Don’t Feed Your Discontent

Sad puppyBack when I was in my 20’s, I went through a phase in which I was extremely unhappy with my looks. My hair, my face, my weight, my clothes — nothing was right. I was buying more expensive makeup, going on fad diets, and spending too much money on clothes in the attempt to feel better about myself.

One day I had an “aha” moment when I realized I was feeding myself a steady diet of fashion magazines like Glamour, and entertainment magazines like People, that featured an endless array of “beautiful people” who would always be prettier, skinnier, and more fashionable than I (and who, in fact, didn’t really exist except as a product of endless Photoshopping). Deciding to give up my magazine addiction, I noticed a substantial improvement in my self-image over the next several months. The difference was striking and left a powerful impression on me, and I’ve been hyper-aware of insidious, unrealistic influences in my life ever since, avoiding them when possible.

I learned an important lesson: We can identify the things that are causing us to be less than contented, and eliminate them. I’ve used this lesson to make other changes, such as:

→ After joining Costco, I realized we were buying more and more junk we didn’t need. Simply shopping in that store gave us the discontent of not having the junk that was such a good price! I stopped going to Costco ten years ago, have never missed it, and have probably saved thousands of dollars.

→ I used to be highly involved in the parent-teacher organization at my kids’ school. But it was always a combative environment, and while the goal was ostensibly to improve the educational experience of the children, nothing was ever accomplished and everyone was always unhappy. I quit my involvement (finding ways to help the school without attending those meetings) and as a result, my satisfaction with the school increased.

There’s a reason I’m giving you these examples. I think we all can stand to ask ourselves if there are ways we can increase our day-to-day satisfaction by paying attention to things that feed our discontent, and eliminating them.

For writers, my observation and completely unscientific conclusion is this:

The #1 cause of writer discontent is talking to other writers.

Ironic! Talking to other writers is also the most helpful way to get support, encouragement, and knowledge about the industry. Nevertheless, a large percentage of the problems writers have are from either,

(1) comparing themselves with other writers, or

(2) getting inaccurate information from other writers, or

(3) hanging out in writer loops or chatrooms where discontented writers are venting their woes.

If you’re unhappy with something in your writing life, ask yourself: Am I comparing my sales to those of other writers? Am I comparing my experience with another writer’s experience? (Remember, everyone’s path is unique.) Am I upset about something another writer told me, without having any objective verification of its truth? Am I paying too much attention to the complaints of unhappy authors?

It’s crucial to avoid comparison, and set your own yardstick for success. Your path is not going to look like anyone else’s.

Are you wasting valuable time and energy ranting about the unfairness of the industry, or the difficulties of getting published, when you could focus elsewhere—on writing for instance—and be happier? Are you worrying about things you can’t control instead of focusing on things within your sphere of influence?

While author loops can be terrific forums for high-minded discussion, too often they devolve into complaints and “piling on,” where everyone feeds everyone else’s dissatisfaction.

If you’re experiencing discontent about your writing life, what can you do to stop feeding that? Is there anything you need to eliminate? 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

95 Comments

  1. Kathryn Neff Perry on April 18, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    Rachel,
    This is great advice. I think it’s human nature to compare ourselves with our peers. I loved “set your own yardstick for success”.



  2. My Favorite Blogs This Week — January 12 on January 28, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    […] to receive God’s love and delight and own that I truly am cherished. 3. Rachelle Gardner’s “Don’t Feed Your Discontent”:  The PURSE-onality Challenge in May ’12 was based on the concept that what I focus on […]



  3. Katharine Grubb on January 18, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    I’ve been looking for the reason why I hate online writing groups so much. I thought it was just me being an introvert. I think you’ve fully said what I needed to hear. If there’s a feeling of dread or discontent or angst, then maybe I don’t need it. I think I’ll hand pick my writing buddies and step away from situations like this. Oh, and your parent organization at school is another reason I homeschool. ((((SHUDDER!))))



  4. […] Our Light Through the Storm, Laurie Coombs 2. How To Develop More Discipline, Michael Hyatt 3. Don’t Feed Your Discontent, Rachelle Gardner 4. Compel Women’s Conference, Renee Swope 5. Four Pink Shiny Boots for 20 Beautiful Little […]



  5. Friday Features #39 - YESENIA VARGAS on January 12, 2013 at 1:41 AM

    […] Don’t Feed Your Discontent | Rachelle Gardner […]



  6. […] started on Wednesday with Rachelle Gardner’s post about being discontented, in part, due to the people we’re around.  She says that writers […]



  7. Daphnée Kwong Waye on January 11, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    A very good post! Since I’m only a student, my writing is still a sort of hobby, though a serious one, but I know exactly what it feels like to be discontent because of comparisons – at school, we are very competitive, too much I guess, and it only ruins me in my studies. The problem is that the administration divides us by the subjects we do, and thus we tend to compare each other, although it’s true that it helps also to be able to improve.
    It’s like being friend-foes.
    Anyway, I mostly admire writers, rather than compare, but I believe that when I’ll hit the publishing stage, this discontentment thing will inevitably get to me.
    And then I’ll remember your post.
    Thank you!



