Writer Envy: Do You Have It?

I have a friend who is amazing at everything she does – except writing – only because she refuses to try. She says, “I have great stories in my head, but my sister writes, and I don’t want her stories to be better than mine.”

I raised an eyebrow and started to laugh, but then I remembered… I’ve been there.

We all have writer envy to some degree. Of course we want to write brilliant prose and get paid like the world appreciates our artistic suffering. When we read a page-turner, we think, “Dang! I want to create something this awesome.” Maybe this should be categorized as admiration. When we encounter great writing, we pick apart what makes it stand out and begin to recreate it in our own way. It’s productive, motivating, and even healthy.

Now when we begin to envy the success of others, it’s an entirely different monster that can manifest in ugly, ugly ways. For example, you know your writer envy is getting out of hand when:

  • You self-publish and you are perfectly blissful with your meager sales until you hear that your aunt’s cousin’s best friend’s son scored a multi-book publishing deal with Random House. You immediately hate him and his stupid book, and assume he and the agent are dating.
  • Or you scored the rockin’ deal from Random House, but soon found out your niece’s book, The Pink Piggy Penguin earns the same amount in one sale as you make in ten. What?! She’s 12! Punk. You consider triple-salting her mashed potatoes at Christmas dinner.
  • Or you read an old High School friend’s Facebook rant about how her Amazon ranking skyrocketed over the weekend. Um… she wrote it in less than a month and published her first draft. You grit your teeth and type, “Congrats,” because “Congratulations!” would be more enthusiasm than her dumb luck deserves. But, there’s no freakin’ way you’ll click “like”.

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you have been trapped by a pernicious antagonist, who doesn’t care about discovering your happiness as much as proving someone else’s unworthiness. This sounds like a nasty creature, right? It is. But luckily, there is a simple way to exterminate it:

If you are envious of someone, help them be successful. Then, be happy for them and it becomes your success, too.

That’s all it takes to change envy into mutual admiration. Improve your writing karma – help promote another writer. Re-post your old High School friend’s Amazon success. Buy an extra copy of “The Pink Piggy Penguin” and donate it to the library. And for heaven’s sake – go introduce yourself to your aunt’s cousin’s best friend’s son and see if he’ll tell you how he got that deal with Random House.

On the flip side – if you are the one who is dealing with envious critics, all I have to say is good for you! That just proves you are putting yourself out there, allowing your work to be seen and letting yourself be vulnerable. If this sounds like you, check out this enlightening video about creativity and critics. It should help you swallow the writing bullies of the world.

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One comment

  1. It’s so true! Why is it so hard to be happy about other people’s success? It’s like we think that if someone is successful, that somehow takes away from our success, or the likelihood of our future success.

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