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Professional envy. Or, Damn all the words.

I’m pretty sure most writers have been, or will go, there.

You read a book by another author friend of yours. It’s fucking fantastic. You read the beautifully constructed sentences, the tightly woven plot, the unexpected twist. It’s all so clever and lovely and fucking excellent.

And you think, why can’t I write like that? Why didn’t I think of constructing that sentence that way? I’d give my best toenail to have come up with that idea first…

And so on.

And then you see the reviews. That’s fun.

Seven page articles extolling the originality, the excellence, the depth. Star ratings that catapult the author to (niche) demigod status. Fans clamouring for their next book, for their attention, who can’t say enough about this most amazing author, whose back catalogue you simply must read…

And you’re happy for them. Genuinely. You know how that kind of thing can feed an author like ambrosia to the gods. You love their work, too. You know the craft and time they’ve put into it. You know they deserve the adulation.

It isn’t about them, though. It’s about envying their success and wishing you were that good too.

And as you sit pounding out your frustration on the keyboard, thinking of the tepid reception your last novel received, you consider giving your laptop a bubble bath. You think of clever sentence constructions that become wordy and awkward and weird, and you press your forehead to the backspace key. You reread how-to books, consider guitar re-stringing or professional snail racing as your next options. You think back to that girlfriend who said you’d always be a mediocre writer, and that had to be good enough. Damn the words for not being where you should have put them…

And then you sit down and get the story out and you try to do it better this time. And next time. And the next. Until one day, it’s your fucking excellent book.

I think, ultimately, that by reading other fabulous authors, we push ourselves to be better too. The little green-eyed writing monster may actually serve a purpose.

If we don’t “accidentally” leave our laptops in the shower, that is.

11 thoughts on “Professional envy. Or, Damn all the words.”

      1. I honestly struggle the most when I know it’s an opportunity I just cannot expect to have. Like, recently, some friends were celebrating translation rights in a country where the content I write wouldn’t be shelved by virtue of the characters being queer. That… was really hard to smile through.

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      2. See, I kind of find that easier to take. Like, it’s not an arena open to me, so I can’t compete in it. And that sucks asparagus tips, but at least I’m not getting in there because I’m not good enough, you know? But in the arenas I can compete in…damn the words.

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  1. I gave up writing for a year, even though I thought about writing on a daily basis. I’d convinced myself I wasn’t good enough…and it sucked. But the truth was (after much lamenting and self-loathing), that I WAS good enough for where I happen to be in my writing life. I was learning craft. I was writing shit, then went on to write shit that wasn’t quite as shitty. Now I’m writing the manuscript for contract number four. Funny how fate pushes us with unexpected and perfectly lovely shoves, making us stumble, yet somehow find our balance. Cheers, Brey. Your blogs always hit home. Thank you.

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