Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Can Do Anything You Can Do Better...

It figures. The week I’ve been under the gun with family commitments, college crap, work issues, as well as playing hide and seek with a stubborn muse would be the week everyone on the Killer Fiction Writers Blog is so freaking entertaining and clever I feel an inordinate amount of pressure to perform. Now I know how guys with performance anxiety feel.

Normally I thrive on competition. My family will tell you that I give a whole new meaning to the word ‘sore’ loser. I’m told I’m even worse when I win--which, of course, isn’t often enough for me. I have this competitive streak that borders on OCD sometimes.

For example, last week my daughter bought a 500 piece puzzle and we began to put it together on the cocktail table in the living room. When she left for work at five, I laughingly told her I’d have the puzzle together by the time she got back home. When she responded, “No way!” I took that as a personal challenge--and remained glued to the damn thing for hours until I had it completed. My victory was short-lived. Katie wasn’t a happy camper when she discovered the puzzle all finished when she returned home and I was crabby I’d frittered away my writing time. My daughter, being a chip off the ol’ ‘game on’ block, responded by informing me it wasn't a big deal, that the puzzle had been an easy one anyway. So, what did the victor do? I went out and bought a 1,000 piece puzzle (this one of a seaside terrace over-looking a white sand beach) and now I find myself poring over it when I should be writing. Do you know how hard it is to connect puzzle pieces consisting of sand???

My, uh, spirited compulsion has its roots--as most things do--in childhood. It didn’t matter what the game: Heigh Ho Cherry O, Chutes and Ladders, Old Maid (hey, be nice!), chess--I hated to lose. The trend continued into adolescence. My older sister was a star athlete and I always wanted to be, if not better than her, then just as good. I failed big-time. She’ll say that’s because I was a skinny, bony weakling. I say it’s because she was built like a brick @#!*house. If I was really catty--and had a serious death wish (my big sister is a captain in the State Patrol--with all those lovely accoutrements like the 44 Auto, chemical spray, handcuffs, etc. that come with said occupation) I’d say she’s still built that way. Ah, sisterhood.

That same urge to out-last and out-do (I sound like Survivor here) reared its Rambo head off and on throughout my life. During the Public Safety Academy where I suspected a number of the male recruits were secretly hoping their female counterparts would wash out, I kept on pluggin’ during those long runs, puking my guts out, yet somehow managing to remain in formation. (What’s a few soiled Nikes between fellow recruits?) While other women were content to marry and have one child at a time, I had three.

Even in writing I fight this passive-aggressive impulse. When someone kicks my butt in a page count competition, I experience this desperate drive to crush them to a fine powder the next time out.

This week my fifth book, Calamity Jayne Heads West, hit bookstores and I find myself fighting the urge to constantly check on-line sales rankings. I’ve done my job, I tell myself. I’ve written a solid addition to the series. I’ve promoted it to the best of my ability. Now it’s up to the booksellers--and, most importantly, to the readers. So, I promised myself this time I would try to avoid obsessing over numbers or rankings. It’s all speculative data anyway. My only job now is to write the next book.

It’s liberating--letting go of that craving for a contest--foregoing the competitive fix that has been my companion all these long years. (Uh, did you really think I was going to tell you just how many years? Get real.)

What? My book was ranked 511 on Barnes and yesterday? No! What? It went up to 1,424 today? Oh, crap. Where’s it at now?

Now, remember I said I was fighting the urge, folks. I never claimed I was cured. Besides, I’m blaming it all on my maniacal muse. :) Are there things you are over-the-top competitive over? How do you handle losing? Or winning? Has an out-of-control competitive spirit gotten you into trouble? Do tell.

That’s it for this week. I’m off to RWA’s Kiss of Death Mystery Suspense Chapter Writers’ Retreat in Omaha this weekend. Next week I’ll try to include photos and a wrap up of the retreat! For now it's back to those white, sand beaches. And I've got the feeling by the time I get home, that puzzle will be all put together. Oh, well, here's to keeping that competitive edge!
Oh, and don't forget every time you post a comment on our Killer Fiction Writers Blog at you're automatically entered in the contest that is currently running. If you send someone over to the blog and they post a comment and mention you sent them, your name is entered in the drawing ten times! I'll be giving away the first prize package of signed books and other goodies.

