Writer Envy

Is it just me, or am I the only writer that suffers from writer envy?  Am I the only one who thinks that every other writer’s work is better than mine?  Am I all by myself, feeling like, well, like rice pudding in a world of tiramisu? 

While I’m being candid, let me make one more appalling confession. 

I don’t like to read much.  Writers are supposed to read voraciously, so that’s tantamount to being a lawyer who doesn’t like to talk much.

It’s not that I read nothing, but I prefer non-fiction, preferably theological tomes.  In my misspent youth, I devoured romances, sometimes reading two Harlequins a day. Later, married with children, I had little time to read. I’d like to think I was living my own Harlequin romance with my own studly hero. Yes, I’d very much like to think that.

But time constraints no longer exist, so neither does that excuse. The sad truth is that as soon as I read one page, perhaps only one sentence of a book, I instantly realize it’s far superior to anything I’ll ever create. Doubt sets in; discouragement and despair quickly follow. (See my blog about The Eternal Pessimist to see where this usually ends up.) 

 Yet somehow, despite my neurotic insecurity, despite this crippling lack of self-confidence, I continue to write. Which mystifies me. I keep trying to think of a great idea that will become the next Gone With the Wind, or To Kill a Mockingbird. (There’s nothing insecure about my dreams!)

But where do those great ideas come from? That has to be the most frequent question a writer is asked.  And I’d really like to know the answer.  I know of one Avalon author who has written over 50 books. Fifty books! She publishes about 3 or 4 a year!  I’ve written four. Over the course of 20 years.  And the first was a memoir, which, according to a famous author of literary mysteries, is not worth counting. 

“Anyone can write a memoir,” she once said.  I’m not so sure that’s entirely true, but I see her point.  A memoir is your own life story. The plot, the characters, the story is already there. You don’t have to build it line by excrutiating line, pull it together out of bits and pieces, and labor over plot points, character intricacies, and black moments. You just have to write it down. 

At any rate, I figure that if Im going to write 50 books in my lifetime, I’ll either have to write faster, or live another 329 years. 

Excuse me, I have another 5,000 words to write before supper.

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8 Responses to Writer Envy

  1. Thanks for being candid. I think every writer at some time has writer envy. I finished my second book in November and sent it to an indie copany for review expecting the worst. This is why I never sent anything in. Then I took to reading some Nicholas Sparks while waiting for my review and it was only comparable to standing on stage naked during a 5th grade spelling bee. I was mortified at how inferior my writing was. BUT,my review came back with highest praises and consideration for an award. I was floored. I read my book again, then a Palahniuk book, and assumed the editor was being polite. I am my own worst enemy, yet I continue to write. Oh, and by the way, I used to be an aid reader; at least a book a week. Now, I’m lucky if I can get in two books a year. While I’m reading I keep thinking I should be writing

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  2. I think every writer suffers from writer envy, and if they don’t, then they perhaps should – it’s our motivation to strive for betterness! (Is betterness a word?). Arrogance in writing is not a pretty thing.

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  3. I agree with you and the other comments, it is quite natural I think to have some kind of writer envy, and I think many of us writers are our own worst enemies. I suspect actually that most writers who are wildly successful don’t realise their book is going to be when they are writing it, and probably also fear that their books are mundane and boring in comparison to writers they admire…it probably goes on and on like this.
    But the fact you’ve written four books at all is still amazing – so many people say they want to write a book, and just never do. And memoirs totally count – so far as I’m concerned all writing, whether fictional or not, is autobiographical to an extent, so it seems silly to claim memoirs don’t count, as it still takes a lot of creativity to be able to weave experiences into a coherent and interesting story, if not more creativity (because straight fiction writing has no limits, no facts to adhere to…it’s much like writing structured poetry as compared to free verse, I often think).
    Anyway, great post, love your honesty, and I think many many people out there feel exactly the same as you do. 🙂

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    • sherylannleonardblog says:

      Thanks for your most kind words. I agree that what we write incorporates who we are, so in that sense it is somewhat autobiographical. And yes, writing a memoir is a little more than just writing a history of your life. I appreciate that affirmation!

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  4. mac says:

    So true. It’s hard nowadays not to get inspiration from other writers. I mean, most topics have been covered- it’s just a matter of putting a new twist on it.

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    • sherylannleonardblog says:

      Or, in the words of a great man, (can’t remember who at the moment), “there are no new stories, only new angles,” I agree. Thanks for your comment, Mac.

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