Envy is a universal thing, and I would go so far as to say if you are a conscious, sentient being of any sort (I wouldn’t dare discriminate against self-aware computer systems, alien lifeforms, and anything else along those lines), you have experienced some form of envy at one point or another. I mean, you’re welcome to disagree to your heart’s content. You know, in the same way I can point at you disagreeing and laugh derisively.
However, these are the seven deadly sins of writing and not the seven deadly sins applied to everything, ever, in the history of ever (because while that would give me loads of blogging potential, it would get tired and I would get tired and, frankly, no one would enjoy that; free torture for all?). Just to get this out of the way: I actually dreaded writing this particular entry, because it’s one of the bigger ones (let’s be honest, here; writing Lust is going to make me want to jump off a bridge, too), and there’s so much Envy entails it’ll take a good bit of writing to begin with. And then possibly self-immolation. Who knows? This will take a look at how writers can be envious of other writers’ success, their writing, their following (hoo boy), and so on.
Time for one of the least surprising confessions in the history of the written word: I’d love to become a published writer with some sort of following (I’m not talking “I’d like to be the next George RR Martin, Tolkien, or whoever, mind you). It’s easy, I’ve found, to look at writers who are successful, whose works have become well-known and established, and think “Well, shit, if they can do it why haven’t I managed yet?” The Twilight books certainly managed to do well, and so did the Fifty Shades of Smut trilogy (there are no ways to transfer the feelings of disgust and rage I feel toward this particular success story, so just think of that face Dick Cheney made at everything; not sorry for any nightmares this post causes). It’s a painful thing, and it’s very easy to think how great it would be to find yourself in another author’s situation. I’m still waiting for someone to come along, find one of my oddball ideas, and throw large bags of money at me. Can’t even complain about the possibility of being injured that way, because no one ever would bitch about getting concussed by a bag filled with hundred dollar bills (and if you do, you can just give that money to me you whiny little shit; seriously).
It’s just as easy to become envious of the following a writer has gotten. Sure, you’ve got twenty-five followers, but it’s not the five-hundred your writer buddy has. Or the millions of people who would cut off their own limbs to meet authors like Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, or (oh god, I hate myself) Stephenie Meyer. I know it certainly has a way of making me feel like my writing’s not getting out there, that it’s not as important, or perhaps it could never possibly get to anyone else’s eyes other than the many spambots that frequently leave me comments.
Both of those things require a step back and some perspective. Yes, there are writers who have huge followings, and those who have had lots more success than you. What’s more important here is to focus on the people who do follow your work, and read it regularly. To the people who follow this blog, for instance: thank you, folks! You’re obviously the best because you validate my works by giving them tiny stars and reading them regularly. It’s important to recognize that username translates to a person who is taking time out of their life to enjoy something you’ve created. Sure, they may also enjoy the works of more accomplished writers, but you’re still someone they check out. Go you! Embrace that.
The success goes in with Greed to an extent, in that you can’t realistically expect to become the next big name in writing. If that happens, great. If not, keep loving what you do and doing it well. But if you end up fabulously wealthy, you should definitely remember this blog post and how it clearly helped groom you for greatness, and then give generously because of highly logical reasons.
The real treacherous territory with being an envious writer is when you start to envy how well another writer’s style, voice, or other aspects of their creations work, and become jealous of it to the point where it can become a detriment to your own work. Pre-college, back before I became edumacated as to how I, I found myself enamored by Terry Pratchett’s writing style. I loved it, and wanted to find a way to make my own work just like it. I experimented with footnotes, which I found weren’t exactly easy to pull off by any means (as, based on past posts on here where I still use them, I will manage to forget to put the footnote in to correspond with the * above). While allowing your style to be influenced by others isn’t a big deal, and should be expected, and something I’ll be touching on more in the Gluttony post, it’s also important to not to forcibly follow in another’s creative footsteps.
I’d wrap this up by saying don’t compare yourself to others, especially in regards to writing, success as a writer, and so on, but I can think of at least two people who would actually punch me in the throat for suggesting as much. Instead, understand those moments of comparison, and perhaps self-doubt, can be kept under control. Once again, it comes back to keeping on keeping on, creating as much as possible, and not letting the victories of others feel like losses of your own.