Letting Go of Scarcity Thinking
I have noticed that our culture is permeated with scarcity thinking, and the world of books and publishing is no exception. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
♦ Another author just got a 2-book deal. That’s two less spots for me.
♦ An agent just announced a new client. There goes my shot.
♦ Look how many self-pub authors are making six figures. There’s not enough room for me.
♦ I’m supposed to write my books PLUS do all this social media and marketing? There’s not enough time!
♦ There are too many books out there. How will readers find mine?
This kind of thinking has saturated the writing community to such an extent that we hardly recognize it anymore. Author Lynne Twist writes:
The first prevailing myth of scarcity is that there’s not enough. There’s not enough to go around. Everyone can’t make it. Somebody’s going to be left out. There are way too many people. There’s not enough food. There’s not enough water. There’s not enough air. There’s not enough time. There’s not enough money.
There’s not enough becomes the reason we do work that brings us down or the reason we do things to each other that we’re not proud of. There’s not enough generates a fear that drives us to make sure that we’re not the person, or our loved ones aren’t the people, who get crushed, marginalized, or left out. [The Soul of Money, p. 49]
I believe that in publishing, “there’s not enough” is an insidious myth. There are a LOT of readers and book buyers out there. Do you realize the total U.S. trade book industry reported revenues in 2012 of over $7 billion? Yes, seven billion dollars. There is enough to go around. Even for you.
But the scarcity mentality is fueled by our sense of comparison and competition with one another. We instinctively believe that if one person gets ahead, that leaves us behind. It causes us to be fearful of others’ success.
What do you think fuels the massive “us vs. them” mentality in the traditional-vs.-self-publishing conversation? A scarcity mentality. We simply can’t believe or accept that both camps can be successful, both can be good and right for those who choose it. Instead, we let our fear of “not enough” lead us to denigrate the other side.
We allow our fear of “not enough” to make us depressed about our chances of getting published; depressed about our chances of finding readers and finding fulfillment and finding financial success.
So what should we do?
Author Brené Brown writes:
The counterapproach to living in scarcity is not about abundance. In fact, I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin. The opposite of “never enough” isn’t abundance or “more than you could ever imagine.” The opposite of scarcity is enough [emphasis added]. [Daring Greatly, p. 29]
I think we each need to be confident that we are enough. Each of us, innately, is enough. We are exactly what we are supposed to be.
And beyond that, we have enough. We have enough time, we have enough talent, we have enough energy. And if we don’t, we have enough intelligence to go find it.
There are enough readers for all of us. There are enough dollars to go around. We each have to find our own ways of getting what we need. If we don’t, it won’t be because there is not enough. There is enough.
What is your experience of the scarcity versus “enough” mentality? Do you think scarcity is real, or a mindset that we convince ourselves is real?
Has scarcity thinking saturated your publishing journey? Click to Tweet.
“There are too many books out there. How will readers find mine?” Scarcity thinking: Click to Tweet.
The “us vs. them” mentality in publishing is fueled by scarcity mentality. Click to Tweet.
[…] Don’t be so hard on yourself. Let Go Of Scarcity Thinking. […]
[…] worthy or you don’t have what it takes to ‘make it’. This kind of mindset called Scarcity Thinking. And you are lying to yourself if you believe you are not enough and if you think there is not […]
[…] People who hang around me have probably heard my rants against comparison in writing before, as in X wrote more words than I did,” “to be successful I have to do the same as Y” and the like, but Rachelle Gardner takes that mentality on not just in the writing step but in the publishing, rejecting publishing as a world in which one person’s success must be counterbalanced by another’s failure. http://rachellegardner.flywheelsites.com/2013/05/letting-go-of-scarcity-thinking/ […]
I love this post, Rachelle! I subscribe to the thinking that when we fill our minds with what we don’t have, or thoughts that we’re not good enough, we unconsciously seek out way to make sure we never achieve our goals. But, if we keep a positive outlook and a mentality of abundance and gratitude, we’re better able to see opportunities and more willing to take the risks needed to get ahead.
This is a wonderful post. So helpful. Thank you.
Love this post and agree 100%.