  8. Mira on January 10, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    Rachelle, I like your writing in many ways, but this is a message you’ve given before, and given to me personally, that I just can not get behind.

    I’m guessing you don’t mean it this way, but you do know that trying to separate writers, and encourage them not to talk to each other is a tactic practised by those who wish to maintain power?

    The reality is that the contracts given by the Big Six are terrible, exploitive contracts. Writers need to know about this.

    They need to know so they can protect themselves, and they need to know so they can advocate for themselves, both as individuals and as a group.

    I think you mean to support this practice as a psychological means of self-care, but there is a world out there, and authors need to be informed and educated.

    There has been huge pressure on writers to be silent and not pass on information, please don’t continue that practice, even if your intentions are good. I hope you’ll consider what I’m saying here, it’s important.



  9. Reba on January 10, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Comparing ourselves to others is a sure path to disappointment…or so I’ve found.
    This evening I am speaking to a group of writers, and at some point people will be talking about their experiences in this business. My goal is to be encouraging and to inform. Thanks for this post, and the reminder that we all are unique. What is good and works for someone else, may not be good and work for me.



  10. Mercey Valley on January 10, 2013 at 9:40 AM

    Wow, a cool post – and very cool comments 🙂

    One of life’s defining “Aha!” moments can apply to SOOO many areas. Once we’ve had one, we never look back. SO valuable!! The “Aha” is empowering, humbling, and gratifying all at once. Suddenly you have an edge. What you learned is impossible to forget.

    Possibly the worst feeling is that I don’t know enough. I combat it by shushing that impatient voice and just keep reading, learning, seeking. Maybe I’ll never know enough, but I’ll always know the One who knows 😉



  11. Trafficking in Publishing's Commodities on January 10, 2013 at 9:10 AM

    […] Agent Rachelle Gardner has struck a chord for many readers this week in her post Don’t Feed Your Discontent. […]



  12. Flower Patch Farmgirl on January 9, 2013 at 9:36 PM

    Last night I fed my discontent by stuffing my face with chips and salsa along with my best friend/trusted reader. She started with, “So what’s going on with the book?” She ended with, “The next time we talk you better have some new information.” YIKES! Looks like I better stop commiserating and start moving!



  13. Samantha Hunter on January 9, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    A friend pointed me at this blog today, after I just went through months of discontent writing a book I never really should have written, because it’s not what I want to write, felt like I was completely in the wrong direction, and my agent also talked me off the ledge on that this afternoon as well. 😉

    What I wanted to add, though, (and please take this in the spirit it’s offered) is that it’s not the complaining that’s hard to avoid — it’s easy to sign off lists/loops, etc and I’ve done that for a while. Heck, I don’t even watch the news because it’s so negative.

    But sometimes, it’s being around all the ultra-positive folks who seem like they are “on” all the time, and they seem to be getting one contract on top of another, and letting you know every perfect review, every amazing thing that happens to them, etc and THAT’s where you can end up comparing yourself, feeling like you are doing less, worse, not enough, etc and then you end up walking down the wrong path as you try to catch up with them — NONONO! LOL And believe me, I know from whence I speak — we all fall into this trap, I think, and it’s a bad one.

    Walk down your own path, and as my agent and friends remind me, enjoy your own gifts, the things that you shine in. Be truly happy for others, but don’t try to be like them. 😉

    Sam
    Sam



  14. Linda Fausnet on January 9, 2013 at 9:04 PM

    I dont mind talking to other writers, but I’ve found going to conferences horribly depressing experiences….



  15. Freda Cameron on January 9, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Insightful post.

    When I reached “a certain age” all the caring about what other people thought about material things (houses, clothes, cars, etc.) vanished.

    Because I’m grateful for all the good things in my life, I try not to get dragged into comparisons. When I feel myself going in that direction, I stop and remind myself that my life is blessed.



  16. Peter DeHaan on January 9, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    My challenge is the “need” for a platform and to have a robust social media presence. I need to learn to not compare my platform with others or conventional thinking, instead developing a platform that’s right for me. Maybe this year I can turn the corner on this.



  17. Lenore Buth on January 9, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    Thanks, Rachelle, and all the rest of you. The collective wisdom here is powerful.



  18. Elizabeth Seckman on January 9, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    You are a genius.

    I wish you could have told that to 16 year old me. Took her till she was 30 to quit smacking herself upside the head trying to look like the chicks in glamour. (And feeling like poo when she failed!)

    But thanks for getting through to writer me. Henceforth, I will stop the obsession with comparing my sales ranks to my friends and I will just keep working.
    Thank you!



  19. […] of in the same line of thought, Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) advises, Don’t Feed Your Discontent. Among other things, she asks, “Are you worrying about things you can’t control instead of […]



  20. Dan Erickson on January 9, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    I teach Mass Communication courses and we often discuss media image. It’s a trap to try to compare ourselves. I’m a writer, but was first a songwriter. As a songwriter I’m guilty of comparisons, but as a writer, I tend to not worry about it. I just do what I do.



  21. Jennifer Zarifeh Major on January 9, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    I’d smoke you ALL at freckle count! HA!! Put me near a hair dryer, even, and I can up the freckle count by the minute.
    But since no one is competing for that title, there goes my shot at fame.

