Writing envy is not a poison that, when a writer drinks it, it only finds its way into their stomach. No, it’s a venom that spills beyond the jealous wordsmith and taints others. Maybe my last post on writing envy gave the impression that the writer is the only one affected. But there is more to the story, a part 2 if you will. And I suppose that this post serves as the continuation of that story.
When a writer chooses to be actively envious of another writer, a third party is inevitably introduced to the dilemma. They are innocent, having nothing to do with the frustration and anger in the writer’s heart. And their innocence is precisely why we need to acknowledge how a writer can shortchange them when he or she embraces envy. This third party that I speak of is the writer’s audience.
Say you discover a writer and you catch the similarities in your delivery and theirs. You also observe a sameness between your message and theirs. But then you notice the way they seem to effortlessly captivate their audience and it bothers you. Instead of admiring them while remaining secure in your gifts, your eyes change from its natural color to a rancid green, reeking with writing envy. And instead of spending your energies productively—creating your best work that is a reflection of your unique creative attributes—you do one of the following: fixate on your jealousy and decide not to write, or preoccupy yourself with thoughts of doing better than another writer and obsessively create work with the motive of outcompeting them.
No one wins when you do either of those things.
Writing is a calling. And the only way to honor that calling is to write from your heart. While writing can be cathartic, your audience is also an important part of the process. They are the yin to your yang, an integral component to bringing your writing career full circle. While your stories are yours, your desire to share them is met with your audience’s desire to receive them. And when you do share them, you are saying, “Yes, this story is for you, too.” But then, writing envy gets a hold and you say, “No more.” You allow the greatness of someone else’s writing to dim your shine. And by doing so, you commit theft. Withholding your story because of envy robs your audience of something that could benefit them.
As a fellow writer, there is a chance that you and I may be in the same lane. But the view from my side of the road will be different from yours by virtue of our different personalities, unique vantage points, and the way we utilize our creative capacities. Each perspective is welcome at the table, but at this table, community is the foundation, not grotesque rivalry. When we create work with the motive to outcompete our fellow writers, we give our audiences scraps. They become afterthoughts in our creative process. And instead of creating out of the purpose that drives us to serve our audience, we are fighting the unhealthy battle of jealously that should not have begun in the first place. Not only that but we no longer see our fellow writer as our brother or sister. We have also wasted our time in the process; what could have been used to as a self-reflective approach to strengthen our skills was used to look at another writer with disdain. We trade the sweetness of inspiration for the bitterness of envy.
Though many of us have similar ambitions in our writing careers—maybe even covering similar topics or writing in the same genres—we are all different people. We all have different back stories that make up who we are. There are similarities and differences in our writing careers. And as a result, people may resonate more with you than with others who tell similar stories. In the same way, there will be other writers who capture your target audience in ways you can’t. And that is okay. This is a realization I made peace with and came to accept last year. My writing is not for everyone and that is okay. Your writing is not for everyone and that is okay.
Notice, however, that I never brought up the idea of some writers being more talented than others. Why? Because a reader can come across two master storytellers who tell similar stories and one can still stick out more than the other.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as the personality behind the story. Or timing. Or that one metaphor that removed the scales from a reader’s eyes. Regardless of the difference, it should never hold you back from writing.
Yielding to the ways of the green eyed monster not only harms yourself; it steals something away from the person who needs your story. Choosing to be envious of another writer hurts your audience because you may need to be the person that steps up and delivers that message. Someone else may be saying the similar messages you are. But because you are the one doing the storytelling, it’s you that needs to take a stand and assume the position as the writer that you are.
Please don’t rob your audience of something that could benefit them before you even have the chance to deliver it.