the green-eyed beast: how do you deal with writer envy?

Hands up if you’ve never suffered writer envy.

OK, you there in the corner with your hand up, didn’t your mother teach you not to lie?

Everyone suffers writer envy. If you think you don’t, you either have no ambition, or you’re living under a rock. Most vulnerable to crippling writer envy are writers who haven’t yet made a sale to something they consider a good venue. Next would be writers who haven’t sold anything for a while.

You know the feeling. You’re happily plodding along, coping (or so you think) with rejection and then you hear that so-and-so writer (often someone who’s coming up the ranks with you) has made a sale you would kill for. Well, almost. Don’t kill them for reals, though. You think this person has it easy. You think this person is not as worthy as you. You think your work is better. Or something. In any case, you’re angry, you’re depressed and you feel like making snarky comments all over the internet.

Everyone feels like that sometimes.

What to do?

Well, don’t deny it. The writing gig is hard and filled with ups and downs. Give yourself the day off, or do something that takes your mind off writing, until you’re ready to tackle writing again.

Don’t forget to congratulate your friend. A simple ‘congratulations’ will do. Don’t add a backhanded compliment, or some sort of whingey statement, like ‘All I get from this magazine is form rejection’. Congratulating someone with their success is not about you. At all. Pretending you didn’t hear the news only prolongs your own agony. Congratulate them, and move on.

Use the anger. That so-and-so who made the sale is obviously a hack, and you could do sooooo much better. Well, do it, then. It shows if you use emotion to drive your writing.

Different writers have different career paths and find different niches. There are places where I would love to sell, but I probably never will because of what I write and how I write.

Also, successes and failures tend to come in bunches. Next time you sell something, think of the other writers who are in the middle of a rejection-fest. Know that next time it will probably be you.

Remain true to your style and your choice of genre. There is no point trying to run after trends just because you want to sell something so you can out-bluff your friends.

Patience, batman. I know that’s hard, and some people won’t believe I even said this.

Eventually, time will heal everything. And a sale or two. For that to happen, you have to write. So if you feel envious? Easy. Write more!

11 comments on “the green-eyed beast: how do you deal with writer envy?

  1. Great post as I’m in the middle of a “rejection fest”! You made me laugh with that one. Good advice, I’ll use my anger to write more, because you’re right, I need to write more.

      • I find that I tend to write and send stuff out in batches as I get enthusiastic about something or force myself to deal with a backlog of unsubbed stories — kind of like how you get a lot of kids born nine months after a power outage.

  2. Enjoyed your post and yes the best therapy for us is writing, when I do that I am calm and ok and not threatened by anyone else regardless of their success or bank account. The support we offer each other by wordpress is invaluable; thanks for massaging my fragile ego. It is now ok.

  3. My envy is for people who can write full-time. I get these newsletters where people write chatty little articles about how to manage your writing day, go for a jog before breakfast, school visits, etc. and I want to scream, “Go away! Some of us have to do day jobs! Some of us can’t do school visits because we WORK in a school!” But I make time. I write on the train, I write late at night and slip in time between preparing classes and cleaning the house on weekends and I make the occasional sale. I have about three so far in the last few months, possibly four. Now excuse me, I’m off to finish cooking dinner so i can get on with preparing class for tomorrow. With luck, I can get on with editing my novel on my iPad tomorrow morning!

    • I think it’s just elitist for people to presume that others don’t have anything in their lives except writing.

  4. I can honestly say that I don’t suffer from writer’s envy. Yes, there are books published, which I don’t think measures up, but not because I am envious.

    I am thrilled for my friends who get published, and I am so proud of them. The way I see it, there is no connection between them being published and me not being published. It is not like my manuscript would have been accepted if only theirs had been rejected. To me, whether or not my manuscript gets published depends on the manuscript and the publisher, nothing else. My writer friends are in general nothing but a positive influence in my life, they help me improve my writing, and they are an inspiration.

    …and yes, that sounds sappy, but that’s the sappy truth. 😉

  5. Part of what drove me to work harder, from 2008 onward, was when I started going to the local writing-relate social events — realized there were so many people being successful at different levels — and kicked myself because I knew I could be just as successful; if only I got off my butt. This is where I think envy must go if it’s to be transmuted into a healthy outcome. Envy that sits and festers won’t do any good. Use it to remind yourself that you really can miss an hour or two of sleep, or skip some of those house chores, or not watch that favorite TV program, if it means getting in the writing time. Because the stories and the books won’t write themselves. And if you feel yourself getting mad because someone else is having a good time being published, channel that energy into your work and pretty soon you won’t feel mad at all. You’ll feel like you’re accomplishing something. Especially if you start selling more (or sell anything at all) and voila, now it’s you who become the object of envy — for everyone behind and/or below you, on the trail of authorial achievement.

    • Exactly! But it’s hard when you’re at that stage that you’ve done a lot of work but have nothing (yet) to show for it.

  6. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #19 — The Book Designer

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