    I have been letting myself get discouraged because *I* think I’m ready…but, oddly enough, I’m not.
    I remember late last spring driving a certain Miscreant INSANE with my eager puppy attitude. And now, oh my word, I’d rather spend 5 minutes with my (insert name of annoying relative here) than read anything I wrote last year!!

    I am looking at the re-write of my WIP. I need to roundhouse doubt in the guts and get on with it. Thankfully, I have a very supportive group of writer peeps/friends/potential shelf mates who keep me sane, grounded and looking at the big picture.



  22. Jean Ann Williams on January 9, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    Nice reminder, Rachelle, thank you.



  23. Jan Thompson on January 9, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Hmmm. You made a thought-provoking statement I’ve never considered before: “The #1 cause of writer discontent is talking to other writers.”

    So far I haven’t met (yet?) any Writers of Discontent. Maybe my having never been to a writer’s conference (yet!) has temporarily shielded me from exposure? I don’t know.

    So far all the non-fiction and fiction authors who have said anything to me in the last 20 years have only said encouraging words, except one back in the 90s, but he had a bad day, and was complaining about his own lack of whatever. I try not to let other people’s bad hair days rub off on me LOL.



  24. joylene on January 9, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Thank you, Rachelle. I needed to hear this.



  25. Jen Cvelbar on January 9, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    I’ve started reminding myself that I am my Father’s daughter – i.e a child of God. It’s amazing how focusing on Him will help your overall outlook. 🙂 Great article! Thanks Rachelle



  26. Kim Pullen on January 9, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    Thanks, Rachelle. Loved the insight of this one. It’s amazing how we can learn so many valuable lessons from our OWN life if we ruminate on it for awhile.



  27. Kathryn Elliott on January 9, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    I stopped the chat room crawl when the naysayers outweighed the up-lifters. Nothing kills a dream faster than comparison and misinformation. And hey, belting out a few verses of “Accentuate the Positive” always helps, even in my rhythmically stunted little corner of the world. Here, Aretha does it better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IP9h40z0sk

    FYI Rachelle: I kept an Excel spreadsheet pre and post Costco. (Yes, I’m that detail crazed.)We saved $850 dropping the membership and shopping smarter.



  28. Heather Day Gilbert on January 9, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    Very poignant thoughts, Rachelle. I’ve just taken a blogging break, and I realized how discouraging comparisons can be. I’m deliberately cutting back on my blog commenting as I focus on writing. At the same time, I had to comment all over the place and get on all sorts of social media to get my ever-important PLATFORM in place. It doesn’t pay to be a recluse in your newbie-writer years. Connections with other CBA writers are so important, not just for the mercenary reason of having a pool of influencers, but for the encouragement you give each other through the ups and downs of this biz.

    I have so many writer friends whose blogs I love to visit–humble people who have shared so much and are honest in their struggles. When they succeed, it feels like we all succeed. I appreciate every crumb of support I get from my fellow authors, and I hope to never be the “I got a contract, IN YO FACE!” kinda gal! In fact, I imagine my friends and followers will be more excited than I will be, since I’ll be in shock for at least a year.



  29. Stacy Voss on January 9, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    I definitely agree! I love what you said about creating our own yardstick for success. For me, that’s been the most freeing experience ever as I created my own definition of success rather than craving what the world imposed on me.



  30. Rodney Savary on January 9, 2013 at 1:26 PM

    This is good (as in Ha-Ha). It’s one of the reasons I stopped commenting so much on blogs that I read – like yours. No offense.

    Hope Clark’s is another that I follow, and I agree with both of you that I need to participate, give back instead of just taking, so I began to comment as often as possible – practically always.

    Then I realized I’m not in the same league. It’s no different than a race. If I’m not up to someone else’s speed, why run with them? Sure I need to run, but if I can’t keep up, I’ll get discouraged, fall farther back and eventually quit.

    So I decided to drop back, comment when you come around the track again, pick up some pointers while I’m observing you and let you eat my dust when my time comes.

    If I shoot for the moon, I’ll only land among the stars if I miss.



  31. Peggy Dover on January 9, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Dear Rachelle,
    Are you a mind-reader? Or just a common malady that so many of us give our attention to a self-defeating draw that pulls us off-course, like the bike rider and the tree? I do think that it’s important, when having others critique one’s work, that they enjoy the same type of books. It’s a great reminder to not allow our inspiration and admiration for other writers to become comparison shopping with ourselves. Thank you.



  32. Douglas Pearce on January 9, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Nice post.

    It is interesting that comparing oneself with other writers is used as an example of discontent and yet, MS submissions often require the writer to list other writers/novels that their work is comparable to!

    I doubt that any writer writes in a vacuum, and most are influenced in one form or another by other writers, whether they realise it or not, thus comparison is inevitable.
    I would venture that every fantasy novel with a ring in the story is compared to Tolkein.
    How many current writers of teen-vampire novels were/are influenced by Twilight? And naturally there is the inevitable comparison.
    Braam Stoker? Who’s that? 🙂



  33. Tiana Smith on January 9, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    I think it probably depends a lot on *which* authors you’re talking to. For example, you didn’t stop shopping at every store, just Costco. I love talking to other authors and am perfectly happy right now with where I’m at – even if I’m unpublished.

