These feelings of jealousy, frustration, self-doubt, resentment, etc. are more part of the journey than many of us like to admit. Heck, I don't like telling people I can be petty at times, but the fact is it happens. It happens to everyone.
There are books I have icky feelings towards, not because of the actual story but because of my own personal demons. That's what sucks about knowing more about publishing—knowing the stories behind books. As a writer who has spent a lot of time on sub without selling, I can't tell you how hard it is to see certain books coming out: books that got agents, deals, covers, and are now hitting shelves all within the time I've been on sub.
It shouldn't hurt—I feel monumentally stupid for letting it get to me—but sometimes it makes me think I'm a huge failure.
And every time I hear a "I just got an agent and my book sold in a week!" story I basically want to rip my hair out. And sometimes I can't bear to click on another link to a cover reveal. And sometimes I rage over some random person's starred review—a person who I am certain is very nice and talented but that's why I'm so mad because WHY CAN'T IT BE ME FOR ONCE I AM NICE AND TALENTED TOO?
The most annoying is when I'm STILL all ooky feeling inside over writers I know have hard journeys—harder journeys than me. Sure, they got that one-week deal, but before that they toiled for years and years with nothing. They lost books to submission. They wondered if it would ever happen. They struggled just like I do. Why does that not compute? Seriously, why won't my emotions acknowledge that even when logically I can recognize it? Gah.
So yes, we feel it. We even know it's stupid to feel it, which is why I want to take this to a happier place today—how to deal with these feelings. Because the important thing is not that you feel it, but how you deal with it.
I spent a lot of time last year dealing with the demons. Sometimes I was more successful in fighting them than others, but I learned a lot about my own issues and how to minimize their impact.
1. Identify Your Triggers
When you're not feeling great about your writing or situation, there are usually things that can make it worse. For example, at times Twitter can make me fall into a death spiral within minutes if I'm feeling sorry for myself. Also, editing can make me feel horrible about my writing. And for some reason, cover reveals get me down sometimes.
So figure out what makes the demons come out for you. It's different for everyone. Some people kill themselves over first drafting. Others can't read books when they're down. So once you identify your triggers, it's simple:
2. Avoid The Triggers
You have to avoid your triggers when you can. Last year, I couldn't avoid editing, and it took a serious toll on me. Instead, I had to turn off most everything else.
I stopped reading a lot of blogs. I stopped trolling Twitter. I got rid of my Facebook account entirely. I had to—there were just too many ways to trigger my demons. I didn't go completely dark, obviously, but there were days I knew I shouldn't even open my computer. The absolute dumbest things could make me feel like crap, and I hated that I was at one point so fragile.
I also didn't do a lot of reading last year, mostly because I knew I was taking my ugly feelings to books that didn't deserve it. You know what I'm talking about—the book that got a huge deal and everyone is buzzing about, or the one up for awards, or the one some big time author raved about on their blog/vlog/etc. If you have bitter feelings towards a book, I highly recommend holding off on reading. Every time I've read one of those books with bad feelings, I don't enjoy it because I'm purposely looking for its flaws, which is so not fair OR enjoyable. Now, I wait until those feelings are gone before I read.
Gosh, at one point I even stopped going to writing events—conferences, signings, outings with writer friends. I was such a mess that everything just seemed too hard to face.
It's okay to avoid stuff. Your wellbeing is more important than knowing every piece of publishing news, finishing that edit, writing that new book, reading everything ever printed, etc.
3. Do Stuff That Makes You Happy
When I suffer from the demons, that happy stuff is usually NOT writing related. I played a lot of World of Warcraft. I watched hours of anime. I did yoga. I went for long walks. I cooked. I slept. I lived my life outside of writing, and it honestly made me happier than I would have been. Did it fix everything? No. But it helped a lot.
I think sometimes we forget that our lives outside writing are pretty wonderful. For me, focusing on what I have, rather than what I want, helps stave off the demons more than anything. My life is already great.
4. Talk It Out
Strangely enough, the one thing I needed from my writing life was my friends. Writers are the only ones who can really understand the struggle, and talking about my issues with friends played a big part in keeping me sane. There is nothing like a well-placed "I understand" to make everything seem bearable.
Essentially, all of this boils down to:
5. Acknowledge And Move On
There's a big difference between bottling up your feelings and not letting them rule your life. Bottling? Not good. That lets them build up and get worse. If you start feeling like crap, acknowledge it, identify why, recognize that your feelings are valid and yet may be false at the same time, and then work to overcome them through positive means.
I wish you all a victorious battle with your demons. If you need extra weapons, I have like a full armory. *hands out nunchucks*