~Bullet Hole Bacus~


Christie Craig said...


Okay I think that in spite of the fact that we look nothing a like, that our body structure isn't even close, that we grew up on different sides of the world, that you have tons more courage than I could have, (yeah, I'm talking about the brown shirt thing) and I'm basically a coward...I seriously think that we are identical twins.

I'm very competitive. And I seriously think that is a good thing. When I just started out in freelance, I had friend who was also starting out. She would submit a piece and call me and say..."I have two pieces submitted." I would immediately go and write another piece or peices and then I'd call her and say...I have three pieces submitted. We continued until we both had over 20 articles/short stories submitted and the crazy thing was that we both sold about equal too.

Now, I haven't gotten caught up on checking about book numbers yet. Hmmm.... But I have just joined Weight Watchers with a friend. And dad blast it, I'll be "monkey's uncle with clothes on" (that is for Leslie) if I let her lose more weight than I do.

My husband tells everyone, "Don't ... DO NOT... tell Christie she can't do something because she WILL prove you wrong."

I can so see myself sitting at that table, not writing, and finishing that dang jigsaw puzzle, even if it took my all night.

And by the way...I'm going to pick up your book this weekend and I can't wait. You always make me laugh.

Thanks for the great post. And hey...have you figured out what the prize will be yet? I know it will be great! And I'm pouting here because I'm pretty sure that Gemma said we couldn't win each other's prizes. DARN! DARN! That takes the competitiveness fun all out of it!!! :-)

Crime Scene Christie

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Is competitiveness going around? Because I've got a healthy dose of it as well - not quite as bad as Monica on "Friends" but pretty close.

I've got all my fingers crossed on the contest!!

ChristyJan said...

I'm also very competitive. Which is not a good thing when I'm bidding on eBay. Sometimes I don't even really want the item on bidding on that badly ~ I just can't stand to be outbid.

Have a great time in Omaha.

Kathy Bacus said...

Shoot, Christie, between the two of us I don't know if it's a good idea to have us in the same room! Things could get ugly!

Seriously though, I think friendly competition can be a good thing. Your example about the freelance pieces is a case in point. It's when winning begins to matter more than the lessons learned in pursuit of excellence that the competitive drive has gone off the rails.

I hope you enjoy my latest book, too. And my prize package will include signed copies of my two latest books, a Barnes and Noble gift card and a nice little book tote.

I suppose you'll have to one-up me in the prize department. Hmm. This really good could get ugly. :)

~Bullet Hole~

Estella said...

I am competetive also. I cannot stand to lose at anything, and if I do---look out the next time.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Kathy! I'm not as bad as you with the competition thing, although I have my Monica Geller moments. LOL.

Have fun at KOD. I'm looking forward to the pics and the recap!


Kathy Bacus said...

OMG, if I ever started with eBay, I'd be in serious trouble, Christyjan.

And I'm really looking forward to talking shop with fellow writers in Omaha.


Virginia said...

Hey! We all have performance anxiety from time to time. I think the thing to do is just do the best you can, which you do a wonderful job. Just hang in there and bring on the books.

We are all competitive to a certain degree, so your not by yourself.

Kathy Bacus said...

Sounds like we're in good company, Christie, as jenyfer is also on the record as being a fierce competitor.

I'd just like to switch it off now and then.

Thanks for the post, jenyfer!


Kathy Bacus said...

Yes, Estella! A comrade!

My family swears the only thing more annoying than me losing is me winning. Snort.


Christie Craig said...


Hmmm.... If I do one up you on the prize, I'd say our readers will come out the winners. :-)

And seriously, I'm wishing I could win your prize. But because I know I can't... I picked up your book at B&N today. Can't wait to get into it.

And I'm with you, competition can be a great thing, but taken too far it can bite. And besides, I don't think trying to one up an ex pistol-toting trooper is smart. :-)

Crime Scene Christie

Kathy Bacus said...

I can so relate to Monica, Faye.

About the KOD pics--fair warning--I'll only post ones that are flattering to me. So there may not be all that many for me to share.

~Kathy the unphotogenic~

Kathy Bacus said...

Oooh, thanks so much, Virginia. You're so sweet. Sometimes I really need to hear that my best is okay.

