When good things happen to other people

Strategies to avoid looking like a gherkin when good things happen to other people (particularly your writer friends)

Recently a very good writing friend had some terrific news on her journey towards publication.

She is a wonderful person and very talented, and I’m SO FREAKING EXCITED for her. Like, jumping up and down squeeing and typing horrendously excited.

But there was a moment when I paused and wondered, “Why her? Why not me?”

In my case, there’s a simple answer: because I’m not querying yet.

Sure, I might query for a long time without getting any positive signals, but I’m certainly not going to get any while I’m not querying. So what I need to do now is get my butt in my chair and finish my revision. (I’m working on it, honest.) Then re-polish to a mirror-like shine. Then engage beta readers…

But what if I were querying and a friend got this good news? What if I’d been querying longer than her?

Would I be envious?


I’d still be thrilled for her, but I imagine I’d have a hard time not turning a little gherkin-like in the colour department.

Gherkin of envy
I am the gherkin of envy. Now publish my book.

Since I don’t want to wander around looking like a gherkin, now seems like a good time to come up with a strategy for when good things happen to writers who deserve it less than me are not me.

I’ve narrowed it down to three possible options.

Strategy 1: Take it as encouragment

Writers exist who believe the only way to score a trade publishing contract is to be drinking buddies with the right people and the rest of us are screwed.

I’m not denying having the right drinking buddies might help you get published–I’m not that naïve–but every day people with no contacts in publishing get contracts through the brilliance (and marketability) of their books.

When a friend gets one step closer to being published, this shows it’s not only “other people” who get trade published.

Yesterday your friend hadn’t taken that step; today she has. Today you haven’t, but maybe tomorrow you will.

Don’t quit. She’s proof good things happen to people like you.

Strategy 2: Use it as motivation

Perhaps it was mere luck that your friend took a step towards publishing that you haven’t yet taken.

But maybe she’s doing something that you’re not.

You don’t need to compare, but why not use her success as a reason to examine the way you approach your own writing?

Do you carve out time to write even when it would be easier to blob and watch The West Wing?

Did you revise your book as well as you could before sending it into the world?

Did you get beta feedback, take it seriously, and use it to improve your novel even more?

Do you study writing craft through reading writing craft books and blogs, or analysing successful books that you read? Do you apply what you learn?

Do you study human behaviour, people’s motivations, reactions, and interactions, and use what you learn to make your characters come alive?

You do all that? You’re a legend. Keep doing it.

Strategy 3: Get drunk, moan to the cat about how unfair life is, celebrate with your friend, then get back to your writing

But sometimes you’re doing everything right, you’ve been querying since before your friend started writing, and your novel is so fantabulous it would make demons sing.

Too bad.

Life isn’t fair and publishing is random.

Recovery in this case requires four steps.

Step 1: Have a glass of wine.

Step 2: Rant to whoever in real life will listen. This will probably be your cat. She will respond ,”tuna?” or “sleeping”, depending on whether you woke her up to share your news.

Step 3: Cheer on your friend and help her celebrate her success. It might not be your success, but you can still get caught up in the excitement.

Step 4: Get back to writing. Your current book might be too brilliant to be appreciated by the world until after you die. Finish the next one, because celebrating is a lot harder when you’re dead, and your options for spending an enormous advance are much diminished.

(It should be noted that in preparation for this stage, I have tried to stock up on wine. Success has been limited–but I’ve got to drink a lot of wine.)

I’m still mulling it over, but at the moment I favour strategy 3.

How do you deal with envy when good things happen to people who deserve them less than you friends?

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

18 thoughts on “When good things happen to other people”

  1. Surprise surprise, I love this. When this happens to me, I try to use the success of others as a motivator. After lots of querying I connected with a publisher last year via a Twitter pitch party. I got really excited as I waited and waited for their response. When the rejection finally came I was pretty crushed, especially because their reason for rejecting the manuscript didn’t line up with any other criticism I’d gotten from beta readers, agents, etc. Really, the whole tone of the thing was “well, we really liked this and almost took it, but best of luck elsewhere.” Ugh.

    Of course, I really fell in love with this little publisher, who seems to be the best group putting out books in my genre right now. I follow them on Twitter, and there have been several occasions since when I’ve seen them announce they are publishing books from my other Twitter friends.

    The first time I definitely got a little gherkin-y. 😉

    But ultimately I decided I’m creating art, right? I congratulated my friends (and meant it), and finally let my husband talk me into self publishing. I don’t know how this book is going to sell (or not sell) yet, but what I do know is that I’ve learned a hell of a lot, and created something really beautiful.