I think the scarcity mindset is definitely rooted in fear but I’d add a different type of fear vs just the competitive, losing out, and not having enough sort of fear. Yes, “scarcity” is about losing out and not having enough but I think, in this publishing context, it also includes the FEAR of FAILURE. Saying there is not enough is a convenient excuse to justify or give ourselves an out IF we were to fail (Because then we can use the excuse that we failed because there wasn’t enough ___ to make us succeed). Saying there is not enough also feeds the fears that stop many from even trying in the first place (Why risk it, I might fail? What if?).
Not to flip the point of the post but as someone once told me, “If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.” The authors who are making it are doing so because there IS enough and they’ve made it important enough to find a way.
Amazing post! Thank you so much for this reminder. It is so true. And so false. (Ha!) I know I should phrase that differently, but I can’t help myself. 🙂
I think that scarcity thinking is based on a zero sum mindset – that there is not enough to go around. If there’s only so much out there, then get all you can, can all your get, and poison the rest. This leads to destructive thinking and the unhelpful competition you speak of. So both abundance thinking and “I’m enough” thinking are needed to counteract the untrue, unkind, and unworthy scarcity mindset. Thanks for your post. – Lyn Perry
“Enough is as good as a feast.” – Ma Ingalls, via Laura Ingalls Wilder
the scarcity theory is absolutely real. We do it with ‘stuff’, money, food, entertainment, everything. We are a gluttonous people. I think it stems from insecurity, which is a very human condition., We need reassurance that we are significant, and not invisible in this big world. We are torn when others succeed b/c we’re afraid it means there is no room for us. For me, my faith tells me I’m valuable in God’s eyes, so failure is not the end of the world. 😉 from
There’s always a spot for those willing to work. Agents have more than one client. I’m a self-published author working toward a six-figure income. OK, time is tight, but I can still do my best to market my book and not give up. There are 1000s times more readers than writers. So what’s the problem?
I was thinking of this yesterday. I’m at a national tournament (I publish to speakers and debaters), and I ran into direct competitors to the curriculum and camps I develop. A little slimy gremlin climbed on my shoulders and whispered scarcity thoughts into my ear.
Truth is, there is plenty of growth in the future of the market I’m in. Plenty of room for more ships in this sea. I flicked the gremlin off my shoulder.
Thanks for this article, Rachelle.
This is a great post. I’ve often thought, “i’m a reader as well as a writer. When was the last time I said to myself – Gee, I can only buy one book this month. Wonder what it will be?” Our shelves are filled with books, and it’s a collection that will never stop growing. That’s a great thing for writers, agents, editors and publishers. It’s a great field to be in!
Wow, this is exactly what I needed to read. Like exactly. If ever I feel discouraged, it is because of this very problem. Thank you so much for writing this. I’ll be sharing this with every young creative that I know. It’s crucial!
Wow, what a timely, awesome post. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. It’s days like this I needed the reminder.
Last night on The Voice AU, Delta Goodrem told the girl she is mentoring that she need not compare herself to everyone who is out there, or how she might stand to measure up. “There is room enough.”
Just because someone else got there ahead of us, we don’t need to let our confidence falter or lose it entirely.
This really resonates with me. Every tine I walk into a chapters store here in Canada I wonder why I should try to publish. So many books doesn’t necessarily mean there is not enough but I wonder how anyone will ever notice my book.
Terrific post, as usual. I first encountered this thinking when I wrote for magazines. I realized that it’s really not a competition or zero-sum game. After all, I couldn’t write every story in even one monthly magazine. What I hadn’t thought about before was abundance vs enough. Very powerful. Thank you!
I read your blog regularly but almost never comment. But this post about scarcity thinking resonated with me. The idea that there is “enough” is biblical. When the Israelites gathered manna in the wilderness, those who gathered much and those who gathered little each had enough. Thanks for the encouragement that there is enough for writers as well.
I believe you gave part of the answer in your blog. Fear is definitely one of the biggest drivers to this mind-set. I also think it boils down to a lack of faith. God is bigger than any social media platform. He’s bigger than any publishing house. He’s bigger than little old me. If God calls us to a specific place, He will open the doors and help us fulfill what He is calling us to do. Even when it is our calling, it’s ultimately God’s timeline – not ours. Maybe God is calling us to write to an audience of thousands, upon thousands. Consider, though, God may have us write for an audience of a handful of people who need to here the message we are writing about. If something I wrote helped to brighten someone’s day or gave them an ounce of hope, that matters to me. At the end of the day, we have to be willing to do what we love regardless of the reach we obtain. We should write because we love it, put in the effort, and do the best job we can. The rest will happen when it’s supposed to.
