One of the other things I learned at the AWP marketing panels was how important it is to have a literary community; other writers you can talk to about writing--frustrations, accomplishments, etc. Over the years, it has become apparent just how important this is.
After getting my undergrad, I stopped writing fiction for several years. I had multiple setbacks, including college professors who totally shook my confidence and made me believe I couldn't write. I decided I was going to be an editor. That way, I could still be involved with writing in some fashion. My friend Tamara (you're going to hear about her a lot; she's been a huge influence on my career) actually tempted me back to the dark side and got me writing again. She was so good, she even got me to submit my work.
I'll admit it: when I came back to writing, I was very jealous. I wanted things to be easy; for agents to grab my novels and make me a millionaire. I would see others getting fat contracts, and that made me incredibly angry. The worst were those who got contracts simply because of their names. I grew bitter. I believed that every other writer out there was my competition and that I had to do whatever it took to be better than them.
Then, one day, I decided to stop being so angry. It became clear that writers weren't my enemy, they were my friends, my support group. I took a job as a freelance editor. I started hosting authors on my blog. I connected with them through social media. I discovered that the vast majority of them went through the same struggles I did, and decided it was dumb to hate them. I needed to help them. In return, they did the same for me.
One of my favorite things is to have authors that are featured on my blog email me. Recently, I had an extensive conversation with one where we swapped marketing tips and the frustrations of promotion. It was encouraging and resourceful. But more importantly, it is a connection with someone who shares the same passion I share.
I no longer begrudge writers who get big fancy contracts. I still want to be one of them one day, and if it happens, hooray. At least I'll never regret not trying or putting myself out there, and I know I'll always have friends to encourage me along the way.