    I do agree though, there are some author circles that might do more harm than good.

    I also think your beauty magazine comparison is telling – I did the same thing. It used to be that I could never leave the house without wearing makeup, and now I hardly ever wear it. If we’re happier with who we are and where we’re at, we’ll stop comparing ourselves to others.



  34. Dale S. Rogers on January 9, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    You have a valid point, Rachelle. I’ve noticed that when I watch people on tv with gorgeous homes in Hawaii or other exotic locales, I’m less content with my life.

    Also, oddly enough, I found that as I learn more about publishing, the more I feel I will never be published. I
    try to glean what I can, but it’s hard
    to not be discouraged in such a crowded
    market.



  35. Micky Wolf on January 9, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Great post! The wisdom you share from personal experience makes it clear and digestible–recognizing that spending time and energy feeding discontent is akin to mindlessly consuming junk food for the writing soul and spirit. Yuck!



  36. Jeff High on January 9, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    Hi Rachael,

    This is a wonderful post!

    Like others have noted, I greatly appreciate (if not outright envy) your forthright honesty.

    Much like Richard, I have avoided writers groups because of issues such as competition, inadequacy, ego, dissimilar agendas, etc. –all the frailties of the human condition, most of which I’m likely the greatest offender. Instead, I have engaged a small circle of confidants who have provided me with positive and sometimes painful constructive feedback.

    But the greatest take away from your post is realizing the need to draw boundaries with those negative things in our world that we have little ability to change. For me, this has on occasion included family and even church. These choices are rarely black and white, but are nevertheless choices that should be made.

    Thanks for putting this under the spotlight.



  37. Isla Cunningham on January 9, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    As a brand new (so new I don’t know if there should be a hyphen in “brand new” or not and instead of looking it up I’m just going to talk about it) writer, this is fantastic advice!! I will definitely file this away and remind myself not to get stuck in a competitive rut with colleagues. On another note, Costco has vastly improved (where I live anyway)! They have tons of fresh, organic produce and tend to push better products (amazing flax cereals and hummus flavors) now. My life has been changed by a few of their samples lately. 😉 Thank you for taking the time to share such invaluable insights again!!



  38. Missy Buchanan on January 9, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    As I prepare to speak before a group of authors and readers at the Pulpwood Queen Book Club event next weekend, I find your message very timely. Perhaps my 60+ age helps me to refrain from constantly comparing myself to other authors. I try to learn from them and celebrate their successes while also being confident in my ability to connect with my own reading audience. In a nutshell, we each have our own journey. It’s fine to occasionally glance over at another author but if we take our eyes off of our own path for too long, we are likely to fall flat on our face.



  39. Lindsay Harrel on January 9, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    I stopped looking at my stats for my blog everyday or worrying about how many followers I have. Since I don’t have a book out, that’s the equivalent of books sales for me, I guess. I just try to remember…I can’t force people to read my blog, and I can’t worry that so-and-so has more followers than me. I want to be grateful for the followers and readers I DO have, and supply them with great content. When that became my goal, I was a lot more content.

    Love the examples you gave, Rachelle. Surrounding ourselves with the right influences is so important.



  40. Terri J. Haynes on January 9, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    And here I thought I was crazy.

    I have been slowly pulling away from writer’s forums and the like but I couldn’t figure out why. I never made the connection to discontent. Once I decided to self-publish, I pulled away more since there is still a heavy stigmatism for authors who self-publish first. This frustrated me because I wanted to be a part of a writing community.

    Thank you for explaining this. Whew! You lifted some of my guilt about pulling away. I feel so much better.



  41. Mary K. Johnson on January 9, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Years ago, when I was newly married, I felt a bit inadequate compared to other wives. Sue cooked like a professional chef and I didn’t, Sarah was svelte as a fitness instructor and I wasn’t, Sally kept house perfectly and I didn’t. My husband finally said, “Don’t you realize none of them is doing it all, either? You’re making composites of other people and comparing yourself to the composite. It’s unrealistic! Nobody’s perfect–just be yourself.”I joyfully accepted his advice.

    Now I find it happening again as a writer.Wow–the way Sue can invest her characters with authentic emotion, or the way Sarah can structure a plot…you know the drill. Thank you for your post today, encouraging us to become really proficient at being ourselves. We need the reminder!



  42. Turney on January 9, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Very insightful post (like always) – just like the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results…



  43. Mary Sutton on January 9, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Sometimes. More so a few years ago than now. I’ve managed to find a great group that is really more about encouragement than whinging or comparison. But I completely get your point because it’s so true in so many things.

    Mostly now I get frustrated when I think, “Okay, I’ve got a plan,” and then I read something that sends me right back to square one and leaves me doubting my plan.



  44. Jay Faubion on January 9, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    The problem of always comparing yourself to others is endemic to human nature. We’re warned about it in 2 Cor_10:12: “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”



  45. Marilyn Hudson Tucker on January 9, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    I am blessed with a writers’ critique group that I started. It has 10 members, and it meets in my home once a week. I call the group the Razzleberry Writers because I serve Marie Callender’s Razzleberry pie each week. I can have the leftovers for breakfast.

