Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

How to Handle Writer Jealousy

envyWe’ve all been there.

Your classmate’s story is praised in workshop, while yours is torn apart.

“Poorly written” romances dominate best-seller lists, while your science fiction novel languishes in Amazon’s 2,000,000 ranking spot.

The author you follow on Instagram posts their third cover reveal this year, while you struggle to finish your manuscript.

There’s a thousand ways that we writers experience jealousy of other authors. We constantly compare ourselves to our peers in writing groups, our Internet friends, or the hallowed greats like Stephen King. We long for the secret to their success. How do they write a first draft so quickly? How do they have so many Pinterest followers? Where do they find time to publish and write a daily blog?

We take other writers’ successes as inherent failures in ourselves as creatives. Newsflash: art isn’t a zero-sum game.

Let me get personal for a minute. Throughout high school and university, I longed to be a writer, but I hardly ever wrote. I seethed with self-loathing and jealousy in equal amounts. As I became more entwined in the literary community, I saw myself in competition with other aspiring writers. With each person’s success, I thought one more seat on the bus to authordom had been snatched from me. Around senior year of college, I finally wised up.

But others I know didn’t. I’ve lost friends over jealousy and unnecessary feelings of competition. I’ve had close friends flat-out ignore my writing career. I’ve had acquaintances insult or downplay my abilities in order to praise their own. It sucks. It hurts. And I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.

Why do we feel jealousy?

spillEasy: because other writers have what we want. Be it a publishing contract, a movie deal, or even just a finished manuscript, if you want it, some writer has already accomplished it. When I used to see a more successful writer, I would instantly translate that into: “Well, shit. I’m so far behind. I’m never going to amount to anything.” OR “They don’t deserve X. They just got lucky. Why can’t anyone see what a talentless hack they are?”

The good news? I don’t ride either of those thought trains anymore. In fact, the moment I feel a twinge of jealousy, I actually get really excited. Why?

Because when channeled properly, jealousy can be a force for good.

The positive side of jealousy

Jealousy and competition are natural human feelings. If you acknowledge them and channel their energy into something positive, it can be motivating for you. The next time you feel jealous, take a moment to deconstruct your emotions and get down to what’s really bothering you. But don’t stop there: make a plan to fix the real issue so that this doesn’t happen again.

Here is how my jealous moments play out now:

  1. Address the feeling: Okay, Kate. You’re feeling jealous.
  2. Forgive yourself: That’s okay! You’re human. It happens.
  3. Find the “what:” Let’s see. I’m jealous that this author started writing a book after me, but is publishing it before I publish mine.
  4. Find the “why:” I wish my book were ready to publish.
  5. Take responsibility and make a plan: Well, what can you do to make that happen? How about we turn off Netflix and do some revising? Let’s eat out one less night a week so we can afford an editor. Let’s stop being nervous and contact the cover designer.
  6. Ride the high: Awesome, I know exactly what to do! I just have to be patient and work hard. I’m going to write right now.

Ways to handle jealousy

accomplishmentNotice this section is not titled “ways to quit being jealous.” That’s probably never going to happen. There will always be someone more successful than you. There will always be something you want that someone else has already achieved. But, there are ways to handle your jealousy in a healthy manner.

Act in opposition to your feelings. A writer friend on Facebook posts that they’ve signed with an agent? Like the post or write a supportive comment. At first, you can console yourself with the smug satisfaction that you were “the bigger person” in the competition your mind constructed. Eventually, your gut reaction will change to genuine excitement for them. I promise.

Figure out how they did it. I want to be Joanna Penn so bad it hurts. She writes kick-ass fiction books, super-helpful nonfiction books, and is a beloved authority figure in the self-publishing community. But instead of hating her and avoiding her, I follow her progress. I read her books. I read the articles she posts. And you know what? I’m learning how to create a career like hers, one step at a time.

Do something about it. If you have a moment of jealousy, then you know what you want. It frustrates you that your writer friend has a finished book and you don’t? Go write your damn book. That Twitter author has better sales than you? Read up on book marketing and business strategy, arrange advertising or book reviews, or publish more books. Outside circumstances may prevent you from achieving 100% of your goals, but if you’re not putting 100% of possible effort in, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

Remember that someone out there is jealous of you. If there is someone ahead of you, then there must be someone behind you. Maybe you don’t make enough money to write full-time yet, but there is a writer out there who has only one book published who envies your five-book series. Moreover, the person of whom you are jealous was once in your position. Keep it all in perspective.

