The Journey to Publication, Writing

When Is It My Turn: Author Envy

BC2010 Holiday Aug4_10 015I know some wonderful writers who are unpublished. There are books I’ve read which I’m not sure should have been published. But all of this adds up to about the same thing: author envy.

It’s far too easy to start comparing yourself and your writing to others. How do you stand up against your heroes? Why would “something like this” [insert whatever lousy book you read] get published and my work continues to be rejected?

From there, it can be a slippery slope to actually degenerating someone else’s work, perhaps in an effort to validate your own. Perhaps your entire attitude becomes negative – either on other people, or your own work, or both. This can destroy professional relationships – like critique groups – or prospects (the publishing world can be very small sometimes).

Envy of any kind is a sneaky, dangerous beast. It can eat you up if you aren’t careful.

We can call fall prey to envy. But we can also overcome it, outsmart it, and prevent it from taking over.


  1. It lurks in the shadows of our mind. Like any criminal who lurks in the shadows, shine a flashlight on it. Acknowledge it. Realize what it is, and perhaps why it’s there. It can’t sneak up on you if you’re watching it.
  2. Try to decipher it. Why has it reared its head? Is it because you admire the work of another? Because you’re questioning the validity of your own? Because you’re frustrated by various outside factors you can’t control?
  3. Talk about the envy with close and trusted friends. If the feeling is directed towards one of those people, acknowledge and discuss, while trying to avoid hurt feelings.
  4. Accept it. Feeling guilty about it won’t help. Understanding why you’re feeling it might.
  5. Acknowledge the positive attributes that lead to this envy and decide what you can learn from it. Is there something that other author does you could / should do? Can you make better opportunities? What can you learn from something negative, to turn it into something positive?
  6. Move on. Kick that sneaky bugger to the curb, and don’t let it pull you down. Instead, work on goals and actions that deal with the underlying cause of the envy, instead of giving in to weakness (in attacks on the target of that envy, blaming yourself, etc).

Have you ever experienced author envy? How did you deal with it? What’s your advice? Do share. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Birds of a Feather?: Comparisons with fellow writers

Have you ever been compared to another writer? Have you then read the other writer’s work and seen some of the similarities to your own?

I’m not talking about plagiarism, copying, anything of the sort – simply the similarities that can appear between two writers (or more) and their body of work. This recently happened to me, and it was a) good, because when I read the other writer, I greatly admired her work and take it as a definite compliment, and b) it was a bit disappointing, because suddenly it feels like you’re not quite as “original” as you were before.

No, I’m not going to moan about the lack of originality – the idea is probably a bit silly when, as they say, all the stories are the same stories … just told in a different voice, with your own distinctive spin. I also considered the notion that though I’d never heard of this author – nor has she, I’m quite sure, heard of me – and yet we conceived two rather similar ideas. Perhaps this leads to the idea of monkeys at a keyboard and able to compose – through chance – the great works of our time?

I don’t think I’m a monkey, and it’s funny, because I think I can see some similarities between this author and I in our inspiration; we appear to be of similar age, so I’m guessing Buffy and Joss Whedon probably play some influence; I know they do on me. And because readers rarely read only one author exclusively (I suppose it could happen, but they might be a bit obsessive … not sure I’d want that sort of fan), well, this author and I are kind of allies, though we’ve never met, since we’d be likely to share readers.

So, what do you think? Am I and this other author a product of our societies and similar pop-culture influences? Is the similarity between works a matter for the monkeys and chance? Is it a good thing or bad thing?

Just what I’ve been thinking about, and I’d love to hear from you.

Take care, thanks for reading, and have a great week.

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Whose Shadow Do You Cast?

“I’m not famous. My image is famous. It’s a shadow I don’t even cast.” – Harold Brodkey

As you read these words – or if I read yours – somewhere has formed a shadow person of the author, an image or idea that we associate with the writing. The quote above considers the idea that whether we like it or not, others will have some idea of who or what we are as writers, just as you probably have some idea – or think you do – of who I am.

It’s kind of a strange idea, if you think about it. Somewhere, somehow, your writing creates this other shadow person, the other “shadow writer” that others perceive you as.  It’s enough to almost get me thinking of other shadow creatures, but since that would lead into more of a paranormal-themed article, I’ll restrain myself. 🙂

So, from my posts, who do you think I am? You know I’m a writer, sure, that I write paranormal romances and post-apocalyptic romances. I have a young family, and a weakness for sarcasm, Coca-Cola, and the absurd. But what a flat figure I would be if that was all I am. Like you – and like any other writer – there are nuances and dimensions that sometimes don’t come into play and aren’t immediately evident via our writing or other mediums we’re working in. Some of that may be accidental or related to the subject matter, and sometimes it may be intentional, as certain characteristics are made more evident via author branding.

It’s kind of a slippery slope, I suppose, between keeping something private and personal of yourself hidden, but also putting enough of yourself into your work to be sincere, to touch or connect with others on a deeper level.

Interestingly, I found the quote in the lovely book: Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy. And what she wants you to do is ignore this notion completely when writing. Why? Well, because if you spent all your time thinking about what other people would think about your writing, how it would make them feel, how it would impact them, it’s likely you’d end up with either a swollen head, or run away to hide beneath the covers and never write a word again.

Because here’s a truth that as artists it’s difficult to ignore: our art comes from us. The best art comes from somewhere really deep inside, and in some ways it’s a part of ourselves that’s splattered all over the page for everyone to see. While that deep emotional connection will likewise help others appreciate it since (hopefully) it will connect to some deep part of them, it also leaves us vulnerable, and subject to the ever-present question: “What do others think of me?”

We may take very different notions towards the importance of what others think, but like it or not, it’s one way that we shape our identity and our place in society and amongst others. What others think of us, how they perceive us, will very much influence our experience. Of course, that means there’s certainly something to be said for image manipulation and branding, being more deliberate about who or what is projected. I think to some extent we all have to control the image we show others, though you never know who may be watching when you let down your guard, and the act of creation is very definitely a letting down of your guard.

So whose shadow do you cast? Is it your own? Is it a carefully defined persona? Do you control it, or does it control you?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.