Reflections, Writing

In the grand scheme of writing

I can be ridiculously petty, envious, and jealous. That’s something I wish I hadn’t learned about myself in the four years since I started writing for publication. And there’s no logic to these feelings.

Why envy the sales of an author who has fifteen published novels and a well-funded marketing team? And writes in a different genre—a hot one?

Why resent an author for being the darling of certain groups when I don’t even want to join those groups?

What sense does it make to be jealous of a writer who’s had umpteen stories published in literary magazines when I never submit any of mine?

And on and on and on. A waste of energy. A pathetic self-indulgence. A comparison of apples to oranges.

In all of life, a personal sense of success depends on your perspective. Pettiness, envy, jealousy, any negative emotion, keeps you lying in the dirt looking up. All writers publish because they want to share their work with others, and we all hope many others. There’s a larger market for some genres and types of writing than for others—apples and oranges.

One problem today is that authors, even traditionally published ones, are required to be more involved in the marketing side. It’s too easy to start comparing when so many authors are online shouting out sales figures and rankings, and giving advice—You too could be a publishing phenomenon, if you follow these six easy steps! Comparison leads to dissatisfaction. We see ourselves as less successful.

Too often, I let envy and jealousy steal any sense of success from me. My perspective skews. I wrote a book that already hundreds of people have read! How can I keep forgetting that? And I’m not finished writing. Who knows what I might accomplish a year or twenty from now? In the grand scheme of my writing career, I’m just beginning.

How’s the view from your perspective?

23 thoughts on “In the grand scheme of writing”

  1. I think it’s just natural. I get jealous of other writers too, but instead of letting it get me down, I let it make me more determined. I try to remember that once, those successful authors I’m jealous of were just like me, trying to make it in the world of writing. They were probably jealous of authors too. One day, if we’re very lucky and we work hard enough, we could be authors that aspiring writers are jealous of. I think it’s just a writer’s skewed way of looking up to people, and that the basis of being jealous of a successful writer is actually admiration we’re too embarassed to admit.


  2. The other day I thought, “Dang it! Look how successful that author is! And movie rights! And billions of people loving her and her book and the movie! I suck~! I SUCK!” That was with Hunger Games (I’ve not read the book or seen the movie) and every time I saw a commercial I’d feel that I SUCK!

    Then I thought, “But wait, Kat. Would you write that kind of book? is that your genre? Could you would you do it?” And the answer is no. That’s not the kind of book I could successfully write. So why be envious of that, for something out of my realm of what I do and who I am as an author? It helped me not to feel a failure when I saw commercials for the movie and the thousands of thronging fans screaming! *laugh*

    But, where I feel that sense of “failure” is when a novel that IS something I could or would have written makes it big – I then think “Why not me? why not my novel? what’s wrong with me?” Fruitless thinking but it rears up.

    My son once told me: “Do you know how many writers would kill to be where you are right now?” And I know it’s all relative. I’m making royalties – I have 5 books out (one’s a novella, but still) – and working on the 6th – so – yeah.

    As an aside but it’s related — Thomas Kinkaide died of complications to returning to his drinking. He was an alcoholic. Because he felt a “failure” — millions of dollars and many many beloved ‘fans’ and still he felt a failure because of critics saying he was a “sell out” and it hurt him deeply – Money isn’t always the answer – the answer really lies within our own self and how we accept who and what we are – how we are true to who and what we are — all the rest is mostly out of our control.

    this comment is too long! lawd!


    1. Exactly, Kat! Apples and oranges.

      But I’ve experienced the other too — look at her, this is her first novel and she’s self-published and she’s FAMOUS! Why not meeeeeee?

      It truly is about our perspective. There’s a good lesson to be learned from Kinkaide’s sense of failure. We need to assess our talent to set our goals realistically. For instance, if I decide that true success for me depends on my writing being lauded in The New Yorker, I’m setting myself up for frustration and a sense of failure. Like you said, we have to “accept who and what we are”.

      And you have my permission to write a “novella” here any time. 🙂


      1. And even when we make it to some “Point We Think is Golden” it is never enough – not that we are greedy, but in this business you have to stay on top apparently – or you have to be on top of whomever is on top – and on and on it goes!

        I have a friend who is a NYT best-seller a few times over and has thousands of readers who love this author – when I asked why no books lately, the person said it just was too much . . . too stressful too hurtful. Here I was thinking this author had it all. I don’t know -it gives me pause on thinking about “goals” but more important – on how I should feel grateful for where I am, wherever that is. Enjoy the NOW, you know?


  3. OMG That is so me as well. I try not to be jealous but it creeps in when I am not looking. I have also seen the opposite, which caught me totally off guard, that is writer friends being envious of me! A couple of writer friends have distanced themselves from me since I have been published and they have not. Weird? Just keep writing is the best advice. I like what Chris said too about self comparison.


    1. Thanks for letting me know you sometimes feel this way too, Darlene. It’s hard to be generous and competitive at the same time, isn’t it?

      Your mention of writer friends distancing themselves from you because you’re published reminded me of those old shampoo commercials with the line “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” I’m thinking now of some friendships that have suffered in the last year or so and I’m asking myself which of us drifted away first?


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