This is a great look at scarcity, Rachel, but you actually bullet behaviors and feelings that derive from a different source at the beginning of this post.The predominate attitude that “someone’s success is your failure” stems from an entitlement mentality.
Feelings of entitlement is rampant in the writing business amongst writers, especially novelists.
This is a wonderful post, and very timely.
I think that what people miss is that success is relative. It’s not always about money or landing the big deal. You really need to define your goals in terms of what YOU want and once you do that, you’re less likely to be so focused on what everyone else is doing.
I’d never thought much about scarcity until today when I caught an interview with Colleen Hoover on CBS This Morning. Never having heard of her (I know, I know – I’m totally out of touch) I decided to check out her first book, Slammed. After yawning through the first couple pages of her pedestrian prose I realized there must be a scarcity of publishers who know what good writing is. Those of you who are fans of hers must forgive me but I just could not get into it at all. For some years now it has been my understanding that the first paragraphs, the first pages must hook the reader or else he or she will never get to the rest of the book. How did Ms Hoover get anyone to continue on to what surely must have been better stuff? (Not sure about that, either. Much later pages were not much improved.) Might it be there is an overabundance of those who only read the mundane? Did she hook readers with her blog? I sure don’t know.
Great post. I’m having one of those weeks where God seems to be speaking to me about the same thing everywhere I go. This was one more nail in what He’s doing in me. Thanks so much.
As I was reading this, I thought of a book by Heidi Baker called,”There is always enough.” I need to tell myself this when it comes to energy!
I so needed this post today. Scarcity is definitely a mindset. This brings some balance to the fact that Internet readers expect excellence and that excellence has become the norm. Thanks for the encouragement!
Thank you, Rachelle. Great post, great reminder that we are enough and there is enough (although I still prefer the concept of abundance). I fully believe this, yet forget it more often than live by the belief.
We were discussing this in critique group last week, and as Christian authors agreed that even if we are “undiscovered” this side of heaven, our talents, sacrifice and hard work will be useful and appreciated in Glory as long as we’re writing in His will. Can I get an “amen”? Thanks for another great post!
No wonder the Bible tells us not to compare ourselves to each other. Just do our best and let God use us and bless others through us. Easier said than done, but in His power, we can do it. And there is always enough of God to go around. 🙂
Let’s discuss facts and experience.
When someone’s first self-published book is about self-publishing, one wonders about their expertise?
The reality is there ISN’T enough to go around. Not understanding that indicates a naivety and ignorance of the current digital world, which most who are still rooted in traditional publishing still have.
I’ll explain. The competition between writers desiring to become authors in the past was muted: find an agent; get an agent; agent gets an editor to like book; agent gets publisher to like and buy book thinking it’s not only good, but can sell, two sometimes very different things; sales forces sells in book; book store pushes book. Eventually someone called a reader might buy the book. The odds of that were miniscule. So authors never really felt they were competing with each other.
Now, anyone can publish a book and have it available. Thus the discoverability war. Authors ARE competing directly with each other now. It’s brutal, it’s not nice, but it’s real. Don’t accept that to your own career peril. It’s not right or wrong. It is.
There’s not enough to go around. I’ve followed this blog for years and you need to make your mind up who you are and what you are doing, as does every agent. Why didn’t you sell your book to a publisher? You are an agent after all? Couldn’t you sell it? Or did you not like the contract offered you and the royalty rates? Or perhaps because your royalty rate is higher self-publishing? But then why sell any of your clients books to a publisher if it’s good? I’m confused. As your clients should be. Shouldn’t they all self-publish as you did?
The competition among authors now is with readers. Can you find my book? On a Kindle bestseller list in whatever genre, there are only 100 titles. That’s it. Not 200, not 300.
You’re trying to make money off the hordes of wanna-be traditional published writers who follow your tweets and blogs, etc. Fine. But having been an observer doesn’t make you a player in indie publishing. Your eBook is currently ranked 240,591 in Kindle. It had an initial burst then that small base that appears large on social media was done.
There is definitely a role for agents in the digital world.
But for those who try to have it all, there isn’t.
