A friend, who happens to be an amazing writer with more publications to his credit than I have (and, honestly, more prestigious ones) asked me today if I’d want to swap stories with him – it turns out we’re both writing for the same upcoming anthology. I love his style, so of course I said yes, since I’d be happy to have any comments he can come up with, but in his email he also said he’d understand if I didn’t want to, since we’re sort of each other’s competition.
And that’s true, except where it’s not.
One of the things that has never bothered me about being friends with other writers, the thing that I’ve heard a lot of people do have trouble with, is the competition. There are so many of us all trying to get into the same markets, and the more particular or peculiar our writing is, the fewer markets there are for us. An anthology can only accept so many writers, a monthly magazine only has so many regular story slots to fill… so why would you surround yourself with people who might literally be taking the paycheck out from your pocket?
Because they’re not.
My friend is a brilliant writer, but he’s not me. I am not quite brilliant, but I am me. We are not each other. Even if we set out to write the exact same story – and very rarely does that happen – the end products would be vastly different from each other. Not because we’re of different genders or backgrounds or marital statuses or ethnicities or even born in different countries… or, probably, because of a combination of all of those things. The simple truth is that he sees the world in a different way than I do, so his perceptions and his expressions will be different than mine. My story can only ever be written by me. His story can only ever be written by him.
I’ve said before that it’s not our uniqueness that makes us writers, because each and every human is unique. What makes us writers is our need to get those stories out, and our drive to learn and grow and refine our writing until we are saying exactly what we mean to. So at the end of the day if this particular market chooses his story over mine, or mine over his, it won’t be because he’s better than me (well, maybe a little, but I’m working hard to catch up). It will be because that one story fit what the editors were looking for better than the other. How can that be something to fear, or be jealous of?
Personally, I’m hoping they take us both.