happy Days was my favorite TV show, and Grease was my favorite movie. So I imagined, of course, since I was a kid that high school was exactly like high school was in Grease and Happy Days.
How disappointed I was to get older, and my world-schema opened up. I learned that high school wasn’t a fictitious show set in the 1950’s. High school girls didn’t wear bobby socks and saddle shoes, or pink satin ribbons in their hair, or skirts that twirled endlessly.
Sadly and shockingly, boys and girls didn’t break into song and dance in the middle of classes. The guys didn’t wear leather jackets, or slick their hair into oily pompadours (and, eww, if they did). High School wasn’t called Rydell, Danny Zuko was nowhere in sight, and my body would never grow up to look like Olivia Newton-John’s in that skin-tight leather thingy she wore. Worst of all, the end of the high school year didn’t bring love or a carnival. Sigh.
But still, I loved so much of my journey through high school, no matter how difficult things were sometimes.
Just as I’ve loved so much of my journey to publication and beyond, no matter how difficult things are sometimes.
Nothing is ever, at least to me, what I think it will be, or should be. Every single writer’s journey on the road to publication is different, no matter what you imagine. I repeat, so please hear me—everyone’s journey is different! This is something I have to remind myself of daily.
Throughout this long road I’ve battled with cases of ‘I thought it was supposed to be like…’ and serious scuffles with the Comparison Devil (I wish I could remember where I first heard of this creature!) that likes to crouch on my shoulder and breathe hot, toxic nonsense into my ear.
When I was querying agents with my first (now drawer) novel, I was sort of obsessed with everyone else’s query stats. I always compared my stats of pretty much zero action, to their seemingly endless partial and full requests. Sometimes it got super depressing to watch people on the SCBWI/Verla Kay message boards start querying months after me and snag agents soon after. That wasn’t supposed to happen, that wasn’t what I imagined it would be. I wrote a book, dammit, some agent had to want mine too, right? I’ve been querying forever!
I never imagined I’d have to suffer so much agent rejection on the journey, because I had it planned in my mind of how it was all supposed to go. But as it turned out, all that rejection strengthened my writing (and my skin, which is like bark now), until I had multiple offers on my next novel.
So, finally, I had an agent.
Of course, that meant my book would sell quickly, right?
Since I usually imagined just the next step in the journey, I didn’t realize agents faced rejection too, by editors. Hey now, that didn’t go with my imagined journey. It didn’t compare with how quickly other authors I knew sold their books.
But by the end of it I ended up with the editor who loved my story the most and that’s all I needed.
I imagined the book deal would solve everything. I was on the other side. Greener grass, right? I never imagined that Comparison Devil would be driving back to dump a truckload on me. Shiny, brand new ways of comparing myself and making me feel shitty next to other authors. But this is a whole new post for another time.
But the bottom line is that everyone’s journey is different, no matter what you imagine it should be. As I stated before, I have to remind myself of this daily, especially when I go on social media. At every stage of this writing game there is something to knock your confidence and hope down, no matter where you are on this journey. And that’s when you need your support system, just like Sandy had Frenchy in Grease, to wipe her eyes and hold her hand.
Remember why you are doing this. Remember that there are many people who say they will write a novel someday but they haven’t written even the first word yet. It’s natural to compare, and it’s natural to imagine, after all, you are a creative person. It’s natural to get jealous of some other writer you know getting three full requests in one week. Just try not to compare, and make sure you have a bunch of Frenchys a mouse click away who can pick you up when you’ve had three query rejections in a half-hour flat!
Don’t compare! Do keep writing!
Shannon Grogan is a second grade teacher who writes at night (and while her kids are at ballet and baseball) in a small logging town east of Seattle. She holds degrees in education, and graphic design/Illustration. When she isn’t writing, she’s baking, reading, watching scary movies, and wishing she were at the beach.
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From Where I Watch You
Sixteen-year-old Kara McKinley is about to realize her dream of becoming a professional baker. Beautifully designed and piped, her cookies are masterpieces, but also her ticket out of rainy Seattle—if she wins the upcoming national baking competition and its scholarship prize to culinary school in California. Kara can no longer stand the home where her family lived, laughed, and ultimately imploded after her mean-spirited big sister Kellen died in a drowning accident. Kara’s dad has since fled, and her mom has turned from a high-powered attorney into a nutty holy-rolling Christian fundamentalist peddling “Soul Soup” in the family café. All Kara has left are memories of better times.
But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces a secret terror. Someone is leaving her handwritten notes. Someone who knows exactly where she is and what’s she’s doing. As they lead her to piece together the events that preceded Kellen’s terrible, life-changing betrayal years before, she starts to catch glimpses of her dead sister: an unwelcome ghost in filthy Ugg boots. If Kara doesn’t figure out who her stalker is, and soon, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.
Shannon is kind enough to be giving away a hardcover copy of From Where I Watch You to one lucky winner! Here are a few rules:
- This giveaway is international!
- You must live in a country where Amazon and/or The Book Depository deliver.
- This giveaway will end on Saturday, February 27th at midnight.
- We (including Shannon) exercise the right to disqualify anyone who is a “giveaway robot” or who has cheated.
- Good Luck!
Thank you so much to Shannon Grogan for being such a wonderful person and an amazin author! This post is so helpful, as so many young and hopeful writers assume so many things about the realities of being published that aren’t exactly true! Your story is informative for all of us who one day dream of making it big!
A huge thanks to all authors who have participated, are participating, and will participate in this feature. Your words and stories help writers so much more than you could ever imagine.
Have a wonderful rest of your week!