Be kind to yourself. Often, jealousy goes hand-in-hand with feelings of inadequacy. If you are nicer to yourself throughout the entire creative process (keeping your inner critic quiet during drafting, forgiving yourself for missing your word count goal on a busy day, etc.), your self-respect will grow. When it is healthy and happy, you are less likely to be dragged down by bitterness.

And if all else fails? Step away from the situation and eat some ice cream. It really does make everything better.


How do you deal with feelings of writer jealousy? What do your moments of jealousy reveal about your goals? Share your experiences in the comments.

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Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Is it REALLY Writer’s Block? Three Writing Myths that Make You Doubt Yourself

writer's blockWriter’s block is a heated issue in the writer community. I’m not really sure why. Okay, the cynical side of me has a theory.

That theory is that those who believe in writer’s block adamantly defend it, because if it doesn’t exist … then they don’t have anything on which to blame their lack of writing progress. At the same time, those who don’t believe in writer’s block prefer the idea that it doesn’t exist … because if it’s fake, then what separates them from the non-writing ‘writers’ is a matter of character.

But again, that’s just cynical, jaded me.

For the sake of this post, I don’t give a flying hoot whether or not you believe in writer’s block. What I want to know is what you believe about the act of being a writer.

You see, if you’re struggling with your writing, you may not have writer’s block at all. Maybe, you’re just judging yourself by the wrong standards. There are a lot of romanticized (and outright ridiculous) myths about what it’s like to be an author. And if you’re holding yourself to them, it’s no wonder your creativity is suffering!

These are just three of the limiting beliefs you might harbor.

1. Writing should be easy for me.

As Hemingway famously said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” While some scholars believe he meant it sarcastically, the literal interpretation implies that writing is a simple matter of sitting down and poetically spewing your thoughts — as natural and effortless as blood flowing through your veins.

The truth? Most days writing is not easy. In fact, it’s damn hard. Sure, you may get one or two golden moments of seamless eloquence, but don’t count on it. If writing is difficult for you, that doesn’t mean you’re blocked. It means you’re like 99.9% of your fellow authors.

The treatment? Write anyway. Eventually, it will get easier. Not easy, but easier.

Just a friendly reminder...it's not the end of the world.
Just a friendly reminder…it’s not the end of the world.

2. Writing should be difficult for me.

The last word of that Hemingway quote is bleed. Because that’s what we have to do as writers, right? We have to toss and turn in restless fits, pull out our hair, rip out our guts. If you’re not slapping your soul onto the page, you’re not writing.

The truth? You can enjoy writing. You don’t have to play the struggling artist. You don’t have to bemoan your tortured creative soul. Just because you don’t feel like your writing is ‘gritty’ or ‘painful’ enough, that doesn’t mean you’re blocked. It means you’re not a cliche.

The treatment? Write anyway. Even if writing is — gasp — fun!

3. My writing should be good.

First off, this is just ridiculous. Literature is subjective. My favorite novel might be viewed as trashy dribble by another person. There is no 100% accurate and objective measure of ‘good.’ And if you’re just writing for passion or pleasure, ‘good’ doesn’t even matter so long as it is satisfying.

That being said, if you want to make a living with your writing, then yes, it needs to be ‘good’ in the eyes of several people. But you know what? You can take as long as you need to learn, rewrite, and edit your writing to ‘good’ status. Your first draft doesn’t have to be ‘good,’ and neither does your first novel, for that matter. I’m not advocating mediocrity. I’m simply saying: think long and hard about what ‘good’ means to you, then be kind to yourself and allow yourself to get there one step at a time.

The truth? Someone in the world will love your book. And someone else in the world will hate your book.

The treatment? Write anyway. Don’t worry about what others will think. Do your best, learn what you can, and always keep improving.

I won’t belabor you with more examples. More than likely, you know what myths or problems are holding you back. Often, we can identify them, but we quickly cast them under the “writer’s block” umbrella, thus making them a faceless enemy. Don’t do that. Drag your excuses into the light and look them straight in the eye. Approach them with a potent mix of logic, defiance, and humor. Most of the time, you’ll discover that it’s really just self-doubt lurking in a less personal costume.

But no matter what is dampening your creativity, there’s only one way to move past it. Prove your excuses wrong and write anyway.