All the best, but you, like most of traditional publishing, needs to think outside the box, instead of thinking the box is the reality. New York is 2 years behind the digital wave, as is Colorado. As are most in the industry.
Although I find this refreshing, and I love that you as an agent have this attitude, there is something else we as writers don’t often want to admit to, and that’s the mystery or magic that often creates success. The right person with the right product shows up at the right time and success just happens, sometimes after years of struggle. Meanwhile, another very talented writer continues to struggle and doesn’t ever see the same success. I don’t know what to say about it. It just is. Success will never be distributed equally. But that isn’t a reason to quit the struggle, either. The fight is definitely worth it.
Great encouragement! Yes, there is enough, and as Mary Poppins said, “Enough is as good as a feast.”
I’ve been guilty of scarcity thinking, but I can usually shake myself out of it by thinking about how many different authors’ books I buy and read. I don’t know of anyone who buys and reads only one author’s books to the exclusion of all others. The quote “There’s not enough air” drove home for me how ridiculous this type of thinking can become. Thanks for the reality check, Rachelle.
I LOVE this post. I can’t tell you how many times someone with talent has told me, “I just don’t have enough time to query agents AND write a book,” so they don’t. Or I’ve heard: “Why are you promoting other authors on your blog? Aren’t you competing with them?” No. My feeling is there is enough time to do the things you want to do — if you REALLY want to do them — and enough readers out there for all of us. The optimist (pollyanna?) in me detests scarcity thinking, and it’s nice to see someone else who does too. Thanks, Rachelle!
A thought–I don’t let the industry and all that bug me too much because I have this firm belief that God knows what He is doing with me and my journey. Being hard on myself, believe I am not enough is different. It’s a temptation to believe I don’t have enough talent, enough insight, enough (fill in the blank) to share. But I KNOW this is faulty thinking because the answer is the same. HE is enough. HE lives in me. He can pour through me the talent, the insight, the passion, the hope I long to share.
This is so good. Thank you, Rachelle.
It makes sense that scarcity is a mindset made up by people who aren’t finding success. I love the thought about the opposite of scarcity being enough as opposed to overabundance.
In this country, people have enough money to get what they want. If another book had come out in 2012 that everyone wanted, that $7 Billion would have gone even higher.
Thanks for the encouragement.
Well, thank you! What a timely post!
Great article, Rachelle. It gives us something to think about. You are a wonderful motivator.
I think this is an incredibly insightful post. Don’t all aspiring writers secretly resent it when other writers make it big? There is definitely a feeling that others’ success is somehow at our expense. I think this is especially true in writing/publishing, but it extends to our culture’s worldview in general. This is a post worth reading even if you aren’t in the business (or trying to get there).
This is especially true of books. I read a LOT! That means
if I read one author’s books, unless they are churning them out weekly, I can
also read another author’s books. It’s not like the television when you had to
miss one show to see another. I can read one book after the other. And
television isn’t even that way these days with DVRs and the internet. Add to
that the fact ebooks can be taken everywhere giving us MORE opportunities to read them (ie. The line at the grocery store).
Great post! I’ve seen scarcity thinking in many industries, including the indie authors I hang out with. I agree it’s the wrong way to look at things. When I hear of things like a $5MM book deal for Ms. Gruen, I immediately start thinking that there’s something I can also do. I’m just not gonna write any books about elephants.
Love this, Rachelle! I’m definitely not a fan of the “us vs. them” mentality in anything. I think there’s enough room for us all to succeed in what we’re meant to succeed in.
Do you think there is any correlation between “enough” and “contentment”? How much of (fill in the blank) do we need to make us content or satisfied?
Scarcity thinking in my realm only applies to one thing: there’s not enough time to read all of the incredible books out there! But, as you pointed out, we have enough. I see contentment to be a prevalent issue. It’s amazing how our focus sharpens when we are content with what God has already supplied.
Great post! When Baskin Robbins runs out of your flavor of ice cream, they usually have another tub in the freezer 😉
This is such a great post, Rachelle. It’s an easy thing to worry about, but it’s such a robber of joy. There is so much to be thankful for. Love this : And beyond that, we have enough. We have enough time, we have enough talent, we have enough energy. And if we don’t, we have enough intelligence to go find it.
So well said 🙂 Thanks!
