Jealousy happens. Especially in the age of Twitter, it’s easy to side-eye another writer’s success or productivity. From the “I’ve written 10,000 words today!” posts to book deal and movie announcements, social media is rife with material that may send some writers into a spiral of self-doubt. Because, let’s face it: as writers, we’re constantly questioning our abilities. Well, she churns out four chapters in a weekend! Why can I only write 500 words a day? And look, some [big name production company] just bought her movie rights! UGGGGHHHH, I’ll never have what she has.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with a bunch of my writer friends in London this month, and it struck me how this topic came up literally every time – how coveting another writer’s success is more prevalent in the age of social media, and how it’s dangerous to creativity, your sense of self, and your relationships with other writers (who are overwhelmingly very nice people who deserve this level of achievement!).
One friend I met with said something like this: at some point in your career, you’re going to have to make a choice between two options. 1) Constantly side-eyeing other writers’ careers, and measuring yourself against them, or 2) Forging your own, separate path and being genuinely happy for others’ success. To me, there is very little middle ground. You can choose to be jealous, or you can choose to be happy.
Let me break this down a bit more.
Your creativity and sense of self
Only you can write your story. That may sound incredibly pedantic, but really think about it. If you’re busy coveting others’ work (Her ultra-famous book has dragons! Therefore I should write about dragons!), you’re inherently ignoring the story in your own heart and head – the one that only you can visualize and put to paper. The more you underestimate your voice, the greater chance that jealousy and self-doubt will block out your wonderful, unique ideas.
Your relationships with other writers
Writers make exceptional friends! They intimately understand your crazy writerly woes and offer the best book advice and emotional support. Why would you want negative feelings to interfere with these relationships? And, as if friendship isn’t enough, promoting (and being genuinely happy for!) another writer’s book increases the possibility that he or she will promote yours. It’s a win-win, really.
Another thing to note here is: once you get to know other writers, you discover that they have the exact same sense of self-doubt, no matter how advanced or glittery their career. The image of a writer isn’t always what’s going on behind the scenes.
I don’t mean to suggest that all writers should string together and hold hands and sing Kumbaya… but actually, can we do that, please?
Because another’s success does not take anything away from you, and that’s perhaps the most important thing to remember.