...A book deal.
...A published book.
...A spot on the bestseller list.
...A nomination for a major award.
I'm sure you've heard many or all variations of the "At least you have" statement. Gotta admit, I kind of loathe it. Not to say I'm innocent, but let's think a little bit about what it's really saying.
I've come to a strange point in the writing world. Sometimes I feel like I'm straddling a state border line—I'm in two places at once.
You see, I'm not published, and I know a lot of great writers who are in the same situation as me. I know many aspiring writers, from those just starting out to the agented. BUT. I also know many published writers, some who are very successful, all who are my friends. I hear a lot of stories, guys, from both sides of the border.
And guess what? The stories are shockingly THE SAME. Whether my friend is published or not, I often talk them through writing struggles and doubts. Will this story ever come together? Will anyone care about it? Will this be the book that ruins me? The one that makes me? Do I suck as much as I think I do? Why does this agent/editor/reviewer hate me?
As far as I've seen, writing is writing no matter where you're at. And we all know how tough it can be. I'm reminded of a post by Sarah Dessen—an extremely successful author with a gaggle of published books—where she talks about some of her struggles. That's just one example, and I assure you there are many more.
So, is it really fair to negate Sarah Dessen's struggles because "at least she has a wildly successful career and several published books"? Yeah...that doesn't sit well with me. I know that when people say this, they don't intend to hurt people. In all likelihood, I'm sure they are trying to point out the silver lining, look at the positive, and all that. But having been dealt the "At least" statement a lot over the last couple years, I can tell you it doesn't quite feel like encouragement. It feels like "Oh, stop whining because you have no right to and there are so many, me included, that have it worse than you."
As I watch my friends get book deals, hit lists, and get recognition from prominent authors, I can see how easy it would be to think they shouldn't have anything to worry about. Oh, to be stressed over such things! Right? But here's the thing: Past success doesn't nullify current struggles.
In the end, writers are writers, and we of all people should acknowledge the pain and struggles of other writers, not marginalize them because we may see other situations as worse. I, personally, am trying to get rid of "at least."