I leaned over to my friend sitting next to me, "this place is giving me a complex." It was a whispered truth as I sat and watched the line grow longer, stretching across the travelogue section into the area of Anthony Bourdain and James Beard. My eyes rested for a split second on the Cowboy's Cookbook and without thinking, I grimaced.
Couldn't they have placed us in another section? Memoir perhaps?
This place giving me a complex was a book signing. Over 100 people showed. As I sat there, I couldn't help but think back on my own measly signing a few months ago and I blushed.
This author sold 300 signed copies before the signing. Given the amount of books flying off the entire wall Barnes and Noble reserved for her, there would be more than 300 sold by closing.
Immediately, the comparisons piled up and EVEN THOUGH WE'RE IN COMPLETELY SEPARATE GENRES I measured my success against her own and fell flat.
Naturally. I glanced at her team helping her :: bloggers, a cover model, publicists, publisher, assistants...a smile peeked out of my frown. This woman had her own small army.
A woman in front of me turned and looked at us, leaning over her chair. "Are you guys authors?" she asked.
I looked at her, wide eyed. "Um. Yes."
She raised an eyebrow, "oh you are?! I thought so...I heard you guys talking." Turning to her daughter sitting next to her she beamed, "my daughter here just finished her first manuscript. Do you have any advice for her?"
I caught her daughter's eye and rolled through all of the good writerly advice in my brain. Her face was expectant. Shy.
"Just keep writing. Whatever you do - keep writing. And figure out what you really want to write and stick with it - regardless of what's really popular at the time." With a sinking feeling, I knew how the next words would taste in my mouth.
"There will be moments where stories will publish and it seems like everyone is saying the same thing. Maybe even a few people have gotten rich off of the plot you were thinking about writing - keep at it. Your story will be different because it's yours. And whatever you do....try to keep from comparing your writing to what other people put out there. It's the quickest way to kill your creativity. Trust me."
She laughed, "Yeah. That's hard."
And I nodded, thinking just how difficult it really is - how just a few minutes ago I was lost in the pit of comparison.
But don't we do this always? We slice and dice the latest book, touting it's inability to make us feel and how "we just don't understand how it made the NY Times Bestseller list" forgetting that someone like us penned words on a page - creating something out of nothing.
We feel better for a moment, until the next person makes it and we're left in the dust - holding our tired manuscript by the corners and begging someone, anyone to read and understand.
So this is my quiet plea - my raised hand of surrender. I may not read your book. I may not understand your words.
But I'm begging you to keep writing.
Because someone, somewhere will read. Someone, somewhere will understand. And maybe there's someone who will get inspired by the something out of nothing you created and will try the same thing.
And for those of you who are writing, keep your eyes focused. Keep your pen ready. There will be naysayers. Things may not always work in your favor. Reviews may not always be five-star endorsements. Your words still matter. Hold them. Mold them. Write them.
And don't ever stop.