Here's something I like about writing: It's not like running in the rat race as much as it's like finding your own little plot to till. It's not like climbing a career ladder as much as it's like being an artisan-entrepreneur, crafting and selling your own wares. Writing isn't about staying above the people on the lower rungs and hoping to surpass or knock off the people on the higher rungs---and I think the generosity among writers, especially children's writers, bears that out. Writing is about finding your place in the field of endeavor. About joining the guild. I don't know about you, but ever since high school graduation, when age stopped determining pecking order, I've wanted less of hierarchy and more of people simply finding their places and filling them. If you're at all familiar with 1 Corinthians 12, that's pretty much what I mean.
Some hierarchy is necessary, of course; we need authority at times, and need to respect it. As writers, we may place ourselves under teachers for a period of training, and we cooperate with and often submit to editors who help us make our work better. But generally, a ladder, race, or stair-step model doesn't really work for writing, or probably for any art. The only constant vertical relationship I have as a writer is with God. The rest is all horizontal. I work beside others, and share the journey with them, but while I work I'm not thinking about whom I can beat out or who's going to climb higher than I. I just try to write the stories I'm given to write, and learn as much as I can about achieving excellence in craft and marketing.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield touches on this topic and asks this question: If you were the last person on Earth, would you still be pursuing your activity? If the answer is no, he maintains, then that pursuit is not really your territory. You were doing it mainly to impress people, and now there's no one left. But if you'd still be doing it despite being the last person on Earth, because you were made to do it, then that pursuit is your territory.
I read a book by a man who told of his mother's lifelong heart's desire: to be a dancer. "Life got in the way," as we often say, and though she had a full and successful life in other ways, she never seriously pursued dancing. But after the woman entered a nursing home, grew very frail, and became more and more affected by dementia, her son found that whenever she had even a moment's chance to step out of her wheelchair, she would try to dance. She really couldn't do anything anymore, didn't even know her family members some of the time. She was, in a way, the last person on her Earth. And what did she do? She danced.
If I were the last person on Earth, I'd want a Bible, some books, a pad of paper, and a pen. And I'd pray, sing, read...and write. How about you?