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.