    If you would like to start your own, I suggest going to a large writers’ group and searching for people you would like to be around. Everyone can contribute something. Invite them to your home and enjoy what happens.



  46. Wendy Paine Miller on January 9, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    Certainly something to evaluate and think about more.

    I often feel challenged in this area, called to encourage writing friends while continually reminding myself I’m on my own path.

    I think it comes down to being able to weed out the rest until we reach truth. And I know there are times in my life I’m more vulnerable and less able to weed well.

    To your magazine point, I was in the grocery store yesterday and I caught sight of a tabloid w/ a bunch of actresses w/out their makeup. As much as imagine stuff like that peeves them to no end (rightfully so) I think it serves as a powerful reminder.

    Along the lines of what to stop, I’m intentional about not checking #s of other writer friends across other social media sites. I’ve found it’s a waste of time and it plays on my already overcrowded thoughts.

    I don’t think I could cut out talking to my writer peeps. Guess it comes down once again to what we choose to talk about and whether it’s an uplifting experience or a drain.

    (Apparently I don’t have much to say on this subject.)
    ~ Wendy



  47. Joe Pote on January 9, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    A very good post, Rachelle, that could be applied to many areas of life.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!



  48. Zan Marie on January 9, 2013 at 10:14 AM

    Excellent post, Rachelle! One of my writing statements for the year is “My journey is my journey. My progress is my progress.” It’s helping with the urge of comparing myself to others. ; )



  49. Jane on January 9, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    I’m confused as to how writers are to find support and education about the publishing industry if we’re to avoid talking to other writers. 🙂 Obviously we want to be choosy about whom we listen to, but talking to other writers is not in and of itself a cause of discontentment.

    Until we talk to other writers, we don’t know if what we’re experiencing with our agent or our publisher or our critique group is “normal.” Hearing from other writers could well save us from bad situations that over the long term would end up leaving us even more discontented and with ruined (or no) careers.



  50. Diane Yuhas on January 9, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    “As soon as you get it, you want something new.” – The Cars. Advertising is all about comparison – tempting us to desire whatever it is we don’t have so we’ll spend our money – or someone else’s – to get it, and then starting the cycle all over again. Comparison is mostly a death-trap, but often so well hidden in us that we fall into it without even realizing it.



  51. Jill Haugh on January 9, 2013 at 10:07 AM

    Hi Rachelle,
    What an extremely powerful post. I think it is very easy to become negative, especially with our culture of sarcasm and cynicism. Speaking from personal experience, I deal with my own negativity on a regular basis, almost exclusively with my writing. When one only receives rejection it can add up, and slowly turn into negative emotions like jealousy–when someone posts they got an agent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! or that they’ve landed a publisher. Many of the events around attempting to get published result in negative consequences, whether in the form of critique, or unasked-for advice.
    But, you hit on a very good point: Change one’s focus. Recognizing what’s happening is key. Read about other writers’ trials and tribulations, know you are in good company. Know that any artist must develop the artists’ “thick skin”. And, love your work–unapologetically.
    Thanks for such an insightful piece on understanding ourselves. It’s good for the soul.
    ~Just Jill



  52. Jamie Beck on January 9, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Love this article. Unfortunately, most of my discontent seems to come from never feeling satisfied that “I’ve got it right” with my own writing. Each time I think my revisions have finally made the book great, I look at the draft a few days later and think “this stinks!” LOL. Does any author at any success level ever feel satisfied with their work?



    • Ann Averill on January 9, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      Good question. A four times published writer in my critique group told me just a few days ago that writers could polish their work endlessly. There’s always something that you could change. There’s always the urge to make it better, but eventually it has to go out the door and find its audience. Your critique group will help you discover the timing for its debut. Sometimes our insecurity as writers keeps us from ever meeting Prince Charming.



      • Jamie Beck on January 9, 2013 at 11:20 AM

        Thanks for your insight. On the bright side, I guess I’m in good company (with my thoughts). On the other hand, I also see I have to learn to live with the uncertainty! LOL As for Prince Charming, I had a beta reader tell me she wanted to find a guy just like my hero…and I replied saying that it was unlikely since heroes like him are only found in FICTION!! LOL



  53. Lisa on January 9, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Thanks Rachelle, discontent can eat us up and leave us unable to move forward. God made us all entirely unique, and our journey’s reflect that.



  54. Jeanne on January 9, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Rachelle, I so appreciate this post and the honesty with which you shared. Comparing myself with others has always led to discontent. I guess in my writing life, I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by other writers who are encouragers as well as wiser than me. They’ve helped me immensely in my writing. I’ve been careful about which blogs I follow, mostly because of time constraints in my daily life.

    Now, ask me about comparing, and that’s a different story. I’ve struggled with comparing myself and my shortcomings to others’ strengths for years. Over the past few years I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a waste of time and energy, and it’s very discouraging. In my writing life, I’m learning to focus on learning craft and practice it. I have a couple of writing friends who I go to when I need a fresh perspective or clarification.

    I also remember that God’s plan for my writing is perfect for me. I don’t want to live anyone else’s plan, I want the one He has for me. Remembering this helps me not compare my path to others’.