The thing about writing and working full time and going to school and having a family is finding you don't have enough time to do it all. Something has to give. In my case, I'd rather it be the promotion than the writing. Uh, or the kids.

Thanks for reminding me to focus on the things I actually do accomplish and not dwell on the things I didn't manage to get to.


Kathy Bacus said...

I dunno, Christie. For a eensy little gal, I betcha you'd give me a run for my money!

~Bullet Hole~

Christie Craig said...


I don't know . . . I'm basically a coward.

Crime Scene Christie

Lily said...

I am super competitive in everything... and I know I am a bit obsessive... comes with the description of a med student.

Lila n. said...

I know I am quite relaxed. I am only competitve on important things like getting a job or a rewarding projet for example, but not htat much that it would make me detestable.

Nathalie said...

Competition varies with my mood... I am extremely competitive when I am in a bad mood or when I want to prove to the world that I can do something. But I guess being competitive is a must for writers... it seems to be a tough world out there!

Kathy Bacus said...

One of my daughters (the puzzle one actually) wants to go the pre-med route like you, Lily. I would think a competitive drive would have to be compulsory in that environment and would make for some highly skilled medical professionals.


Kathy Bacus said...

I think you've found the key to making a competitive nature work, Lila. Knowing when to push that envelope (as in job advancement, etc.)and when to let it slide (if it's purely an ego trip.)

As with all things, moderation is probably the best bet.


Kathy Bacus said...

You're right on, Nathalie. Due to the nature of the beast, writing for publication is an extremely competitive endeavor and not for the faint of heart. Which is why I stand in awe of a community of professionals that go to such extremes to mentor and guide their very own competitors. I don't think that kind of generosity of spirit exists in many other professions.

Thanks for posting!


Stacy S said...

Have a great time at the retreat. Have to say I'm not really competitive.

Kathy Bacus said...

Thanks, Stacy! I am certainly looking forward to the retreat. Margie Lawson is a featured speaker and I'm excited about that. Plus, Erica Spindler will be there and a number of my favorite mystery suspense authors!

~Kathy who should be packing so she won't be up until the wee hours~

Gemma Halliday said...

Kathy, I am so dang jealous! Have a great time at the KOD retreat and you better come back with pictures and a full report.


P.S. Would it be a bad thing if I went out and bought a 1,500 piece puzzle now? ;)

Brenda H said...


I don't mean to be competitive, well maybe a little - I finished your book!! I won't spoil it for anyone, but I will say I couldn't put it down. Now I can't wait for Anchors Aweigh, no pressure - insert smiley face.

I'll email you this weekend with bike ride ideas, surely there will be a "Lance Armstrong" guest appearence. I'm already laughing thinking about Tressa...
1. on a bike
2. being chased on a bike
3. staying on a bike

Jenyfer Matthews said...

Kathy -
Not sure you can ever really turn off a true competitive streak but my strategy is just to remove myself from the situation. Only rarely do I play board games, cards, or team sports :) (I've never felt competitive over a puzzle!!!) I like solitary activities so that the only person I'm competing against is myself.

LOL on that submitting more articles thing, Christie! I have to work hard to ignore other writers who talk about how productive they are. I am a slow writer and was getting myself into a real state over how much I was "falling behind"!!

Lily said...

Kathy... I have done a year of pre-med and now I am in my third year of med school... I still have a year and a half for being called M.D. :)) That is how the system works in parts of Canada. You can get in without a college degree.

It is extremely important to be competitive in high school, but maintaining good friendships always help!!

Trooper Donna said...

What do you mean I'm built like a brick @##** house??? It's all muscle, you know. As far as you being a poor winner, that is an understatement. Whether it was Yahtze, Parchessi or Pictionary, Kathy was horrible when she won. Thanks for turning me on to this, Kathy, so I can peak into your world, and catch up on what you are doing.Plus I need to see what you're saying about me!!!! I am so proud of you!

Kathy Bacus said...

What better way to get you over to the Killer Fiction blog than by talking about you, Trooper 'Dee'??? Hehe!

And I'm really not all that sore a loser. You still have a nice head of hair--gray as it may be getting...!

You are so gonna make me pay the next time you see me, aren't you???

Thanks for stopping by, sis!

~Bullet Hole~