Thursday, October 14, 2010

Author Envy

Ever feel envious that another writer is where you want to be? It's probably normal for us to feel that way at some point along our path to success. I mean, just think about it---no matter where you are on your path, there's always someone (or even many) who are more successful with it.

Take the newbie novel writer--perhaps he envies his writer friend who's already finished her novel and is on revisions. Or perhaps it's the aspiring author stuck in the query phase who envies a writer friend with an agent. Perhaps the agented author envies the writer with a two book contract, or the published author who envies the NY Times bestseller.

You catch my drift. Everyone's path is unique. There will always be more to strive for, and that's good. But I don't think we can compare ourselves to other writers. Even as a NY Times bestseller someone out there will think our work sucks. That's the brutal hard truth of it. Look at how many writers out there thing Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga was written poorly. I, for one, can excuse the writing if you tell me a good story. But as I grow as a writer, I tend to notice it more.

Growing as a writer is my whole point of this post. It makes no sense to envy other writers when we are all  constantly growing and evolving into better ones. Almost two years ago I emailed a story I wrote to one of my best friends (who's not a writer.) And she promised to read it. It was a short, 60k word contemp romance, so I knew it wasn't asking too much of her to read.

However, time and parenthood got the best of her and she never read it, and I forgot about is as I moved on to other projects. Well, about two months ago she called me and told me she just read the whole thing and loved it. I cringed. I could only imagine how bad my writing was, I've grown so much since then. Of course, I was flattered she read it, and flattered even more that she was able to overlook the poor writing and enjoy the story.

Out of curiosity, I went back and read the first few chapters and naturally I was editing as I went. My skin was crawling at the poor sentence structure and overuse of adverbs and adjectives. I mean, wow! I should probably just rewrite the whole thing... that's how bad it is. But the story was there. So even through the bad writing I was able to see that I'm a storyteller.

Which brings me to the next point: I think it's important we recognize our potential and strength and talent, just as much as we recognize our need for constant growth. If we are ever changing, learning, and growing there's no doubt we'll succeed. No need for author envy. There will always be someone ahead and someone better, but if we persist through personal growth and build a network of positive writer friends around us, we will taste our own personal success.

And we'll arrive there from our own unique path.

What are your thoughts on author envy? Ever felt it? How did you overcome it?


Anonymous said...

Hi Pk! =D
HMMM...Author envy? I wouldn't know anything about that. Yeah, right! Just ask Tetonia lol!!!!!!!! Haha. I met her on Writers Digest like 10 months ago and we have stayed in touch ever since. She's been my beta reader for for first novel Book of Destinies (now called: Wings of Wisdom) and my new novel I'm working on called: Fusion. She has taught me so much about the writing world. I always tease her when she tells me how much word count she currently has and how she juggles other projects at the same time. I'm like, "I'm so jealous of you. I wish I could write that fast, or I wish I could be working on my first query (even though she's scared the living day lights out of me when it comes to queries and pitch's lol!) I admire her hard work, dedication, and strength. So, yes I envy her as well, but in a good way =D

GREAT POST PK! I love your blog. I'll be back to read more.

I hope you have a truly blessed day. ~Jannette~

Maria McKenzie said...

Pk, very encouraging post, and a timely topic for me! I'm rewriting my first novel and I'm horrified at how bad the writing is--but the story's good.

And yes, author envy is there! But I just keep thinking about Vince Flynn. He was rejected 60 times and then finally self published his work. Now he's laughing all the way to the bank!

Norma Beishir said...

PK, the best writers compete only with themselves.

I've been a published author since 1988. I had my moments of envying other writers, and I had writers who envied me because I was a lead title, because I got big advances, whatever.

I have finally stopped comparing myself and what I achieve to what other writers have done. My hair will grow back....

LTM said...

YES! I do the same thing about cringing over the MS I was sending out last year. But that's the thing about "keep writing." It's encouraging that I feel like I'm getting better and didn't "peak" on my first book, yes?

Author envy = Suzanne Collins. I want to be THERE now. But like everyone, she had to grow there.

Good stuff, hon~ :o)

Florence said...

Author envy can take useful energy and use it up on a senseless activity.

I don't envy someone who has journeyed further than I have, I admire them. Trust yourself/be yourself and you will get to where you want to be ... YOU :)

T C Mckee said... no pouty faces and stomping of the feet. Good to know. I think there is always a little bit of envy, but more so, I feel admiration and joy. I'll make two very commercial references:Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling. I sat with my daughter after reading both series then naturally she had to see the movies. As the word Twilight was spelled out across the screen, I actually had to tear up a little, and the same thing goes for all novels that make it that far. I'm overwhelmed with happiness for those people because in the end, as my husband always says: Stephanie Meyer had no idea she was Stephanie Meyer. We don't really know what we're holding but we know it means a lot at least to us, and that is enough to make us proud of our accomplishments no matter the size of them. Great Post PK

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I was so pleased with my first novel (which I finished last year), but one year down, I cringe to read it. Yes, the foundation of a good story is there, but what on earth was I thinking????

Author envy? None right now. Yes, there are cringeworthy published authors, but most have professional PR machinary working for them, and I will never go that route.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I'm pretty good about staying out of the envy-zone, which is fortunate as I meet more and more wildly talented and successful authors! But I love your point about recognizing our strengths even more. I try to see this as I critique as well - point out the strengths as well as the places that could use some help. We need to stay positive in this business!

Great post! :)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

p.s. Good luck on Nano! :)

Connie Arnold said...

Nice post, Pk! You make some good points. It's hard not to envy other writers we think are more successful and talented. We can just do our best, keep learning and improving.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Author Envy...I don't think I have it. I seem to be lucky enough to have lots of talented people around me. I don't think I'm jealous of any of them. (I do hope I'll learn something from them.)

Quinn said...

I havne't really felt author envy. I admire other author's successes, but like you said ... everyone's path is different. Their paths led them to where they are and my path will lead me to where I'm going.

Betsy said...

Love your point that if there's a good story there, it's worth saving! I'm not sure I envy other authors, but as an unpublished, unsure writer, I certainly compare myself with others and can get discouraged. (But I felt Meyer's book gave me a boost, b/c it wasn't so fabulously written, but it's successful...)

Charlotte Rains Dixon said...

Oh, I always feel author envy, I think it is natural. But envy also comes from a position of scarcity and lack and once I remind myself there's plenty for all of us, the envy falls away. It also helps to go back to work on my latest project....