Your line, “But the scarcity mentality is fueled by our sense of comparison and competition with one another,” makes a lot of sense. When our focus is on trying to get ahead, possibly at the expense of others, we will put a lot of pressure on ourselves and bring a lot a pain to ourselves and others. When we take our focus off others and set it on helping others, we’re going to find others wanting to help us.
I’ve been privileged to be part of a writing community where those who are further along on their writing journey invest time in helping and encouraging those coming along behind them. It’s such a different mindset, but so healthy, on many fronts.
Scarcity or enough—I like that. I think I’ll focus on enough and keep my eyes on the prize rather than on what others are accomplishing.
Great insight. I’d never dug deeply enough into the “us vs. them” mentality to realize that scarcity thinking was one of the major drivers.
Thanks for the Monday wake-up call.
I needed this today. Thank you!
If you don’t believe there’s enough out there for you then their won’t be. The world can’t wait for you to get over your worries or yourself.
Scarcity is overcome by experiencing prosperity and abundance.
Regarding abundance and prosperity, here are some quotations that apply:
“Enriching others is the only way to get rich, if that is what we desire. The more we serve, the more we deserve, getting what we give, no more and no less.”
— from “The Law of Reaction” by Austin Partridge
“Money will appear when you are doing the right thing in your life.”
— Michael Phillips
“Abundance is not about waiting for something to happen. Abundance requires us to get into action to bring it into manifestation.”
— Shamala Tan
“When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance.”
— Joel Osteen
“It’s a serious character weakness to think you can get something of value for little or nothing, to believe that life will flood you with abundance when you won’t commit yourself to delivering your best contribution in exchange. In fact, it’s a safe bet that you’ll subconsciously sabotage yourself from being in such a place for long. You won’t allow yourself to receive what you don’t feel you’ve earned. To receive life’s bounty, you must know without a doubt that you deserve it.”
— Steve Pavlina
“There is no secret to how to attain prosperity. The Universe supports and rewards us for taking risks on things that matter to the Universe. When we remember this, the mysteries about prosperity disappear, and prosperity stands explained. Prosperity will then manifest itself easily provided the Universe agrees that we are doing the right things in our lives to deserve this prosperity.”
— “Life’s Secret Handbook”
In short, regardless of all the stuff that you may have read about “The Law of Attraction”, remember that the word “Attraction” has the word “Action” in it. This is no mistake.
Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author
“Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
(Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
(Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)
Actually, I think it’s about neither scarcity nor abundance. It’s about two things – control and conditioning.
Most of the people reading this live in a world upon whose technology they utterly depend…and which they can’t understand well enough to explain its basic principles. (I include myself, and I have a PhD in engineering.)
This enforced dependency carries with it a subliminal fear that it might all go away, leaving a chaos beyond imagining, because there would be nowhere, no knowledge base, from which one could rebuild. (Witness the popularity of “The Hunger Games” series, “The Road”, and NBC’s “Revolution”, for efforts to think beyond this dread barrier.)
So even in the midst of proven super-abundance, we feel like we’re walking a tightrope over an abyss in whose Stygian blackness there is not a glimmer of hope…because mortal hope can only come from control, and we feel we’ve lost that.
In that light, an assumed environment of scarcity is the only logical response, since it either stimulates competitive spirit, or impels one to abandon speculative activities – like writing – for sure bets that’ll ensure survival.
Overcoming this can come from the realization that the technology that drives us doesn’t really own us. A simple test is to unplug for a month; you’ll find that you’ll learn to appreciate what you CAN do without a technological crutch. The confidence you’ll gain – or regain – will go a long way toward helping you feel that you are enough, that you do have control.
On conditioning – from the early 1970s we’ve been told that oil is a limited resource. Since then, so many thing have been added to the list…clean air, water, food, space. We’re being told, virtually every day, that it’s an Age of Limits.
Quite a difference from Kennedy’s New Frontier.
The way I’ve overcome this bugbear was through research, and the realization that many of the limits are real, but many more are ascribed as a means to a political or philosophical end.
The Domino Theory in Southeast Asia wasn’t true…and the world didn’t run out of oil by 1992.
And, for that matter, the Mayans misread their calendar last year, too…eh?
Love love this post Rachelle.
Very timely reminder for all of us. Yes, there are enough readers, now to develop the skills I know I can to reach the “enough” that will read mine.