Does a Ladder Matter?




It’s coming home to me how often I start these posts with some comment about how I “don’t really do” whatever the topic of the week happens to be. I don’t live life with balance, I don’t dispense advice, I don’t blah blah blah. So let me hit you with a big surprise:

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.

Truly, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a New Year’s resolution helping anyone. I do believe in setting goals for ourselves, but there’s always something about these resolutions at this time of year…They feel forced, which is how I’ve always thought about New Year’s Eve itself. Everyone wants to go out to a great party or some fantastical event and there’s all this pressure to have a great night because it’s the last of the year and just…why? New Year’s Eve has a hard time not disappointing us because we place too many expectations on it.

And maybe this is why I’m wary of those resolutions we’re supposed to make, too. The expectation is that there will be something magical about them, the most important things we’ll resolve to do all year, and if we fail at them, our disappointment in ourselves is inevitable.

All this doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t have things I want for myself. It’s my debut year. I think it promises to be one of the most significant, if not necessarily pleasurable, years of my life. And what I want most is not to let unreasonable hopes or petty jealousies or imposter syndrome get in the way of my full enjoyment of it.

I really do think it’s amazing that I’m publishing a book. Not just that, but with a big five publisher to boot. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to those dark thoughts that like to creep up on me as I follow along with the journeys of my fellow debut authors. When I see this person has a book tour and that one has an amazing audiobook, this one has already sold movie rights and that other one is going to be published in seven countries and languages…of course a small part of me thinks, “Why not me? Is my book not as good as theirs? Am I the loser of the debut group?” I am genuinely happy for others when I hear about this great stuff happening for them, but I’m still human. I try not to compare, but when it’s staring you in the face, sometimes you do.

The funny thing is, I noticed I usually only bother to make these comparisons when I’m the one who seems to be less, when I’m the one down on the first rungs of the ladder, gazing wistfully up at everyone who has already passed me. Do you ever do that? Do you notice a lot of us forget to compare ourselves with all those people who are just beginning, who would kill to have a book deal, or an agent, or even a finished manuscript? And more importantly, do we forget to compare ourselves with the past—where we were ten years ago, five years ago, last year?

The number one thing I resolve to do this year is focus on myself, my own publishing journey, and how far I’ve come. I really don’t want to rob myself of any joy because I couldn’t stop wondering why I didn’t make this list or get that award. Luckily, I’ve already had a lot of practice at this. I hang out with other writers on Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes when I read about their amazing accomplishments I feel a little twinge in my belly—I think they call it “envy.” And I’ve trained myself to let that little twinge trigger an important reminder of how much I, too, have accomplished, and how fortunate I’ve already been. I choose to look forward to how much l have left to do, as well. What a great thing I can do for the new year: enjoy today, because it’s amazing, and enjoy the idea of my future.

Author: Martine Fournier Watson

Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master's degree in art history after a year spent in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

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