Monday, December 06, 2010

The Day Walmart Came to Town


My bookstore consisted of three rooms. The front room, a book room and a childrens/ music room. The store was located right in the center of town next to a bakery that sold twenty-five cent doughnuts.

Life was good.

Then we heard the news. Walmart was building across the bridge.

Oh, the shop owners tried hard to convince the local board to deny the superstore from invading our small town. How would we compete with their prices? How would many of us survive? They were too big and we were so small.

It’s been more than fifteen years now since that happened. The bookstore I used to own is still there, churning out great gifts for the holidays, offering great customer service. The bakery closed and a few other shops went under but most everyone is still there serving the public like they always have even Wal-mart’s plans now to build an even bigger store across the bridge.

I share this story as a reminder to myself and other writers. There will always be bigger and better writers who come along—those who get great book deals or agents on their first try—those who make us feel weak in the knees that we’ll never be able to compete.

What does this mean for the writer? It isn’t about competition. Just like there was room for Walmart in my small town, there will always be room for someone who works hard at their craft.

Have you ever worried that your work won’t ever stand up to the competition? What are you doing to make sure it does?

51 comments:

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Yep, every time I open my words up and take a read. It's hard not to compare, but even I can make room for Wal-Mart. I need a little Wal-Mart every now and again.

peace~elaine

Stephen Tremp said...

Hi Terri, first time visitor. Competition is tough. One has to find new ways to market and promote. I'm looking for an agent in January. Things are too crazy busy this month to do anything. But I need help and hopefully an agent can help open doors to reach more people with promotional and marketing stuff. And thanks for stopping by over the weekend and saying hi.

Suzy said...

Hi Terri

First of all thank you for your kind words on my blog.

I haven't kept it up- too busy writing the manuscript.


As far as Deb goes, it's easy to be a good friend to someone as loving and compassionate as Deb.

She has been my mentor and teacher for almost a year now and I can't imagine any progress without her.

Your post is timely. Just last night I was whining to myself about "the why bother" syndrome.

Your post woke me up!

Thanks Terri

Suzy

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I really don't spend a lot of time thinking about the competition b/c I know God has given me this voice and these ideas and I'm to do my own thang. Otherwise I'd fall into a huge pit called distraction cave and I may never climb out.

~ Wendy

irishoma said...

As much as I try not to think about how writers compete with one another, I think it's human nature that we do, even if it's a nagging doubt.
I once read this quote, which keeps me plugging along with my writing and using the gifts I've been given: "What you have is God's gift to you. What you become is your gift to God."

Jan Cline said...

Yes, I worry a little. Since I have been distracted with this conference project I haven't had much time to devote to my own writing. I am feeling like I need to take a class or something, but it will all have to wait. I guess I'll just pray God will use my offerings to others and multiply them back someday.

Joanne Sher said...

I absolutely think about it - but I REALLY try to remember that, like you said, bigger isn't the only option. Great post!

Lynn said...

Your old bookstore sounds like it offers people what WalMart cannot. I see that with individual writers too. I'll never be like my 'competition' but that's a good thing! But I do admire them for their skill that I still need to work harder to learn.

Melissa Marsh said...

I worry about the competition, too, but it only makes me try that much harder to tell a good, solid story. :-)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh wow, great comparison! And great example that the big guys can share space with the little guys. :)

Jackee said...

Just the words I needed to hear today, Tiffany! Thank you. :o)

I do worry I'll never hold up. It affects my will to write, but then I remember I can't stop even if I force myself so I just go with it. Then I try to make myself a better writer as I go.

Thanks for sharing, my friend! I can picture your lovely bookstore in my mind's eye.

Carolyn said...

Great analogy - and one I needed to hear today. I know the competition is bigger, has more bells and whistles, may win more contests and award, may have more life experiences. But no matter how crowded it may be, there's always room at the table for all of us. Thanks!

Lin Floyd said...

you have to have a unique product or idea to get any attention in today's market.

Jennie Allen said...

So encouraging! I do my best to keep my head down but there is always that feeling- why is another book needed?!

Thank you.

Keli Gwyn said...

I interview not-yet-published and debut romance novelists on my blog. I knew I'd never want for guests in the first category, but when I launched the blog, I wondered how many debut novelists I'd encounter. Plenty! Rarely does a week go by that I don't hear of at least one writer making that long-awaited First Sale.

