Words of Optimism for 2021
It comes from an interview I read recently with bestselling romance novelist Beverly Jenkins. According to Writer’s Digest’s profile, she not only has made the New York Times’ bestseller list, Jenkins maintains avid followings on Facebook and Twitter.
“They’re the best,” Jenkins said of her fans, showing that this author understands the value of connecting with readers. She added that there’s “a lot of sharing, a lot of uplifting.”
There’s much in Jenkins’ story to inspire, considering she was working as a librarian when she wrote her debut novel, Night Song, in 1994. Not only did it launch her writing career, she has explored new territory in African American literature.
Words of Wisdom
Since I’m not a romance reader, I’m not likely to pick up any of her books soon. Despite that reality, I’m glad I read WD’s story because of the nugget that appeared in the last two paragraphs.
Near the end of Jenkins’ response to what she tells beginning romance writers, she said: “Another piece of advice that I give new writers is not to let the success of others bother you because they’re on their path and you’re on yours.
“It’s hard to do because you see your critique partner hit the Times list or whatever, but don’t let somebody else’s success make you feel less because you’re not,” she added. “They’re on their path and you’re on yours. Finish the book and don’t let the success of others make you feel less. Those are my two golden rules.”
Whether one is a writer, an editor, a teacher, an inventor, a physicist, an actor, or a musician, or pursuing one of any other thousands of endeavors, Jenkins’s phrase should be emblazed on everyone’s mind: “They’re on your path and you’re on yours.”
Folly of Comparison
In the early stages of the great vaccine distribution, with the Christmas Day explosion in downtown Nashville and the fractious election of 2020 still fresh on many minds, it is easy to lapse into a “we’re all doomed” outlook for 2021 too.
But these things will pass. When the dust settles and people feel more able to pursue their dreams, the habit of self-comparison will scuttle too many of those dreams.
Judging ourselves based on how successful someone else looks on social media, or how many trophies they have, or other superficial yardsticks one might use for the sake of comparison is folly.
Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 10:12: “For we dare not count or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. They who measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another are not wise” (MEV).
When she was sitting behind a library desk and tapping out what would become the first of her award-winning words nearly 30 years ago, Beverly Jenkins could have compared herself to famous authors and figured she didn’t stand a chance.
Had she allowed that to deter her, more than 40 books wouldn’t have followed.
2021: Stay on the Path
Jenkins’ achievement stands as a clarion call to all who harbor the desire to do something great, whether that means writing a bestselling book, becoming a renowned actor, or turning an unruly class of fourth graders into educated, productive citizens.
You’re on your own path. This year, don’t let anyone knock you off track.