Writer Envy: Do’s and Don’ts

While writer’s do have each others backs, after all, no one else knows better how much work goes into creating a book, there are occasions when along with the crippling self-doubt and frustrating writer’s block, you will be struck down with writer envy.

Writer envy usually rears its head when you see another writer post, boast or blog about scoring an agent, a book deal, selling the movie rights, publish selfies with their books in actual stores, or spam you with photos of their author signings where real-live people actually went out of their way to get a signed copy of a book that was published by a real-live publishing house.

It’s human for them to want to show off such great achievements (and we’d all be first in line to do the same if it was us), it’s also very human to feel envious of this so I’m not going to tell you not to. I’ve felt this way in the past, and I’m sure I’ll feel it again in the future. For those times, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to keep in mind…

Do allow yourself to feel jealous.
Don’t publicly rant about it (at least not with identifying details).

Do allow it to make you a better writer.
Don’t allow it to make you a bitter person.

Do allow it to help you reassess, inspire or change your goals.
Don’t allow it to convince you that you need to change everything that you’re doing.

Do allow it to help you see what makes you a unique writer.
Don’t allow the comparisons to make you think that you are so unique that anyone who doesn’t like/rejects your work just doesn’t ‘get you’.

Do allow it to fire your desire to finish.
Don’t allow it to make you quit.

While it’s great to see other’s succeed, especially in such a hard industry, there will be times when you’ll wonder when it’s your turn, why it’s taking so long, or how something that is fifty shades of bad writing hits the bestseller list while you’re dealing with your fiftieth rejection in a row.

It’s okay to feel this way and it’s okay to wallow in it for as long as you need (but not too long, there’s writing to be done). What you don’t want to do is allow that envy to stop you from achieving your writing goals, because I’m sure if you asked the writer’s that you hid from your news feed, or the ones you considered cursing with the spells you painstakingly researched in the book not one agent has yet to request a full manuscript of, they would tell you that they felt that envy too. They also wondered when it was their turn and why it was taking so long. What they didn’t do was give up. They kept going, and eventually they achieved what you’re jealous of, and one day soon, hopefully, if you work hard enough and the stars align, it will be your turn. You’ll get to inspire the same writer envy in someone else—but it’ll only happen if you don’t quit.

— K.M. Allan

25 thoughts on “Writer Envy: Do’s and Don’ts

    1. Thanks Dyane, for reading and for your comment. I had a look at your post and totally understand. I’ve often seen other writers talk about books that sound similar to mine and had a little freak out. I agree with your husband, there’s always room for books on similar topics and readers who like one may be drawn to the other. Good luck with your book! It sounds like a topic that could be very helpful to those who are bipolar.

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      1. Thanks so much! There are so many bipolar books out there, but nothing like this one – that’s pretty much what kept me going. It’s a specific form of bipolar + a “PMAD” – no, that’s not an alien species, but stands for perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. It helps to know that my book hasn’t been “done” before, but I get insecure and jealous because the other author is the total opposite of me in terms of being so accomplished, you know? It doesn’t get better than being able to say you’re a regular writer for the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, etc. I can’t compete with that. So I need to just let it go. Ha. Yeah, right! 😉 So happy and honored you’re following me, by the way. Thank you! I’m grateful I found your blog!

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  1. I’ve felt jealous of writers who wrote three or four books in the time it took me to write one, and got them all published. And of writers who got publishing deals while I was busy rewriting mine, over and over. And of writers who could write better than me. And of a much younger writer who won an award I was shortlisted for.
    I didn’t berate myself for how I felt; I just let the feelings come, and then they passed. These other writers just showed me that it can be done, it is possible, and I used that to spur me on.
    Good luck with your writing endeavours! x

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  2. Brilliant post! I’ve definitely found myself deep in writer’s envy many times. I love how you stress here that that’s okay, and the opposing advice, for keeping us grounded, is perfect too.

    May we all soon achieve successes and be equally pleased for and envious of each other 😉
    Much love ❤

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  3. Pingback: Writer Envy: Do’s and Don’ts | Campbells World

  4. I have to admit I don’t feel much envy about other writers. Maybe I should, but I figure we’re all struggling to find readers, and anyone who breaks through probably deserves it. My vision and style seem so particular I wouldn’t know to whom I should compare myself anyway.

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    1. I agree! Anyone that breaks through deserves it for sure. It is such a hard industry. It’s still also human to wonder why you aren’t getting anywhere despite all the effort you’re putting in, especially when you do hear stories about a person who woke up one day, decided to be a writer, and had a book deal 6 months later, while you’re in your 6th year of constant rejections. That’s not to say the person who landed the deal after 6 months didn’t deserve it, just that the person who has been slogging it out also deserves to have those feelings of envy if they want to.

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      1. I definitely understand the frustration of the struggle. I got my first rejection slip back in 1996 and have had many more since then. I think it’s easier to make it if you’re a genre writer because there are ready made plot formulas and stock characters to choose from. When you try write organically and base your writing on real people and situations, your job is harder because you have to divine your story from reality while making it interesting.
        A person who decides to write on a whim and has a book deal in no time might be writing in the confessional tone, which is the easiest way to write. They might be writing about something trendy and publishers try to capitalize on that. Crafting a work of art takes more practice, more trial and error, and more time. But the results are worth it in my opinion. I’m proud of my work even if it isn’t widely read. I want my writing to stand the test of time and not blow away with yesterday’s trends. Someone once said that you have to do something for 10,000 hours before you’re good at it. I’ve also turned to script writing so I can collaborate with other people.
        All that said, I very much understand the envy of the struggling writer. Good luck!

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