So I recently spoke at a book club who read The What If Guy, and a sweet reader (who is an aspiring author herself) asked to take a selfie with me. She then sent it to me on Facebook, and in our brief conversation she admitted that it'd taken her a long time to build up the confidence to reach out to me.)
I was aghast.
I mean...I'm just me. I'm nobody special. I'm just a wife and a mom and an author, who writes books that make her small readership laugh and cry at the same time. Which is nice and all, but I'm no JK Rowling. I'm no Nora Roberts. I don't own my own island. I haven't had any of my books turned into movies. I'm nothing especially interesting or exceptional. I'm just me. Except that I also happen to write books for a living.
But I remember being that person a few years ago. A few short years, if I'm being honest. I would get stupefied when I saw authors who had "achieved" more than I had. I met some of my favorite authors, and when they spoke to me, I could scarcely speak. I have a picture of myself and Kristan Higgins, and I look completely hysterical. I was, for the record. When authors more successful than I tried to befriend me, I crumbled and shied away. What could I possibly have to offer to a friendship with that person?
But with enough time--ahem, about 6 or 7 years--I outgrew that mentality. And here's why: because I trashed the totem pole mentality. I had to. It was killing me. I was holding myself back from potential connections and friendships. I was handicapping myself by shrinking away from people, determining that they had to be better than I was, and that I was lower than them. And one day....I just stopped! I decided that I was no longer going to bend to my insecurities will. I decided to talk to anyone. Spend time with anyone. Say yes to anyone I wanted to get to know. Stop holding myself back.
Sure...sometimes I got rejected. But MOST of the time, I wound up making a new friend, gathering more knowledge about my field, and broadening my network of awesome writer friends. All because I got the h*ll out of my own way!
So this is what I told that aspiring author:
Don't be intimidated by me. We are one and the same. I'm just a few steps ahead of you in the game. But that doesn't mean that I don't struggle with confidence, that I don't struggle with believing in my work, that I don't have days where I write total garbage, and that I don't ever worry about rejection. I worry about all of those things, I'm just older than you, and started in the Business earlier than you.
That's also a sign of a true writer. If a writer looks down on someone because they aren't published yet, or because they write a genre you don't like, or for any reason really, then they truly aren't meant to be an author. Real author support each other, even if they're writing completely different genres, or one of them is a New York Times bestseller, and the other has sold five copies total.
The thing is...none of us are better than the other. We're all just in different places in life. Especially in this publishing game. Real authors support each other, build each other up, and help each other out. If you have the opportunity to build a friendship within the industry, then freaking build it. You never know, you could be meeting the person who winds up becoming one of your best friends! Why deny yourself the opportunity to meet a best friend?