And what do many give as advice to those of us on the other side of a contract? Study craft. Write the best stories we can. And don't give up. Yes, there are Walmart writers (aka NYT bestsellers) out there, but there's room for others, too.

Katie Ganshert said...

Ah, yes! I have this fear. It often threatens to strangle me when I'm reading a really, really good book. But then I release its hold and appreciate the book for what it is - inspiration to keep growing as a writer.

There's definitely room.

Brock S. Henning said...

Terri, thanks for the encouragement today. Yep, I struggle with that as a writer. My resolution? I took a long walk with God earlier this year and asked Him for a writing plan. He gave me one. Small steps, but a big dream.

When anxiety creeps in or I'm slacking or I feel overwhelmed in this ocean of successful writers while I'm just learning to swim, I pull out the writing plan He gave me--mostly writing short pieces, articles, blogging, and reading lots of books on the craft. Small steps, but I'm already one third into 'the plan' and He's proven faithful so far. Keep going everyone!

Maria I. Morgan said...

Thanks for this reminder! Yes, there will be those who burst on the scene with numerous agents ready to snap them up, but it helps to remember that God's plans are different for each writer. I'm focusing on what He has for me to write. Praying over each lesson, researching and trying not to get in a big hurry to be published. It's so important to take full advantage of all the resources that are available and do the very best job we can.

In response to your comment @ Life Lessons: I agree with you! Susan's blog is a definite blessing! Going to church DOES help maintain the right focus and staying out of the malls! Have a beautiful week focusing on Him!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yes, I worry--it seems like a lot lately. But then I try to remind myself that readers love so many different things and there's an audience out there for everyone.

Susan R. Mills said...

There will always be bigger and better. We have to work hard to keep up, but it can be done. I just continue to work on the craft daily. Even small improvements are growth.

Deb Shucka said...

Great analogy. Yes, I worry every time I read something that literally takes my breath away, or an article explaining how hard it is to get published. Then I push all that away and sit at my desk and write my heart out, because it's all I have to do.

Jill said...

Despair gets me no where. I despair all the time, especially when I get rejections. "I'm good, but I'm not great," I tell myself over and over. I'll never stand out. It's pointless to think this way. BTW, the book section in my local Wal Mart is pathetic. I would be happy to have any bookstore in my little town other than Wal Mart.

Natalie said...

That is an excellent analogy Terri. I KNOW my work can't compete with that of many, many more talented writers. So it's good that it's a little different from what they write. That way I don't have to compete. :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Definitely!

KarenG said...

Wow I figured this tale would not have such a happy ending! Hooray for the people who kept supporting the small local businesses in your town!! I like the writing analogy too, great post, Terri :)

Patti Lacy said...

My determination to be a Colossians 3:23 writer eases the human green-skin disease of jealousy, the twinges of fear.

If I do my best for Him with EVERY word I write, there is NOTHING to fear from others.

Everything to gain by their sharing of their unique talents.

You go, girl. Great post!

Lydia Kang said...

The competition is something I pay attention to, and it's a bit painful, I agree. I think the smart thing to do is not ignore Walmart, but go to it, and see what you have to offer that will make people say, "Hey, your place isn't Walmart, and I like it!"

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hey, Terri Tiffany!

I do-- Adventures in Missions from Gainesville, Ga. Is that the same AIM? :0)

Carol Riggs said...

Hard not to think of the competition, especially now that the market is tough. Manuscripts have to stand out and be of quality in a way they never have before in order to catch a traditional publisher's eye. More important than ever to read informative blogs, agent articles, and how-to books.

Also, I attend SCBWI conferences (I write YA, for teens) and try to find honest critiquers who will help push me to the next level of writing. Always learning!

Diane said...

I am hoping there is enough of a niche that we all can fill ours. Hoping my books will stand out above others and just trying to get my stuff out there. :O)

Tabitha Bird said...

I try not to worry. What's the point, right?

Paul Greci said...

I'm not a fan of Walmart but I totally love this analogy!!!

With writing, I try to remember that I have no control beyond the time and effort I put into my stories. I'm not sure where my stories will end up, parked on the harddrive or published but I'm going to keep writing them and keep working to improve my craft.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Terri, great analogy! I am not just a writer but a reader, which makes me grateful for anyone who writes books that I will really love.