What beliefs about writing or writers make you doubt yourself? What other problems keep you from doing your creative work? Share your tips for beating them or seek advice in the comments!

Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Writer Problems: 5 Mantras to Conquer Your Insecurity

Insecurity seems to be a fundamental trait that writers share. Whether the craft is fiction, poetry, screenwriting, essays, or even copy writing, writers worry about their writing. Is it good enough? Is it the right style? With others read and enjoy it? Will I be mocked? Is it worthy of publication?

Recently, a few of my writer friends have been particularly plagued by insecurity. For them, I try to be the cheerleader. I provide an optimistic, outside perspective and offer words of encouragement or tips for improvement. However, I would be the biggest liar on this planet if I said that I didn’t feel insecure from time to time (read: most of the time). But fretting over every detail and talking down to yourself won’t help you. In fact, if self-fulfilling prophecy has anything to say about it, it will probably make you a worse writer. Therefore, the next time you are feeling a bit shaky, try remembering these five mantras:

harry potter1.) You are probably not the next J.K. Rowling (and that’s okay!).

Feel free to substitute whichever hit-it-big, rich writer you choose (mine would be Nicholas Sparks). Look, more than likely, your work will not be an international, multi-million dollar, movie empire success. Could it be? Of course. But realistically speaking, most books sell under 500 copies in their lifetime, and the ones that are a huge success nowadays tend to be so more because of marketability than literary genius (Fifty Shades, anyone?). Your work is your work. You have your own, unique style and someone, somewhere will appreciate it. You don’t have to write the next Hunger Games to be a worthy, successful author. There are thousands of mid-list authors who achieve a full-time income and/or loyal fan bases without becoming a household name. There is no shame in this.

2.) You are probably not the next Hemingway, either (and that is STILL okay!)

Again, feel free to substitute the critically-acclaimed author of your choice (mine would be Faulkner). Just as your work will probably not make you ridiculously rich, you probably won’t go down in history as one of the greatest writers of all time. Could you? Of course. But again, realistically speaking, you’re probably not one of the greats, and that is fine. Literature is subjective. You could have a million readers who believe you are the best writer in the known universe, and someone will still hate your work. In someone’s estimation, there will always be a book better than yours, and there will always be a book worse than yours. As long as you are happy with and proud of your writing, that is all that matters.

snowflake3.) No one else can write like you.

In regards to rules one and two, you may not be like other writers, because every writer is unique. You have your own voice, your own perspective, and no one can take those away from you. It is useless to compare your writing to others’ work, because it is like comparing apples and oranges (or Whitman and Shakespeare). Sure, it can be done, but you can never account for the billion little idiosyncrasies that make you unique as a writer and an individual. As long as you stay true to your voice and write from your authentic self, you will be the writer that you are meant to be.

4.) There are no rules.

This is my favorite. Grammar lovers, cut me a little slack on this one. Seriously, you can write your book or poem or essay however you like. Do you want to divide your novel by parts instead of chapters? Fine. Do you want to exclude all punctuation from your poetry? Fine. Do you want to write an essay entirely in the second person? Fine. While there are some established guidelines necessary to win over a traditional publisher (or achieve success as a self-published author), if all you want to do is express yourself creatively and experiment with new forms, then just do it! For real, what’s stopping you?

freedom-102409_6405.) You can do whatever you want with your writing.

If all else fails, remember: your writing is your intellectual property, and you can do with it what you will. Do you want to try your luck with agents and publishers? Great! Do you want to build your own author-entrepreneur business and independently publish? Nifty! Do you want to let a few friends, family members, or random internet strangers read it? Awesome! Do you want to crumple it in a ball, set it on fire, and release the ashes in international waters? Cool! At all times, you are in complete, creative control of your writing. Do with it whatever makes you happy.

As unofficial sixth point, let me reiterate: you are not alone. All writers face insecurity in some form at some time. And sure, 99.9% of us won’t be insanely rich or achieve literary acclaim. But we all have a unique voice, the right to determine our own style, and complete control over our creativity. So pick up your pen or put your fingers on your keyboard, shove that little ball of terror or self-loathing in your desk drawer, and write what you want. You have a story worth telling inside you, you deserve to write it, and the world deserves to receive it.


If you’re working on your first novel and worry that it will suck, read this. And, as always, leave your comments, fears, and encouragements below!