    I guess this long ramble is ultimately to say. . . I’m able to be happy for and celebrate the accomplishments of my peers because though we’re taking different paths, we’re arriving at the same destination. Plus, nothing good comes from comparing our success or lack thereof to others. I’m content with my own accomplishments, which puts me in a great position to shout yours to the sky.

    And I guess even if I was still querying (or put this novel in a desk drawer) I’d still be happy for the success of others because it would be a reminder that it is possible. Plus, this world can use all the beauty and art we can pump into it, even if it isn’t mine.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    1. Ah, the “almost-but-not-quites” are the worst! But it does mean you’re writing at a professional level, it’s just a matter of finding the right home for your book. I applaud your courage in choosing to self-publish, and I’ll be cheering you all the way. 🙂

      I totally agree, the world definitely needs all the beauty and art it can get!

  2. I’m not querying either, but I use it as a motivation for sure! If I want to get there, I need to set myself up for success. 🙂

    We’re all get there with the right efforts. I believe in us! 🙂

  3. I am almost certain there will be a day when I am green with envy seeing your book on a bookshelf in my local bookstore while mine is still wallowing in the land of “near completion”

  4. You are a wonderful supportive writer friend, and I can’t wait until you’re querying so I can be a bit gherkin-ish while cheering you on!

    I like Option Three and am filing it away for future use. Minus the wine – I’ll soothe my green tendencies with chocolate. It works for everything else.

  5. I struggle with this too. There are so many layers of emotion when a writer friend has good news: happiness, then that, “Why not me?”, and then the guilt of the “Why not me?” and the “Maybe not you because you’re a horrible friend and DEAD INSIDE YOU GREEN-EYED MONSTER.”

    But as my consoling friends tell me, I’m only human and experiencing normal human emotions. And it has helped, because a rollercoaster of emotions isn’t sustainable and eventually the wheels have to stop to be greased. I’ve now reached a pretty zen state where I accept this is all out of my control (except one single thing – the writing itself) and there’s just no point worrying about it. All I can do is keep writing, keep letting my agent do her thing, and what happens will happen.

    I still have wobbles, of course–I am a very wobbly person as anybody who knows my dress size will attest–but most of the time, I’m zen. Ohmmmmm.

    1. Yes! It’s important to remember that it’s only human to wonder “why not me?”, and that doesn’t make you a terrible friend or dead inside. 🙂

      I’d glad to hear you’ve graduated past the worst of your wobbles to a snow-capped mountain top with your power cat by your side.

  6. Great post! I wish I wasn’t envious when I see other writers succeed. Being envious doesn’t help anyone, least of all me, but I tend to resemble a gherkin about three times a week. XD I particularly envy successful self-published authors because self-publishing is my choice of career. I’m trying to do my best, but then I see these authors who seem to do it better, faster and with less effort. Why them and not me?

    I know that comparing myself to others is pointless. Every author journey is different, and what do I know about the other authors’ struggles? What looks like quick and easy success to me might be the result of years of hard work. Or a different approach to things. Or just blind luck. That happens too.

    So when I see authors who seem to achieve their goals faster than me, I study them. What are they doing that I’m not doing? What can I learn from them? How can I improve? Observing my fellow authors has inspired me and helped me improve, so in the end I’m actually more grateful than envious. We’re all fabulous, and I want all of us to achieve our goals, whatever they are! 🙂

    1. That’s a lot of gherkining! You must know lots of great writers. 🙂 But it sounds like you’ve also figured out an excellent way to deal with this.

      You’re so right about the effort – you see every little thing you do, but you have no idea how much effort other people put in because you mostly only see the results.

  7. I figure if I’m feeling those pickle-ish twinges from time to time, it’s because I’m surrounding myself with people who are farther along in the journey than I am. I think that’s a good thing. Besides, I believe in reflected glory. 🙂

    1. You’re absolutely right, it’s a great thing to be surrounded by inspiring people you can learn from. Now excuse me while I work on my tan, basking in the glory reflecting off you. 🙂

  8. When I see people I know, and who I’ve seen doing the work, and going through the same steps I do succeed, that really genuinely feels like **I’m** moving closer to the goal, too. Sort of a “if X is there, and I do the same stuff they do it’s gotta be my turn soon.” I get jealous more when it’s someone doing a project of dubious quality and skipping the steps than if I believe they deserve it. So, you know… I’d be seething over something like Joe Lazy’s book of sweat-sock erotica.

    1. That’s an interesting distinction. The people who are evidence there’s a right way to do it and you’re headed there, and the people who are evidence that life is random and book buyers do too many drugs. :/

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