The success of others doesn't bother me or make me compare. We're all here to do different things. While I was waiting for contract news, several writers I knew signed their first contracts. This was no problem--I was happy for them. None of them write my books. :-)

Rhonda Schrock said...

Sure, I worry. Often when I start to compare and think, "But I'm not HER," or "I don't write like that," the second half of that truth comes along and says, "And she's not me!" And doesn't write like me, either.

That's an excellent comparison, Terri.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I am working extra hard, Terri,to write the best book I can write. Thanks for this great post, as writers we are always prone to feeling not just one person but every other writer is better than us.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Unfortunately the big box stores *do* at times cause the demise of smaller businesses unless they can offer something distinctive -- a unique product, better service, etc. I love indie bookstores because that's exactly how many of them function and thus survive.

When it comes to my writing, I can only hope that if I do my best God will use it to resonate with readers. The work is up to me; the results are up to him.

Kara said...

Oh wow, what a great comparison. It is easy to compare our writing with others and to worry about the competition. I have thought about it at times, sometimes it's made me pretty darn depressed. But I'm with Wendy, God has a plan for me and I know he'll take me to where I need to be:)

Nancy said...

I'm so glad the smaller stores survived. That makes me happy. And I love Walmart, too. We just don't have one near us, so I end up shopping the small stores a lot anyway.

Stephanie Faris said...

So true. I think in my hometown, which is a relatively large suburban area, Wal-Mart put a lot of the mom and pop grocery stores out of business. Also, some family owned hardware stores and such. But what really killed a lot of businesses in my town was the passing of Liquor by the Drink in the late 80s. All the franchise restaurants started moving in, pushing all the locally owned businesses out. A few still remain, though.

Nick said...

An elderly woman decided to prepare her will and told her preacher she had two final requests. First, she wanted to be cremated, and second, she wanted her ashes scattered over Wal-Mart. “Wal-Mart?” the preacher exclaimed. “Why Wal-Mart?” “Then I’ll be sure my daughters visit me twice a week ”

Julie Musil said...

I think this every single day! But then I go to the library, and I see all the different types of books written by so many different types of writers. I think there's room for me out there too!

Janna Qualman said...

Great, great message, Terri. Thanks for this. I appreciate your perspective, and still think it's so cool you had a bookstore.

Jill Kemerer said...

Yes, Terri, I always worry my work can't stand up to competition. It drives me to keep learning, keep working on it. Great post!

K9friend said...

You hit the nail on the head. I constantly compare myself to other writers and angst over my lack of talent. But there is a niche for everyone. Thanks for the reminder!

Pat
www.critteralley.blogspot.com

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, yes. But I keep praying to improve, listening to advice, and reading craft books. I may not be Walmart huge, but I can touch as many lives as God will allow.

Excellent post!!!

Just Be Real said...

Terri, wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. Blessings.

Heckety said...

Oh how true this is! We worry about competition, we worry about things being bigger, better, cheaper, more expensive, imported, yadda yadda, and where does it get us? Swim or drown- fight or give up. Sometimes we mayn't win the fight but that doesn't mean it was wrong to try, and sometimes afterwards we see the good in whatever we were fighting.
Am I worried other folks will do the same as me but bigger and better? Of course! But I'm not called to worry about them- I'm called to do the very best with what I'm given.
Finish.
Ummm, well, that's that's what God tells us anyhow...the practise might be a little different!

Sally said...

I have yet to commit to the idea, part of my own fear and part of finding exactly what my writing should be. I am enjoying the process of discovering. Taking it slow and taking delight.

Carol J. Garvin said...

Hi Terri,

Here I am, a day later, adding another comment to see if you can link from my name to my blog. Here's hoping! I enjoy visiting here and taking part in your conversations and would love to have you drop in at my blog, too.

Janet, said...

I always worry that my work won't stand up to the competition. But, I will keep writing and maybe someday I will be good enough to compete.

Nehha N Josshi said...

I do but then how long can one ponder on something which is not in one's control? I can't stop people from writing great stories, so their abilities should not make me any less in touch with mine. I agree with you when you say that there is room for everybody and that thought is very comforting:)