Wednesday, April 21, 2010

There Is No Competition

As some of you might know, I was stunned and thrilled to be one of the winners of Miss Snark's First Victim's Secret Agent contest! (You can read my entry here - #6 Imaginary Heart) But after jumping up and down and blogging/tweeting/facebook announcing my win I started to think about that word.

Winner. What does it really mean? How can you "win" a subjective contest. And that reminded me of a an idea I've kicked around since my acting days. The idea that there is no competition especially not when it comes to art. (And writing is art, just in case you didn't know.) How can anyone win anything that's based on personal preference? The ten of us selected in this month's Secret Agent contest appealed to that agent at this time in her life. Another agent might not have liked any of the entries she chose.

It's the same with the stories you tell. What resonates with some people won't resonate with others, but does that mean that the story that a million people relate to is better than the one that only five people love? No. Especially if those five people love that book with their whole heart and soul.

Sure you can look at things like how much money a book made, how many copies it sold, but even that doesn't mean much. Books don't start on a level playing field. Some will have bigger marketing budgets, or people who really "get" the story and who it's for.

The point I'm trying to make is that if you base your idea of success on the money you make, the number of books you sell, or the awards you receive, you're going to live a frustrating and disappointing life. Because there's always going to be someone with more opportunities than you, or who's "better" than you at something. And when you focus all your energy on distilling what the "winner" did into a formula and executing it just to beat that one person or thing, you rob yourself of the freedom to create what speaks to you most. The thing that could be your own personal biggest success ever.

Besides, a win for one writer is a win for us all because it means people are buying books!

With that, I leave you with two quotes I came across in the awesome book The Art of War For Writers by James Scott Bell

In the end, a first-class you is better than a second-hand version of somebody else. Write books that can't be clumped with a bunch of similar ones.
- David Morrell

Don't worry about trying to be better than someone else. Always try to be the very best you can be. Learn from others, yes. But don't just try to be better than they are. You have no control over that. Instead try, and try very hard, to be the best you can be. That you have control over.
- John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach


  1. I love those quotes - and I agree with your post BUT I'm still so excited for your Secret Agent win!

    I think it's so true to only focus on just being the best 'you' that you can be. I love that writers seem more supportive than competitive. For instance, we know that you and Lacey are WAY more technologically advanced than me (hence why I couldn't even enter the Secret Agent Contest :), but you guys are always trying to help me which is awesome. Thank you!

  2. Love it! Couldn't be more true when it comes to personal taste and art.

  3. I love the quotes! And the post! Made me think of the saying: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Yes, that is cliche, but it's so true.

  4. Congrats on your win and a great post too.

  5. Thanks for the congratulations! I really appreciate it!

  6. Congrats on the win! And thanks for the words of wisdom. :)

    So, hm, if I do not base my success on how much money I make, the number of books I sell or the quantity of adoring fan letters I receive every week, what is left? *Just teasing!*

  7. This is so so true. Timing plays a big part of things in the publishing industry, and that's something that can't be bottled or learned. It's something that we can't control, that we can't even guess at.

    Congrats on your win!

  8. I agree with your post and love the quotes, too...but CONGRATULATIONS!!! For real, that is freaking awesome!

  9. What a great post! Sometimes we get so caught up in the idea that we've gotta get published and we've gotta do well and we've gotta get big advances that we forget that writing is truly an art form, and each writer puts their heart in what they write, making it just as valuable as the next.

    unless you're a ghost-written celebrity. ha.


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