  55. Richard Mabry on January 9, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    The problem with writer’s loops and discussion groups is that they generally contain someone whose posts make me feel uncomfortable, sort of like the itch to get a new car when the neighbors drive up in one. They just got a new contract, why didn’t I? They decided to self-publish, why haven’t I? Their grandchildren are perfect, why aren’t mine? And so it goes.

    Thanks for putting it so plainly.



  56. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on January 9, 2013 at 9:13 AM

    Rachelle, Great insight.

    I stayed off Facebook for a time because I was discouraged by writers constantly posting word counts much higher than mine. When writers I’ve mentored surpassed me and got published, I had to stop comparing my writing journey with others. I can cheer for them because it’s not a competition.

    What matters is that I do my best.



    • Jeanne on January 9, 2013 at 9:33 AM

      Great thoughts. Sometimes we need to change our perspective, don’t we?



    • Heather Day Gilbert on January 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      Thanks for this reminder, Roxanne. I’m guilty of posting word counts on my FB author page, simply because I’m excited and thrilled I’m getting something done! But I know there are always two sides of every coin, and I NEVER want to make people feel inadequate in their writing.

      I’ve been on the receiving end of a barrage of “I got representation!” or “I got a contract!” posts, and while there’s nothing WRONG with telling people this, you can do it in a way that’s loaded with thanksgiving and humility, instead of an “It’s ALL ABOUT ME!” attitude.

      Will stop posting word counts. But I did find it stirred interesting conversations on how many words per chapter my writer friends shoot for.



      • Roxanne Sherwood Gray on January 9, 2013 at 2:42 PM

        Heather, Thank you for your sensitivity to others, but I don’t fault writers for sharing word counts or (especially!) contract news. If/when I get a contract, I’m sure I’ll tell everyone. (Hopefully, I’ll be sensitive too.)

        It’s somewhat like the woman who has a miscarriage when her best friend announces she’s pregnant. (This is a bad analogy because a writing contract is not equal to a child.) The pregnant woman can’t help the timing or the fact that her dream of motherhood is coming true at the time her friend’s world has come crashing down, which is something she’s got to learn to deal with.

        Seeing the success of my fellow writers was my problem to overcome. I no longer envy their word counts or contracts, but I still dream of being published too.



  57. Julie Luek on January 9, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    Like the other comments left, I have to agree with this 100%. At 48, not all those lessons have come (or still come) easily.

    Somewhat coincidentally,this lesson hit me in November about writing. It took two months of introspection to figure out what was going on with me, my confidence and writing direction. For me, the catalyst was joining a revision group in November. That’s when I started feeling the itchy discontent and self-doubt.

    Since then I’ve taken a big step back, in blogging and in the importance I place on it and have tried to refocus on writing– the kind I love, that makes me happy to write.

    Sometimes I do feel like I have to be a bit of a horse with blinders on so I focus on my path and destination, not all the jumping and waving of hands on the sidelines. Thanks for a great, well-articulated article.



  58. Veronica Sicoe on January 9, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    Great post, Rachelle! You made a very important point.

    We constantly evaluate ourselves based on the criteria coming from outside (magazines, commercials, colleagues and friends, etc.) that we forget we’re the only ones who have a right to define ourselves and live up to that definition. No one else gets to have a say about who we are.

    And it’s no different in writing fiction — while there are genre definitions and industry drawers, and many ways to grade success, we are much more than a sum of labels that other people define or value.



    • Jeanne on January 9, 2013 at 9:31 AM

      Good points, Veronica. I like the reminder, I am the only one who should be defining who I am as a writer, and in my relationships.



  59. Stephen H. King on January 9, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    Pretty content with my discontent over here. 🙂

    I stopped doing the “I should buy it because it’s on sale” dance a long time ago–about the time, in fact, that I got married the first time. It is, after all, always easier to see somebody else’s eye-log than your own. As for other writers, I get a little jealous at times, especially when somebody makes millions off of sparkly vampires or poorly-written sex books, but I’m pretty secure in my own writing and I know where I’m headed.

    My professional life is a source of discontent at times, but that’s something that I know I can’t fix now, I know I can fix later, and I know when I’ll need to act to fix it. It’s just a matter of time, that is.

    – TOSK



  60. Diana Harkness on January 9, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    I am encouraged but also have fed my discontent at writer’s conferences. At one, we were allowed to submit questions to a panel. The moderator used mine as a joke. I really wanted a serious answer to help me as a new writer. Instead all I felt was that I was too ignorant to ask the right question.

    At another, I asked for a critique of my poems. They weren’t great, maybe not even good, but they weren’t worthless either. I wanted to learn how to make them strong. Instead I was asked if I really needed to punctuate and he suggested I change one word. Now, in order not to feel inadequate, I don’t ask questions and don’t submit poetry for critique. I think it’s better just to sit and listen, and keep reading and writing.



  61. Anne Love on January 9, 2013 at 7:48 AM

    You hit the nail on the head Rachelle!

    This is crucial. I find this to be an especially important task to manage at a writer’s conference.

    Instead, I try to focus my interactions with others at a conference on encouraging everyone I come in contact with. No, I’m not an expert, but I can share a bit of sunshine, say prayers for those with that harried-frazzled look of confused exhaustion. You don’t need to be an uber-pubbed-writer to encourage others. 🙂



    • Jennifer Zarifeh Major on January 9, 2013 at 6:25 PM

      Can we just plan NOW for you to talk me out of the ladies’ room at ACFW or wherever? It seems so much simpler than wondering IF I lose it, more like planning for WHEN.



  62. Michael Seese on January 9, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    Your #1 cause definitely is a double-edged sword. It is good to learn from my fellow authors. And, hearing their accomplishments does increase my drive to succeed.

    But as you say, the price is feeling inadequate when I don’t get multiple requests for the full manuscript within 24 hours (which is something I have heard another author claim).



    • Cherry Odelberg on January 9, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      I notice Rachelle did not quit READING, she just quit reading magazines that fed her discontent. Nor should I quit communicating with other writers or people in general-only the ones who sap my creative energy, pull me down instead of mutual raising up.



  63. PK Hrezo on January 9, 2013 at 7:14 AM

    This realization definitely comes with maturity. I did the same thing with magazines and TV–completely eliminated them from my life. I also did the same thing with certain writing blogs. Eliminated anything that didn’t make me feel good about myself or my path as a writer and it helped tenfold.



  64. Casi on January 9, 2013 at 6:07 AM

    You know, I’ve applied the eliminated discontent thing since high school. However, I never thought of applying it to my writing life.

    I would have to say that the most discontented I’ve been with that though, is that I have to scrape out time for myself. Then again, if I have all the time in the world to write it doesn’t work so well either.

    This I shall have to muse on. Thank you for the excellent wake up.



  65. David Porter on January 9, 2013 at 4:24 AM

    Excellent, excellent post!



  66. Melissa on January 9, 2013 at 3:20 AM

    Excellent points, Rachelle. Allow me to take it a step further. I spend a lot of time on social media and have had to step back from following agents, editors, bloggers, and other industry professionals who incessantly complain about writers and the manuscripts/books they read. There was simply way too much negativity coming at me about my chosen profession. I also made myself stop paying attention to tumblr sites like Life in Publishing that go so far in their “hate speak” about writers that they actually issued a message that despite the overall tone of the tumblr, most editors do not hate most writers. I’ve had to learn to protect myself from just the sort of negative environment you talk about in this blog post by getting off of loops plagued by complainers, unfollowing industry professionals that demonstrate generalized hostility towards authors, and staying away from certain blogs/tumblrs. Life’s too short for all that negativity, you know? This job is hard enough and absorbing all that junk doesn’t do you an ounce of good.

    ~Melissa



    • Mira on January 10, 2013 at 6:54 PM

      Melissa – that’s really disturbing. I assumed that the anti-author rhetoric in the Industry had stopped. Sounds like it’s alive and well.

      What a terrible shame.



  67. Dee Bright on January 9, 2013 at 3:00 AM

    Wow, great advice, Rachelle, and I appreciate your willingness to share your own personal struggles. Thanks.

    If I could add a #4, it would be this:

    Care more about writing for God than writing for others.

    I’m a recovering people pleaser, so this one was/sometimes still is a challenge for me!



    • Jeanne on January 9, 2013 at 9:27 AM

      Dee, I’m like you–a recovering people pleaser. I love your #4.



      • Lisa on January 9, 2013 at 9:47 AM

        People pleasing… my number one struggle 🙂 Well, said.



        • Ann Averill on January 9, 2013 at 10:26 AM

          Me too! Learning to focus on my identity in Christ is helping me recover moment by moment as I’m tempted to compare myself, my work, or my path to others.



  68. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on January 9, 2013 at 2:59 AM

    I’m pretty happy with where I am as a writer, and always was. The rest of life, however, has been a bit of a challenge.

    I keep my equilibrium by keeping my own counsel (and as far as possible, my own company). It’s very true that misery loves company, and there are a lot of people who hate to see someone happy. They see it as a zero-sum game…my happiness is balanced by their unhappiness, and “It’s not fair!”

    Recently I was asked how I justify my “bulls**t optimism” in facing a vicious and potentially fatal illness.

    That’s an extreme, but it did bring home to me that even people from whom we might expect support can be driven by a desire to ameliorate their discontent by magnifying the negatives in the life of another.

    As usual, Shakespeare said it best…”To thine own self be true.”

    I can’t fix their problems by voluntarily incarcerating myself in the prison of discontent…so I won’t.



    • Jeanne on January 9, 2013 at 9:26 AM

      Well said, Andrew.



    • Connie Almony on January 9, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      So true, Andrew. It’s too bad your friends don’t say, “How do you do it. I’d like to try that out.” We had a lady who cleaned our home when I was a kid. She lived in a scary neighborhood in Washington DC, and took multiple buses to get to our house. She had a hard life and worked long hours every day, but she joyfully sang hymns as she polished our floor. I now realize she was one of the richest people I ever knew, because she carried her joy with her and no circumstance could ever steal it from her—and believe me, there were many that should have. Her hope was in the Lord. It took me decades to understand that … but I do now.
      Anyone can be happy in good times. If you make your joy dependent on those things, it’s fleeting. To learn to find the Joys in the struggle is to truly possess it as your own.
      That’s not to say we should never cry or complain. Sometimes it’s good to vent. But you have to ask yourself, “Is this productive or making me miserable.” A good cry (for me at least) is cathartic. Spreading bitterness only fertilizes the weeds.



      • Ann Averill on January 9, 2013 at 10:22 AM

        “Spreading bitterness only fertilizes the weeds.” Great line! Very applicable to a situation in my life at the moment.Great story too. Wanted to fertilize you with some encouragement!



        • Connie Almony on January 9, 2013 at 10:31 AM

          Oh and how I love encouragement fertilizer!!! Thank you so much.Praying the bitterness growing around you will be neutralized. Prayer is the best weed killer!



      • Karen Prough on January 9, 2013 at 2:17 PM

        I’m so glad I read your post today. I needed to have an elbow jabbed into my side to let me see that I’ve been trying to “keep up” with everything. I’m becoming discontent with who I am and what I love to do. I must continue what God has laid out for me and follow his nudging and not the crowd’s suggestions. Thank you.



      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on January 9, 2013 at 7:07 PM

        Connie, that’s really lovely.

        You painted a word-picture of that wonderful, wealthy woman that makes me feel like I know her.



    • Jennifer Zarifeh Major on January 9, 2013 at 6:23 PM

      “I can’t fix their problems by voluntarily incarcerating myself in the prison of discontent…so I won’t.”

      Oooh, nicely said, Andrew!



  69. mark williams international on January 9, 2013 at 2:53 AM

    So very true, Rachel.

    The biggest culprits by far are the blogs of the celebrity self-publishers who have successfully gone indie having established themselves first through the trad-published system, and who invariably have deals with the big e-retailers.

    Those same people now turn around and tell new and inexperienced writers the Big Six offer nothing and will steal all the authors’ royalties, that agents are pointless, and that any new writer can emulate their success.

    It’s sad when fiction writers carry that fiction over into their blogs and raise false hopes among those just starting out.



    • Mira on January 10, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      @ Mark Williams. Wow. I’ve seen you at PGs.

      It’s pretty astonishing to me that you dismiss the incredibly low royalty rates publishers pay authors. I assumed you had more information about the reality of the Industry.



      • mark williams international on January 11, 2013 at 2:16 AM

        Sorry, Mira, when did I dismiss the incredibly low royalties publishers pay authors? I must have missed that bit.

        I think you’re confusing a refusal to slavishly follow the indie-is-good-trad-pub-bad line with an entirely separate issue of royalties vs. sales commission.

        The problem is that far too many indie authors fall for the idea that the payments from Amazon and other retailers are royalties. They are not.

        When Amazon (or other retailer) pays you 70% for selling your book it’s what’s left after they’ve taken their sales commission. It’s not a royalty.

        Unless we’re with one of their imprints then Amazon is not our publisher. It’s a retailer charging us 30% or 65% to sell our book.

        The retailer has invested nothing in your book. It has not helped you edit or proofread, or paid for your cover, and it certainly has not invested substantial sums getting you into print and widely distributed in bookstores and multiple online retailers.

        No-one is forcing authors to sign these contracts with publishers. The fact that every day successful indies are doing so suggests the publishers still have much to offer.



        • Mira on January 11, 2013 at 10:27 PM

          Mark, I felt you implied that Publishers pay authors a fair royalty rate. If I misunderstood what you meant, I apologize.

          Well, I don’t think successful indies are signing contracts with Publishers every day, but it’s true that some have. But they have been able to negotiate substantially different contracts, which much more favorable royalty rates.



  70. Erich Kreppenhofer on January 9, 2013 at 2:38 AM

    Disconntent is result of envy, justified or not, know who you are, whom you want to emulate and forget the rest. Writers also are great for agrandisement of their status…read the promontional bios, award winning on too many labels. I never know so many awards are handed out monthly. But then again, do I care? Not a bit! But if you look close so many writers are happy and content, maybe it is learning to disregard or to ignore the trumpets or strumpets, whoever comes first. But it is a good thing, a service for someone to bring it up in a blog like this! Yes definitely a good blog offering.



  71. C. Hope Clark on January 9, 2013 at 2:25 AM

    I just caught myself this week doing this, watching other writers, listening to those discontent while also watching those making strides ahead of me. The entire time comparing. And I stopped, reminding myself to write. I’ve bowed out of some writers’ groups because of the bickering, the novice vs. high brow mentality, even cancelled a conference as a speaker once because I just could not handle the negativity from the organizers. We each travel a different path, and this post is so timely for me this week. Thanks. You’ve enforced what I’ve scolded myself about already. I’m back on center now.



  72. Sandra Bell Kirchman on January 9, 2013 at 2:25 AM

    Holy cow, Rachelle, that is so clearly put and so understandable. I have heard many times that I need to stay away from negative people, and I understand that to a certain extent, but I don’t think I realized that discussing my woes with others (and vice versa) was feeding my own discontent. And that is 100% correct as far as I am concerned. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences.



  73. Terri Weldon on January 9, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    I’m pretty content with my writing life right now, but I can do identify with what you said. I’ve had to reach some of those same conclusions myself



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